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At the October 25, 2005 meeting...
Distance Learning and Video Over IP Technologies

MIT's new Distance Learning facilities in Cambridge are a showcase for some of the latest technological advancements in utilizing Video-Over-IP for Distance Learning applications. By leveraging these emerging video distribution technologies, MIT is able to provide a wide range of services, including delivering educational content across the globe, in real-time.

VBrick, a leading manufacture for delivering Video-Over-IP solutions, also discussed the state of video compression and sending live video over IP, including VBrick's latest technology product offerings.

The first segment of this event was hosted by MIT's Academic Media Production Services (AMPS) in the recently opened Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences.

Designed by Frank Gehry & Partners, the Stata Center is an intriguing collection of towers located just outside of Kendall Square, but also houses a state-of-the-art video production environment for distance learning.

Larry Gallagher, Director, and David Mycue, Associate Director and Principle Strategist of AMPS MIT Video Productions and Digital Technologies, discussed some of the equipment used at the Kirsch Auditorium, at other locations around the MIT campus, and the technology that connects MIT visually and aurally to the University of Singapore, for live classroom lectures and discussions. Mr. Gallagher discussed candidly the design and construction limitations that presented themselves with both limited budgets and time constraints on the building construction process. The site of the Stata Center is at the former location of an historic MIT building which has been removed, with the new building providing a unique presence within the MIT campus. Mr. Gallagher discussed how these factors also play a role in the start-up of the Video Production Center, and the aspects of having to make a hard choice between multiple distributed control centers throughout the campus, or one full-featured Master Control facility which would be linked with fiber and broadband networks. The aspects of full robotic color video cameras for televising classroom and lecture hall presentations, interactivity between these instructional spaces and two way visual and aural communication between the teachers and the control room personnel were thoroughly covered. Another interesting aspect dealing with the comfort-factor for the MIT faculty was discussed, with analysis of such details as robotic cameras inside the control rooms so that the presenters and instructors can have a semblance of normal human facial contact in situations where they are requesting technical aid or special instructions related to the presentations at-hand.

SMPTE members and guests were able to see live interactive classes taking place in a similar large classroom in Singapore at 9:00PM local Boston time, when the actual time in Singapore was early afternoon or perhaps mid-morning. Mr. Gallagher described some of the timing and sequence issues which relate to such distance learning situations, and the many creative and clever work-arounds that the MIT AMPS team has developed to make things flow smoothly on both sides of the globe during a scheduled event.

The second segment of the program was presented by Rich Mavrogeanes, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of VBrick Systems, Inc, of Wallingford, Connecticut.

VBrick has been an industry leader in video-over-IP almost since its inception in 1997. Founder Rich Mavrogeanes discussed the key parameters to successful deployment of what VBrick likes to call "Internet Television" and how it differs from traditional videoconferencing and other forms of video communication. VBrick specializes in high-quality, high-bandwidth, LAN-based video for direct point-to-point, always-on video monitoring, distance learning, and business communication using video compression standards like MPEG-1 and -2, as well as SMPTE VC-1 (a.k.a Windows Media 9) for mass one-way distribution to computer desktops. VBrick's latest products now offer MPEG-4 support, thereby opening the door to board-based two-way video communications over the [lower bandwidth] internet. According to Mr. Mavrogeanes, this standards-based approached is a key ingredient to interoperability and, in turn, a successful video-over-IP strategy.

Mr. Mavogeanes employed a very graphic PowerPoint presentation which detailed several aspects of his company's networked Video solutions for the following issues: Distance learning, News on the Desktop, Live Event Broadcast, Video-Visitation, Video-on-Demand, Media Retrieval, Video Trunking, Interactive Video, Surveillance & Security and Intelligent Transportation Systems.

SMPTE members and guests at the MIT Stata Center were treated to a 'full course meal' at the hands of Mr. Mavrogeanes, with every possible aspect of this emerging technology discussed in an open and frank manner. It was both an educational and inspirational event for many, with the entire concept of audio and video being distributed of IP in situations that are now only beginning to be conceptualized and developed to full implementation.

Mr. Mavrogeanes provided the attendees that the future uses of this new technology are really at the beginning of a long growth curve, and are currently limited only by the human imagination and the capacity of the 'digital pipeline' than links the parties engaged in the communication process.

Both of the above segments were captured with a DV Camcorder and are available on DVD, for reference.

Meeting notes contributed by Jeff Sauer and Joe Mendonca. The Meeting event was developed and coordinated by Joe Mendonca.

Paul R. Beck, Secretary/Treasurer, SMPTE/NE
71 Cross St. Foxborough, MA 02035-1335

Posted: 28 January 2005
Bob Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor