Chapter TWO (continued) AUTHORING/ENCODING TECHNOLOGIES–HELIX Producer

Helix Producer — includes the RealProducer product
One of the avenues for content creation provided in the RealNetworks system is the  RealProducer Software.  This next generation digital media production tool enables both broadcast streaming and content download.  This tool creates RealMedia audio and video files and streams them to the Helix Server for download to the RealOne player.
Incorporated into RealProducer are the RealVideo 10 and RealAudio 10 CODECs that encode various input formats into one of several commonly used formats.  As our focus is really on audio transmission through Web Radio, I will focus my attention on the capabilities of the RealAudio 10 CODEC.
RealAudio 10 has a capability of significant importance to the webcaster, as it has the ability to provide a scalable output.  That is to say, that it can adjust itself to the available bandwidth of the listener.  Should the listener be connected over a dial-up connection, capable of only low to mid bit rates (say < 128 kbps) then the CODEC relies on established RealNetworks SureStream encoding techniques developed over the first 9 generations of products to compress the audio file sizes while maintaining an acceptable level of quality.  Where higher bit rates are possible, over connections using a cable or DSL modem, then the RealAudio 10 incorporates the MPEG4 AAC CODEC.
According to the RealNetworks web site, AAC encoded audio is superior to MP3, and beats MP3 at a lower bit rate of 96 kbps, compared to MP3 at 128 kbps.  Higher quality at lower bit rates is always valuable, and translates into lower costs, as well as better reception for the end-user.  For more information on the RealAudio 10 CODEC, refer to
http://www.realnetworks.com/products/codecs/realaudio.html
>> This  link is still valid in 2012 and leads to the page for the Real Networks Encoding products, including the products
discussed below: <<
RealNetworks comments on the audio superiority of AAC to .mp3 are amplified on a Wikipedia page devoted to the audio codec.  They do acknowledge the longevity and popularity of the .mp3 format however.
“Overall, the AAC format allows developers more flexibility to design codecs than MP3 does, and corrects many of the design choices made in the original MPEG-1 audio specification. This increased flexibility often leads to more concurrent encoding strategies and, as a result, to more efficient compression. However, in terms of whether AAC is better than MP3, the advantages of AAC are not entirely decisive, and the MP3 specification, although antiquated, has proven surprisingly robust in spite of considerable flaws. AAC and HE-AAC are better than MP3 at low bit rates (typically less than 128 kilobits per second)[citation needed]. This is especially true at very low bit rates where the superior stereo coding, pure MDCT, and better transform window sizes leave MP3 unable to compete.
While the MP3 format has near-universal hardware and software support, primarily due to MP3 being the format of choice during the crucial first few years of widespread music file-sharing/distribution over the internet, AAC is a strong contender due to some unwavering industry support.[31]
1.)  Downloaded from Wikipedia 08/28/12:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Audio_Coding
(See references below to follow footnote 31)
But for a web broadcaster to reach only media clients compatible with the RealAudio codecs is somewhat limiting.  We need to ask ourselves, what players and devices do we wish to reach?
For example, the MPEG-4 standard, although generally discussed with regards to video, also delivers audio in the AAC format.  MP4/AAC h.264 is standards based and will allow you to reach Flash/Silverlight plug-in players, iPhone/iPad, Blackberry, Android and other 3GP mobile devices when delivered through Helix Universal Server.  For this MP4 encoders capability the webcaster will require are the Helix Producer (not RealProducer).
Helix Producer can accept inputs of baseband video and audio files (such as from a video camera or microphone from a live performance) and through its integrated CODECs encode the signal into a digital format for transmission.  In addition, it can accept the input of a wide range of already encoded file formats, including. AIFF, MPEG, .WAV, .MOV, and others and output them to the Helix Server as well.  RealNetworks offers a Helix Producer Comparison Chart and the following descriptions are taken from that chart.  See link below to access matrix that also is part of the comparison chart.
RealProducer® – RealProducer is free and encodes content into RealAudio® and RealVideo® formats for live or on-demand delivery. RealProducer includes productivity toolsets and high-capacity, multi-channel input and multi-profile outputs.
NOTE: I HAVE DOWNLOADED THE FREE VERSION OF REAL PRODUCER AND WILL TRY TO ENCODE BOTH AUDIO AND VIDEO CONTENT AND REPORT MY EXPERIENCES.
Helix Producer — Standard & Professional Editions Professional-grade encoding products that support live and on-demand content creation in multiple formats, including RealAudio, RealVideo and MP4. Standard edition supports one input while Professional supports four inputs to twelve outputs, with the ability to customize upon request.
Helix Mobile Producer (HMP) — Single-Channel Standard Edition Professional-grade encoding product optimized for delivery to mobile devices.  It supports live and on-demand content creation in multiple formats including RealAudio, RealVideo, MP4 and 3GP while accepting a single input channel and a single output profile (including multi-rate) controlled through a graphical user interface.
Helix Mobile Producer (HMP) — Multi-Channel Professional Edition Carrier-grade encoding product optimized for delivery to mobile devices, supporting live and on-demand content creation in multiple formats including RealAudio, RealVideo, MP4 and 3GP along with full automation, productivity toolsets, high-capacity multi-channel inputs and multi-profile outputs.
It should also be noted that there has been some movement away from RealNetworks and the RealAudio codecs by a major media outlet such as the BBC, as reported also in Wikipedia.
” It can also be used as a streaming audio format, that is played at the same time as it is downloaded. In the past, many internet radio stations used RealAudio to stream their programming over the internet in real-time. In recent years, however, the format has become less common and has given way to more popular audio formats. RealAudio was heavily used by the BBC websites until 2009, though was it discontinued due to its declining use. BBC World Service, the last of the BBC websites to use RealAudio, discontinued its usage in March 2011.[2][3]
Wikipedia References
2.)http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radiolabs/2009/10/realmedia_an_update.shtml:  Downloaded 9/11/12
3.)http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/institutional/2011/03/110314_real_cessation.shtml: Downloaded 9/11/12
31.)http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=AAC:Downloaded 9/11/12
http://www.realnetworks.com/uploadedFiles/Helix/Resource-Library/Datasheet-Producer-Comparison.pdf
For detailed information on RealProducer set up and configuration, refer to: http://service.real.com/help/library/guides/Helixproducer/Producer.htm

mike

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