DOD standardizes on a digital video format

DOD standardizes on a digital video format

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

The Defense Department is standardizing on a commercial digital video imaging format to speed development of affordable equipment that will work with DOD systems.

'Analog video is winding down now and is officially considered legacy in the department,' said Stephen W. Long, chairman of a DOD working group on video standards.

DOD intends to migrate to digital progressive-scan video, which refreshes images line by line, as opposed to the interlaced scanning of commercial television that refreshes alternate picture lines. Most computer equipment now uses progressive scanning formats.

Big libraries

Defense's National Imagery and Mapping Agency plans to set up petabyte-scale'two to the 50th power'digital video libraries. Long is leading the government effort to develop commercial standards for the metadata that would define the content of such vast archives.

'The ability to find what you want when you want it is driving this,' Long said. 'Metadata is going to be the key enabling technology.'

Long is chairman of the Imagery Geospatial System Video Working Group, which is developing the DOD video standards. He also is program manager for motion imagery technology at NIMA and chairman of the Committee on Metadata for the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE).


Long spoke about metadata issues at the recent Government Video Technology conference in Washington.

Video will be a key element in what DOD officials call dominant battlespace awareness'the ability to gather real-time information about what is happening on all parts of a battlefield. Within a few years, commanders in the field and at headquarters will receive hundreds of video streams from combat areas, Long said.

DOD decided in March to standardize video on the Advanced Television Standards Committee's 720 progressive high-definition digital television signal format, or 720p, because it is easily compressed and compatible with computers.

'In DOD, we don't watch television,' Long said. 'We spend a lot of time looking at computer monitors.'

Following Defense's format choice, Microsoft Corp. and the ABC and Fox television networks announced they also would adopt the 720p format.

Hire pros

'Rather than create a government stovepipe, the group decided to go to the private sector,' Long said. Four manufacturers are now selling 720p cameras, he said.

As volumes of video data in-crease, it becomes essential to have metadata, which tags the data for access and manipulation, Long said. Metadata might include such information as time, longitude and latitude, or details about what was being observed. DOD wants to embed this data automatically in the video stream so the information becomes a permanent part of the video record.

The department is working with SMPTE, the video industry's standards-setting body, to develop commercial metadata standards. The society in March began voting on proposed standards. Long said a final ballot to approve standards is expected by the end of the year.

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