Sony announced today that it will introduce a new open-platform product family, Media Backbone, which grew out of the company’s desire to address workflow issues created by the relentless uptick in 4K and 3D production and post.

An open, frame-level asset manager that tracks and manages digital files from ingest through to the deepest levels of the archive—and back—Media Backbone will interconnect ingest/transcoding, production, playout, storage, quality control, distribution and the archive, via a high-speed media bus. Essentially, it’s a framework for connecting devices and services. Peter Crithary, marketing manager for production in Sony’s Broadcast and Professional Systems Division, said the cards running Media Backbone evolved from the cell technology at the heart of Sony’s PlayStation 3. “Sony’s cards with cell processors enable 4 HD-SDI inputs and 4 HD-SDI outputs simultaneously,” he said. There will be options for 10GbE and Fibre Channel.

“One key application will be for a 4K camera workflow,” said Alec Shapiro, senior vice president of sales and marketing, broadcast and production systems. While it was still in development, Media Backbone was used during the production of Roland Emmerich’s 2012.

Though made up of various hardware and software components, including Media Workflow Management middleware, Crithary said Media Backbone is about “full services and software on an open platform.” The Managed Services part of Media Backbone will fall under the Sony Solutions Group.

Media Backbone hardware includes the ELLCAMI MPE L1000 ingest box and MPE T1000 transcoder, as well as Sony’s existing automated XDCart XDCAM cassette media library. ELLCAMI can ingest proxies on up to 4K material.

Sony will release two new software components, Media Backbone Conductor and Media Backbone Ensemble. Conductor was built on the service-oriented architecture (SOA) approach so favored by enterprise IT for its ability to combine third-party systems across a network (even connecting enterprise-wide databases, or SAP systems, outside the production workflow). It makes all those various parts visible at the system level so they can be controlled at every part of the pipeline. Ensemble, apparently, will streamline the front (ingest) and back ends (archive) of the process, sorting out and managing the different ways that popular NLEs from Avid, Quantel, Apple, etc. store metadata.

“Sony wants to be the workflow solutions company,” said Shapiro. “We see the camera as just one device in that chain. We know we make the best devices, but this is an open system and will work with any third-party cameras, decks, servers and storage on the market.”

“This is about work that will actually flow, as opposed to other technologies out there that do not,” added Crithary.

In other NAB-related news, Sony is releasing HDCAM SR 2.0, with a new codec that will now support memory cards in addition to file and tape. Crithary said the company will be transitioning to 1 TB memory-based HDCAM SR cards that will output SR-native files as MXF SStP files (future related storage products will follow). “I expect these to eventually destroy any other memory card out there,” said Crithary, who said the cards will support HD, 3D, 4K and data security equivalent to RAID 5. “We guarantee 5 Gbps sustainable speeds, not bursts. You’ll be able to cue up in four frames.”

Camera News
There will still be plenty of new HD and 3D cameras on display in Sony’s booth, including the NXCAM, announced last November, which records in AVCHD and can be output to Blu-ray media for easier playback on consumer devices.

All Mobile Video’s now fully 3D-capable truck—parked once again at the back of Sony’s new booth location, since last year, in Central Hall—will include new 3D hardware, from the MPE-200 (used to align camera angles on the fly, particularly during live production), 3D production monitors, and the trim HDC-P1 (right), meant to be bought in pairs for 3D rigs.

While Shapiro admitted that a 4K camera is in the works, he emphasized that it will not be shown under glass on the show floor.