Video Dissemination for the U.S. Department of Defense
The Department of Defense (DOD) is an iconic United States Government agency. A global leader in information technology, the DOD has built its reputation on providing secure and fault-tolerant communications systems that power effective strategic operations, national security and technological vanguards. But with innovation comes the inherent struggle to address complex problems. Such was the case when the DOD commissioned the Unified Video Dissemination System (UVDS) project to develop an endto-end Full Motion Video (FMV) distribution capability to advance its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) collection strategy.
Whether it’s research institutions like DARPA or MIT utilizing the UVDS portal to conduct government funded research, Air Force weather technicians using metadata to assess atmospheric conditions and predict future forecasts, or intelligence community agencies tapping into live video feeds during crisis situations from command centers, the operational impact of UVDS and its ability to process and deliver video collected in any of these possible scenarios quickly, securely and with the highest degree of accuracy is critical to the U.S. Government. However, powering these types of dynamic systems, which upload, process and disseminate encrypted highdefinition video streams in real time from remote locations with bandwidthconstrained networks, presents an immense challenge. How did one of most resourceful government entities in the world leverage cutting-edge video processing technology to transform its worldwide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms?
Background: Full Motion Video for UAV ISR Applications
Originally commissioned in 1998 by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), the first end-to-end FMV dissemination methodology was deployed by the DOD in 2001. Since that time, its role has expanded from a purely situational awareness tool to a tool used for sensor cueing, close air support, improvised explosive device detection, bomb damage assessment, and special operation forces ingress and egress. Due to this expansion, the DOD has increased the number, type and capabilities of its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to the point of rendering its initial FMV collection and dissemination system obsolete. In 2008, the DOD, under the Defense Acquisition Challenge Program (DACP), awarded funding to DISA to develop a next-generation FMV collection, dissemination and exploitation system; the UVDS project. From a pool of over 500 unique proposals with varying objectives, the UVDS tender submitted by TeraLogics, a software company specializing in industryspecific solutions for live and archived streaming video, was selected for funding.
Operating primarily in the government sector, TeraLogics provides the DOD with service-based support for system engineering, network engineering and software development, with an emphasis on ISR data delivery. TeraLogics is responsible for routing, processing and disseminating FMV feeds from ISR platforms worldwide, via classified and unclassified networks. Because ISR forms the foundation of the United States’ defense capabilities, supporting this elaborate technology demands complete control of a wide variety of systems. These systems are relied on by national security agencies and military personnel to acquire and process video communications from some of the most remote locations in the world. The UVDS architecture that TeraLogics built is therefore founded on a robust platform connecting countless ISR sources and end-user entities through DOD encrypted networks and the UVDS web-based video streaming portal. It is housed, managed and operated from within DISA’s Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECC).
Challenge: Video Delivery with Constrained Bandwidth
Faced with exponentially growing demand to provide HD and raw video streams to all of its agencies, the DOD recognized delivering high-quality video to agents stationed at outposts with restricted bandwidth architectures and network complexity presented distinct complications. The DOD required an innovative solution capable of transcoding these video streams without compromising quality. To achieve this, the DOD turned to TeraLogics and its Unified Video Dissemination System.
The specific challenge for TeraLogics was to provide DOD agents in the field with the ability to process native HD video streams at bitrates of up to 6 Mbps over bandwidth-restricted networks. More specifically, TeraLogics needed to transcode high bitrate video streams, which were quickly becoming an industry standard, down to a more manageable data rate, so that output streams could then be disseminated over networks with bandwidth constraints at much lower bitrates.
Given the imperative to quickly process a high volume of video streams at multiple bitrates, securely and with the highest degree of accuracy, DOD requirements presented an imposing challenge on their own. But because DOD agencies represent some of the most technologically advanced entities within the United States Government, TeraLogics encountered the added task of integrating complex metadata pass-through functionality into its solution. This meant integrating the DOD Key-Length-Value (KLV) standard for embedding/sending metadata within FMV. Because the KLV standard is used by various entities to track where airborne platforms are operating and to store and search FMV clips, it was crucial that KLV data remain intact through any transcoding and distribution process. Additionally, FMV sources typically use private data PIDs with MPEG-TS streams, and passthrough of private data PIDs is not a commonly supported feature of many video processing products.
What’s more, unlike other ISR sensors, the DOD mandates that all of its FMV be consolidated and disseminated in a secure, real-time, low latency, operational information flow to its tactical and enterprise users. To supply all of this complex functionality, TeraLogics sought out a strategic partnership with Elemental Technologies, the leading supplier of software-defined video solutions for multiscreen content delivery.
Solution: Software-Defined Video Processing Powers UVDS
Elemental provided TeraLogics with the perfect marriage of low-latency video processing and best-in-class video quality. To provide FMV to DOD deployments over bandwidth-restricted networks, TeraLogics deployed Elemental® Live at one of the DOD’s centralized computing centers. Elemental Live is a powerful encoding solution that leverages the power of commercial off-the-shelf hardware to deliver unprecedented video processing performance, functionality and flexibility. The system generates the multiple resolutions and bitrates needed to support TeraLogics’ dynamic video streaming requirements for the wide range of devices and screens utilized by the DOD.
Because software-defined video solutions from Elemental offer an infrastructureagnostic approach to implementing flexible, scalable and easily upgradable video processing, Elemental engineers were able to work with TeraLogics to ensure encoding software met the exact specifications put forth by the DOD. This meant making certain PID metadata could be passed through on MPEG-2 transport streams, allowing KLV metadata to remain fully intact.
With the ability to pass through critical metadata in real-time, Elemental Live allows TeraLogics to input SD and HD MPEG-TS, H.264 and MPEG-2 streams, containing complex KLV metadata, typically ranging from 1 Mbps to 6 Mbps. These feeds are then compressed to lower bitrates and served out to TeraLogics’ secure web portal and network-based users as H.264 FMV outputs at 512 kbps with KLV metadata fully intact. And because Elemental software can be accessed though a REST/XML API, TeraLogics’ engineers are able to integrate all of this complex video processing functionality into their front end, creating the ability to manage the entire system and process hundreds of videos at any given time via an integrated routing architecture.
Benefit: Large-Scale Video Delivery Worldwide
With assistance from Elemental, TeraLogics is able to deliver large-scale FMV from ISR platforms for the DOD worldwide. Because Elemental Live software can produce multiple sets of adaptive bitrate video streams and offer the additional metadata processing required, TeraLogics can ensure uninterrupted video delivery to end users facing high network traffic or bandwidth constraints.
In addition to leveraging technology leadership from Elemental, TeraLogics also experienced firsthand the video processing company’s dedication to customer support. According to Ryan Wallace, Manager of the UVDS project at TeraLogics, “Elemental support has been great. The engineers and developers have always been quick to respond when solutions are needed or questions arise.” Commitment to its customers lead Elemental to address the KLV metadata challenge. As Wallace points out, “It was a seamless integration that allowed us to manage everything through a single interface, no matter where the Elemental systems reside.”
TeraLogics is well positioned to build off this successful partnership with Elemental and expand its robust, fully redundant, underlying network. Whether this integrated solution is located at DOD centralized computing centers in the U.S. or it expands to a more distributed architecture overseas, TeraLogics’ Unified Video Dissemination System provides the adaptive playback and impeccable video quality necessary to access “real-time” ISR data collected anywhere in the world.
- Low latency, high-quality compression of HD FMV
- Stream live HD video over bandwidth-restricted networks
- Secure video transmission and complex metadata pass through
- Employ powerful software-defined video processing
- Format live video at multiple bitrates for any device
- Distribute live streams anywhere and on any network
- Expand global delivery of FMV from ISR platforms
- High-quality video sourced from locations worldwide
- Critical metadata pass through, intact and in real-time
"We often come across video which is ‘not standard’ and causes problems for video utilities and exploitation tools, but Elemental Live is very good at 'massaging' these complex videos." Ryan Wallace
Manager of the UVDS Project, TeraLogics
"We were able to take the Elemental encoder and integrate its functionality seamlessly into our architecture. We used it as the backend to encode mission-critical video and are able to control it, via the Elemental REST API, with our existing front end portal. UVDS now has the ability to dynamically add Elemental encoders into the architecture and provide a fully-integrated solution for managing and processing DOD FMV at the enterprise level."Ryan Wallace
Manager of the UVDS Project, TeraLogics