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Transitioning From Volicon: AMA

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Gary Learner (Volicon) & Rakesh Agrawal (SnapStream)

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Panelist Introduction

Daniel Mee:

We had our founders chat, had our product tour. Let us know if you want the links to those. Today is our ask me anything session, on making the speedy and seamless transition from Volicon onto Moco. So, we want the focus for this to be on the questions that you all are bringing to the table. As a potential users of Moco and current customers of Volicon. Before we get to those questions, just a few words of introduction. My name is Daniel Mee. I'm your host and I'm the sales engineer here at SnapStream. You could see that my hair has grown quite a lot since this picture was taken. We also have three other members of our technical staff here. Paul, do you want to introduce yourself?

Paul Place:

I do, yeah. Thank you, Daniel. My name is Paul Place. I'm the Director of Engineering here at SnapStream and also the technical lead on the Moco team. So, hopefully we can get all your questions answered, Pete.

Pete Hollmer:

I'm Peter Hollmer and I run the Testing department here at SnapStream. I also ran the pilot program with Moco where we actually brought the product to customers in the field. Early on the beta process and worked with them to make sure we were getting the features they needed to be successful with the product. So, I'm probably the best person to talk about questions for transitions and things like that. So, I'm happy to be here today to take questions, Michael.

Michael Bui:

Hey, I'm Michael Bui, I'm the support team lead. I help transition all of the Volicon customers support to SnapStream support, and I'll be helping you transition your systems to Moco.

AMA

Q) What are the specs of a typical Moco server?

Pete Hollmer:

Moco servers come in three sizes. There's basically a high end, a mid and entry level system. The high end system is the one that we sold the most of so far and a maximum of 10 inputs with that. You're getting a three U chassis, there's two processors in there and 64 gigs of Ram and it's about 12 quarters per prox. So, 24 quarters total of across the server, so very beefy machine. We've got a raid one, a volume on there for the OS and then raid five or six for storage, depending on your configuration and the number of drives that come in there. Every server has a Quadro card in there, which actually that handles the proxy generation process for it. So we're offloading that from the CPU, which there's much more bandwidth for that. We run with the server on all these machines. The mid entry level systems are actually a two U chassis and then half the ram and then the proxies will vary.

The inputs there aren't limited with a hard number of 10 like the large system, but we basically will right size that based on your needs. So we'll talk to sales, we'll figure out what we need and we'll get you the right system to meet your needs.

Q) If I have already assigned support of my Volicon system to SnapStream, can I get an extension? 

Daniel Mee:

So, for any customer that is purchasing or in the process of purchasing the SnapStream Moco solution. We're going to continue to support their Volicon system while we provision that solution. We want to ensure a smooth transition process with a good runway for everyone. We recognize that continuing support and providing that continuity is a great way to deliver a quality experience for our customers. 

Q) Can you run SnapStream on the same hardware as an existing Volicon solution? 

Daniel Mee:

Unfortunately we can not do that, because SnapStream software is designed, tested and certified. To run on a specific platform that consists of hardware OS and applications.

Unfortunately, we can't guarantee the necessary level of performance when we deploy onto existing Volicon hardware.

Q) What is the transition process like from Volicon and what we've done to make it easy? 

Michael Bui:

Pretty much what will happen is, we'll set up a remote session, log into your Volicon system and examine what settings you have. We've been working on Volicon systems as far as support for over a year now. So, we're pretty familiar how to pull up all the settings that you need to import them into SnapStream. There's no actual process, but we will replicate all the settings in SnapStream Moco once we have all that information and work with you, if anything needs to be modified.

Daniel Mee:

Great, thanks. Pete, did you have anything to add? I know that you've worked with a number of our Moco customers in the process of running pilots. So, I wonder if you have any thoughts on what the transition is like?

Pete Hollmer:

It's pretty seamless. The pre sales process we basically, as Michael was mentioned. We'll look at your Volicon system and we'll pull the profile from there for your As-Run logs and things like your Nielsen ratings. Once we have all that pulled together, we'll know exactly what needs to happen to get you back up and running. So, it will be basically be as simple as turning off a Volicon server. Then, turning on the Moco server with all those settings in place and just running from day one.

Q) Can I Import the As-Run logs from a Snell Automation system into Moco like we did in Volicon? 

Pete Hollmer:

Absolutely, I hinted this in my last answer as well. What we do, there's an As-Run profile file, that Volicon uses. That tells what the Volicon, how to purse the As-Room logs that you're ingesting from your system, whatever that system might be. That's very flexible and we actually support those same profiles. So, if you already have a profile that's working, we just copy that from your Volicon. Plug it into the right place on your SnapStream system and your As-Run logs import, like nothing changed.

Q) Can Moco export clips the same way Volicon does?

Michael Bui:

SnapStream generates clips, just like Volicon with no issues. It's actually an easier interface to navigate through, to create your clips. Then, you can export them to your social media, your Nass, or just download them to your local computer. It's a great web interface, there's no plugin. So, you don't have to use a specific browser for the plugin, like Volicon does. So, it's just HTML 5, so any browser can work and pretty straight forward.

Daniel Mee:

Great. One other thing that I'll add is that, whereas with some other solutions clipping and exporting is an add on to the base module. With SnapStream, we offer an all inclusive solution. So, if you can record with Moco, you can clip, you can export. You can do all of the relevant things without having to purchase any additional licenses or any additional hardware, it's all self contained. 

Q) Does Moco compute the loudness values for the tracks like Volicon does? How does it handle 5.1 audio?

Paul Place:

Sure. So, we automatically detect the number of audio tracks when you configure an input stream. When you configure an input stream and if you enable loudness monitoring, we automatically generate and collect the loudness values for each of those audio tracks and allow you to look at any number of those that you want in our loudest monitoring UI. For the 5.1 audio, we compute the loudest value of the 5.1 audio as is, but we also will compute it for the stereo down mix since that's a requirement for a lot of customers who are broadcasting in 5.1 audio. We give you both of those numbers just so that you can check and make sure everything is compliant the way it should be.

Q) Can I edit clips? For example, can I drop a segment of a clip and export it?" I think that what's being asked here is whether we can take a segment and remove part of it and then stitch that back together. 

Daniel Mee:

We don't have a direct way to punch out part of a clip, but we do have some pretty sophisticated features for creating playlists of clips that allow you to merge. So we would probably do there is create a playlist of the pieces that you're looking for. You can do that without creating sub-clips.

Basically, you'll mark one segment and then another segment, put those in a list and then merge that together. What you will get is just the content that you want in a single exported file. This may be something that makes sense to go through in detail in a demo. For something like this, I would recommend get in touch with our sales department. We'll put that up on the screen at the end here, and we can set up a demo to walk you through exactly how it would work.

Paul Place:

Yeah. Excuse me, Daniel, just to add a little bit more to that. What Daniel described, I think is a good way to deal with that scenario with the existing functionality. We're also always listening to our customers, looking for opportunities to extend the feature set. Doesn't mean we guarantee that we will, but we're always interested in what our customers, what their workflows look like so that we can make sure that our features meet their needs. I just wanted to throw that in. One of the hallmarks of SnapStream engineering is that we've always been very responsive in listening to what our customers are trying to do so that we can work with them on it.

Daniel Mee:

That's a really great point, Paul, thanks. As a company with a strong background in serving users outside of broadcast engineering, we've spent a long time listening to our users and incorporating their feedback into our product. We have a really strong culture of making our customers feel empowered and supported that really informs everything we do from development and testing to customer service, technical support. So we want to hear our customer's feedback so that we can incorporate that and continue to make the product better.

Q) Do you support the same inputs that Volicon does? 

Pete Hollmer:

We actually support the same ATSC, 8 SVB, QAM, most things you'd expect to run into in broadcast environment. So ATSC or QAM, ASI, ATSB, the OTT formats, like HLS or RTMP we support those inputs as well in HDMI. There is yet to be a scenario where someone has asked for something we haven't supported already. Then for SDI input, we currently use an external encoder. There is a plan in the future to bring that onboard, but we haven't gotten there just yet. I think that covers it.

Q) Can I import my users from Volicon to SnapStream?

Daniel Mee:

Unfortunately, not. We can't export a list of users from Volicon and import that to SnapStream, the formatting is too different. But we do support Active Directory and as well as single sign-on via SAML Okta, and some other flavors. Our experience has been that those options make this part of the process a lot less painful because you can use your existing sign-on scheme and just import that into SnapStream. You don't have to create a bunch of new accounts.

Q) Is Moco a new product? 

Daniel Mee:

Yes, Moco is a new product. SnapStream, as a company, is almost 20 years old. We started in 2001 as a software company serving the consumer DVR space. Since 2007, we've been offering both enterprising and cloud solutions for use in monitoring, recording and clipping. So Moco is our entry into the monitoring and compliance arena specifically, but it's running on the same code base as our flagship product. We've got more than a decade of development work behind that. Although this is a new product, it's very well validated as a piece of software. We have a lot of confidence in how well this is going to serve Volicon customers.

Q) What is the storage depth like? What is the base amount of storage? Can I bring my own storage?

Pete Hollmer:

Sure. We've got a few different... Storage is pretty flexible overall. Let me get the right sheet in front of me real quick here. Of course, I closed that window. So give me one second here.

Daniel Mee:

While he's looking that up, the short answer is that storage is configurable.

Pete Hollmer:

Yes.

Daniel Mee:

What we do during the sales process is collect information about what you want to record, what kind of quality you're looking for, how long you want to keep it. We'll use that to spec out the storage needs for the platform that we're designing for you.

Pete Hollmer:

Exactly. And yeah, we've got a few base sizes and they're set up with canned configurations going from 16 terabytes to 150 terabytes natively on the system. We also allow you to utilize a mass of storage. We charge you per terabyte for index storage off of our system as well. That's an option too.

Paul Place:

Right. We even have a little handy-dandy calculator on our website. If you look under the support tab, at snapstream.com, there's a storage calculator that allows you to do a back of the envelope type of estimate based on your needs what kind of storage you might be wanting to provision.

Daniel Mee:

Yeah, that tool's pretty neat. It's got little sliders that you can adjust how much you want to record, what kind of quality you want, and it just spits out exactly what you need.

Q) Does the active directory integration work like Volicon, where we can control users that have different types of access levels? 

Michael Bui:

Yes, we have a plenty of user groups that is created inside SnapStream. It's linked to your active directory, so you can control all the user groups inside SnapStream given different permissions as needed. So depending on what your needs are, we can customize those groups to your needs.

Daniel Mee:

Yeah. Our permission scheme is very granular. Basically, almost every feature in the UI has its own permission that you can turn on and off for individual groups to make sure that you have a lot of control over what your users are seeing and doing.

Q)Does Moco have the capability to monitor and control set-top boxes like Volicon?

Paul Place:

Sure. Yeah, we currently have the ability to... Pete probably knows a little more detail on this than I do. But yeah, we can manage through the IR blasting mechanism set-top boxes, and we have some other mechanisms that we're working on that we have in the works. Pete's probably a better

Daniel Mee:

I think one of those is IP control for specific boxes.

Pete Hollmer:

I was going to add that as well. And right now, it's a very simple interface. It just gives you the option to blast UI codes and do pre-configured and time blasts on them. But we're happy to hear use cases and actually add features on top of that as well. But what we have in the product currently is a simplified version of that feature.

Q) Are licensing costs based on number of user accounts, or is it for hardware?

Daniel Mee:

We do not license the user accounts individually. This actually came up on a call that we did earlier today. We allow unlimited user accounts per deployment. We don't limit that in any way. So you can have a hundred users, you could have 200 users, and we don't put any limits on how many users can sign on it at once. Our licensing is based on recording. So depending on how much you want to record, that's how the pricing is structured for you. So there's no limit on user accounts at all. That's a great question that actually comes up quite a lot.

Q) Can we import recordings and associated metadata from Volicon into Moco? 

Pete Hollmer:

We have the ability to, if they're just transport streams, we can import just the transport streams. The problem is the user experience is going to be terrible in that case because the actual metadata that allows us to associate the recordings with each other, to know like this recording happened at this date and time, and this recording came before and this recording came after, we're missing. So you would have a folder full of directories full of files you could view and play it back, but you couldn't be the loudest monitor now, and then you couldn't check the DPI information. You wouldn't be able to check the ratings information on them. So we really just wouldn't recommend that at all. If you need to do it for some reason, we can talk through it, but you're going to get a folder that is a jumble of files that you're just viewing in our library with no real organization around them. So I would not recommend that.

Q) For a station group, how easy is it to deploy Moco across the region and then have everything flow back to a home server? 

Daniel Mee: 

That's an interesting question. So we do have some features around clustering together systems in different geographical areas. Paul, can you talk a little bit about how that works?

Paul Place:

Sure. So the only reason I'm pausing is the word, clustering, in sort of enterprise computing gets way overused, in my opinion. I've actually worked on a cluster management product, so I have very specific ideas about how that term should be used. But unfortunately, it's sort of a term that a lot of customers are used to in this particular context. I would call it more federation, but we already use that for a different feature, so we ended up calling it super clustering in Moco. And the idea there is you have a central server that's an aggregation, excuse me, an aggregation point. And then you deploy what we call end point Moco servers. So they're just regular standalone Moco servers that tie into this central server. Then you log into the UI on the central server and from there you can basically view what's going on with different employees.

So one use case that we've had with a customer is, “hey, we want to, from the mothership, be able to do ad verification at all of our remote sites. We've got all these different geographically distributed stations, and we want to just be able to check and make sure that the ad that we had sold actually ran on the station at the time that we intended”. So, that allows them to not have to remote into that system off in LA. They could just, from a web browser, connect to their central federation point and then check out what's going on in all the different end points.

Daniel Mee:

A really interesting question. Thank you.

Q) Can I deploy Moco in a virtual environment?

Daniel Mee:

Yes, we can do that. There are some limitations to deploying virtually around proxy generation, because normally we'll do that in hardware. And so if we're doing it in a virtual environment, then the calculations for resource allocation get a little different. But talk to us, let's set up a follow up conversation to talk about what you want to do. We've definitely done Moco deployments virtually before, and we can do it again. So just let us know what do you have in mind and we can find a way to make it work.

Q)How does the UI compare to Volicon? How easy is it for new users to pick up? Are they similar? 

Daniel Mee:

There are actually aspects of Moco that we have based in part on the Volicon experience to make this an easy transition for people. I'm just going to skip forward in our slideshow here a little bit to show some of that. This is our multi-view watch UI, and you can see that the Volicon observer is here on the left. SnapStream is on the right. You can see that there's some similarity here. The basic functionality of using the check boxes to select the things that you want to watch and having them just pop up here and having all those controls is quite similar.

Daniel Mee:

We did that intentionally so that we can give users a consistent experience and not have to have a bunch of retraining. Here's an example from loudness reporting. Our goal has just been to sort of put our own stamp on this, make it as usable as we can, as clean as we can. So here's what the loudness reporting looks like. And so there's definitely some similarities there. The appearance is a little bit different, but we've made every effort that we can to give your users a consistent experience.

Q) Can your Moco hardware record directly into our own arrays instead of your recording drives basically using only your server hardware and software? 

Pete Hollmer:

I talked about the actual ability to have your storage live on a NAS or something of the sand or off-board storage, and there's a per turbot indexing fee for that. This question, I think, more relates to someone's recording. They want to record, instead of recording to just locally on their node, they want to stream straight to their NAS. And we can certainly configure that and try it out. That's putting a lot of faith in your NAS, though. Any kind of issue that you have will be a gap in your data. So the workflow that I would do in that case, which is going to be a much better way of handling this, what we can do is record to the drives on our local storage and then have a workflow that runs every hour, or two hours, a day, or whatever, and then copies those files over to your NAS, which is a much better way to handle that. That just keeps minimizing the chance of failure, because you don't want to be having stuff that's not backed up elsewhere in flight across your network. Does that answer your question?

Daniel Mee:

Yeah. That's a good point. Yeah. We've supported recording directly to a network attached storage in our PVR product for a long time. And just about every time, what people end up doing is just recording locally and copying off to the NAS. There's no sort of performance costs to that, and it provides a little bit more stability and reliability for recording to those local discs. But we can definitely work with your network attached storage in either way.

Paul Place:

Yeah. So I was just going to provide a little bit more context around why working locally and then copying off to the remote is by far the preferred approach. Just because during a recording, there's so much IO happening, not just laying down the bits coming in from the input stream, but also all the processing that we do, all of the... If you've got loudness monitoring, for example, we're having to read back from the disc to pull that data in to compute the loudness, to split out the audio tracks and do that. The indexing, there's just a large amount of IO happening while the recording is being created, and trusting your storage network to get all of that right every single IO call is asking a lot.

Daniel Mee:

Yeah, great points. And this goes to why SnapStream is a turnkey engineered solution, as opposed to something we can just play on any old hardware. There is a really significant amount of performance tuning that we've done to make sure that the solution is going to be stable and performant. Because again, coming from the DVR space where we're working with a lot of nontechnical users, they really have high expectations for how a software interface is going to respond. And so we bring those standards to Moco as well. And that's why we engineered this so carefully to make sure that it's going to do exactly what the users want every time, and then it's going to be there when they go to look at it.

Q) How does your Support work? Is the hardware covered? Can we install on site? Is there training? 

Michael Bui:

Yeah. Support works pretty much 24/7, 365 pretty much. We have core hours between 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM Eastern, I'm sorry, Central. As far as for a live technician any time beyond that is an on- call technician that will reply to you. As far as hardware support, hardware is covered as long as you have a valid support contract, and I believe that's up to five years for hardware. And we do onsite installations, and while we are there, we also will do an onboarding training session with your users if needed.

Daniel Mee:

Great. We do onboarding and training, even if we're not there. We do those sessions routinely, pretty much any of our support technicians is qualified to run a training session for your users. We do that routinely as part of our deployment process. Don't be shy with those questions, folks. Let's see. Is there a cloud version? 

Q) Is the SnapStream Cloud product separate from Moco? 

Daniel Mee:

Yeah. It looks like that was a pick up from our website. So SnapStream Cloud is actually a deployment option for our DVR service. We don't have any concrete plans today to run Moco in the cloud. As we discussed previously, is a performance needs for the operations that are going into monitoring and compliance are fairly significant.

Daniel Mee:

The storage needs also are fairly significant because for legal reasons, most of our customers in this space are keeping files for months, or even a year or more. To do those things in the cloud, doesn't really make a lot of sense right now. That said, if there's something that you're looking to do, again, open up a conversation with us, let's talk about it. We always want to try to push the envelope on what we are offering. If you want to try to do this in the cloud, let's talk about it and see if it makes sense.

Q) Is proxy generation part of the base server, or is it part of a different node?

Pete Hollmer:

Absolutely. Actually, in the Moco product what we do for proxy generation is there's a quadro card installed in the server itself locally, and those are incredibly good at generating proxies. We can do a huge number on one card, and one server, with no problems whatsoever. And that keeps the work off the CPU itself. And so due to the fact that the card doesn't sync itself locally, all proxy generation is done on the node where the recordings are made. And so that makes it a lot simpler and avoids problems with trying to send proxies across the network and get them back. It's worked very well for us, so far.

Daniel Mee:

Great. Thanks. As far as the other aspect of this is licensing, as I mentioned earlier, we don't license different features a la carte. Everything is just part of the one rolled up license that comes with the hardware. The turnkey appliance that we offer as the deployment platform for Moco does it all, does the proxy generation, does the clipping, there's no add ons there at all. Yeah. 

Q) What is the possibility to expand on a basic or medium system in the future?

Paul Place:

That's going to be an account management question, which I haven't been involved in those discussions. I've focused more on the technical side. That's probably going to be a discussion with your account manager, basically.

Daniel Mee:

From a technical perspective, can we expand on an existing deployment?

Paul Place:

If you've bought a 2U system, and you want to upgrade with 3U system, there's going to be a hardware swap there. Actually, preserving your data and transitioning, that's a question more for Pete and Michael, since those are the types of activities they've been involved in. I believe that's possible, but I need to leave that to them.

Pete Hollmer:

Yes. We can actually preserve the recording from Moco to Moco if you do decide to upgrade. That should not be a problem at all. The hardware swap thing is something that we haven't covered. That'd be a question for an account executive and that'd be discussion internally.

Paul Place:

Right. But in terms of what does the costs look like on doing that? Our account executives are easy to work with and they definitely want to always capture more of your money if they can. Just ask.

Daniel Mee:

Don't give away the game here, Paul. We want to make it easy to expand if that's necessary. Of course, there are limits to what any individual piece of equipment can do. We'll work with you either expand to those limits or figure out a way to get beyond them, either through additional hardware or a hardware swap. The licensing is a simple, step wise upgrade.

Q)Are there recurring licensing fees?

Daniel Mee:

Typically, with Moco we are doing a CAPX model, so that you are paying upfront for the equipment, and then a yearly support contract, I think 15% of the original hardware costs. There's not typically a licensing fee on top of that. If you were interested in doing an OPEX model, less common in this space, we can set that up. This is, again, something that we'd love to talk to you about as part of a proposal.

Q) When running multiple windows for playback, can you set the windows for different time intervals? And do the onscreen controls effect all of the open windows simultaneously?

Daniel Mee:

Let me bring up the interface a little bit so that we can talk intelligently about that. Can we set the windows for different time intervals? Yes, you can navigate the windows independently. You can see on... Let's see. I don't think that we're showing that in this screenshot. In this, the windows are synced, but they don't have to be. You can play back one window, you can set these windows completely independently. You can play back this one last week, and the other one from today. The onscreen controls are only going to affect the active window. You'll click on one, and it'll be highlighted. That's what you see over here on the right where cartoon networks in blue. That's the one that the controls will affect, and then we can use the live button to sync these windows. That's how that works. That's a really interesting question. Thank you.


Next steps and how to get in touch with us

I've mentioned this a couple of times, but we'd love to keep the conversation going with any of you. If you want to talk about what kind of proposal we could put together for you, go to this address www.snapstream.com/proposal , and you can get in touch with one of our account managers to collect your requirements and put together a quote. Or just email us at sales@snapstream.com. We're happy to answer any further questions, or just talk about what this product does and how it works. We'd love to talk more. Thanks for joining us today. We're going to wrap it up here, and we'll be sending out the recording of this webinar to all of you afterwards so that you can share it out. And please do so. Thanks a lot.