COVE: Merlin's New Magic Hat

merlinHatSmall.pngOver the past few years, high-definition video content has taken American television and the Internet by storm. One recent study revealed that over 60% of American homes have already made the jump to HD television sets and 75% are expected to own high-resolution screens by 2012. Meanwhile, high-resolution computer monitors have emerged as the industry standard for many of today's Internet users.

In an effort to better promote and distribute its video assets, PBS has embraced the HD revolution by recently announcing a new image specification for all COVE videos. The new specification means stations are required to provide high-quality 16:9 images when ingesting content into COVE. Because PBS is building for the future, the required image size has been set at a crystal-clear 1920x1080 pixels.

Of course, this initiative to enchant COVE content with mesmerizingly sharp images plays perfectly into the hand of a certain PBS-affiliated wizard. Merlin, like any good wizard, knows how to use a bit of magic to put on an amazing performance.

At PBS, COVE will be serving as one of Merlin's several 21st-century magic hats. Merlin-powered applications (like the new, will be able to use COVE as a tool to make the online presences of stations more robust than ever before. Here's how:

1. Video content added to COVE can automatically be ingested into the Merlin database. This means that Merlin has the power to reach into his magic COVE hat to populate and other Merlin-powered applications with quality local video content. Because of the automatic ingestion process, stations will not need to upload their content twice.

2. High-resolution images added to COVE will promote station content within Merlin-powered applications. Even though Merlin does not require images to be ingested with station content, PBS expects any content surfacing on the homepage to include compelling graphics. Image quality and resolution will impact the promotional power of local content, so stations are encouraged to supply high-quality images during the Merlin ingestion process.

Fortunately, COVE and Merlin now include an image transcoder that has the power to quickly create resized images for multiple platforms. As Matt Schoch from Producer Products & Services explains, "Because Merlin is designed to store content that will be used in many different formats ( modules, mobile applications, widgets, etc.), Merlin will need to store an image that can be sized at various different sizes."

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As you can see, the system will accept images smaller than 1920 x 1080 when the highest quality images are not available.  However, smaller images should be considered a solution of last resort.  It's possible that future applications will suppress content that does not have an associated image large enough to provide a quality user experience.  For now, the absolute minimum size submitted should be 640 x 360 to ensure proper images can be used throughout existing Merlin and COVE applications.

Thankfully, the new COVE image specification makes it easy for Merlin to automatically generate multiple image sizes for various platforms. The 1920x1080 pixel size was chosen in order to provide the most flexibility for future products that will display content on the plethora of high-definition screens popping up in people's homes, workplaces, and pockets. PBS believes that the new image spec will not need to be updated for several years.

As PBS gears up for the launch of Merlin, stations should begin incorporating compelling, high quality 1920x1080 pixel images into their workflows as soon as possible. Because high-definition content drastically improves the promotional power of local content, it is of utmost importance that stations adopt this new image specification. If stations do their part, Merlin can work his magic to make captivating images of all sizes magically appear to online audiences.

For more information about the upcoming launch of Merlin, please visit the SRC Merlin Resource Center.

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