VidOvation is a Video Communications Company
Larry Jordan: Jim Jachetta is the Founder and President of VidOvation. For over 20 years, Jim’s been designing, integrating and delivering video, fiber optic and data communications systems and recently they’ve expanded into wireless video with some new technology being used by the NHL. Hello, Jim, welcome.
Jim Jachetta: Hi, thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here.
Larry Jordan: We are delighted to have you with us and let’s start with a really easy question. First, tell us about what VidOvation is.
Jim Jachetta: VidOvation is a video communications company. We manufacture solutions for wireless, solutions for fiber optic transmission, for webcasting, we make encoders to stream video over your corporate network or through the internet, but in a nutshell we help our clients move video from Point A to Point B and our tagline is ‘Moving video forward’, so we’re staying up to date with the latest technologies such as what we did for the National Hockey League, using 60 gigahertz transmission for uncompressed wireless video.
Larry Jordan: Let’s just take a second. We understand that you guys are in the business of moving video, but you’re one of the founders of the company. Why did you decide to start the company? What made that so intriguing to you?
Jim Jachetta: Well, I guess I have my dad to blame for that. My dad had an entrepreneurial spirit. My dad was an engineer at ABC, CBS and his longest and final stint was at NBC, so he worked at 30 Rock for about 12 years before starting a company called MultiDyne and, as kids, my brother and I, we always worked for our dad so junior high we helped stuff circuit boards and build a lot of his audio visual equipment, so it’s in our DNA and my dad was a great problem solver and my brother and I have inherited that work ethic of doing the never been done before and solving our clients’ problems or helping with their business workflow.
Larry Jordan: I don’t want to sound too naive here, but what are the challenges in moving video? You’ve got a cable that plugs into the back of a camera, it plugs into the back of a switcher or a distribution outlet. What makes moving video such a challenge?
Jim Jachetta: It’s interesting that you ask that. One of the first hurdles that a lot of people struggle with is copyright protection, so when you want to move video from Point A to Point B, that content is owned by a television network, whether it’s an HBO, an NBC or a Warner Bros, and it’s all under the premise of preventing piracy and having the content bootlegged or distributed illegally.
Jim Jachetta: What that does is make the transmission difficult of some of these video communications signals, so we have to come up with ways of transmission that comply with the digital rights management or the copyright of that particular content to keep the studios happy and yet give ease of distribution to our customers, so moving video from Point A to Point B. In the case of the National Hockey League, it wasn’t so much about a copyright or a rights issue.
Jim Jachetta: It really was how do I get video out of a hostile environment inside of a hockey goal, where I can’t run a cable, I don’t have power, I can’t run electricity under ice because there’s water involved, we don’t want to electrocute a goalie. Every application is different and that’s where we thrive. The harder the project, the more fun we have.
Larry Jordan: What got you involved in wireless video communications in the first place?
Jim Jachetta: At our old company, we specialized in fiber optics, at least prior to my departure from MultiDyne, so I always felt that wireless, video over IP, compression and streaming were parts of video communications that we didn’t address at the old company. The old company’s doing very well in the fiber space, so I wanted to see what else was out there and wireless was one of our first areas and our most successful area to date.
Larry Jordan: One of the challenges of wireless is bandwidth. Video is just a massive bandwidth hog. How do you manage to get high quality video out of a wireless signal?
Jim Jachetta: Absolutely, that’s a great question. Bandwidth is a big part of it, but also congestion or, in layman’s terms, high usage. We have different frequencies or different bands, radio waves that we can use. In laymen’s terms, with your FM dial, you have different radio stations. Certain radio bands are restricted, other radio bands are open to everyone, some are licensed, some are unlicensed and by licensed I mean the FCC wants a fee to use them, unlicensed meaning anybody can use them for free.
Jim Jachetta: The wifi bands in the 2.4 gig and the 5 gig bands – I hope I’m not getting too technical – your wireless in your home, in your office, in your cell phone uses these 2.4 and 5 gigahertz bands. They’re great and we offer commercial and broadcast products that use these bands. The negative is that everyone’s using these bands and if you want to stream from a hockey goal camera or if you’re on the sidelines with a wireless camera system, you’re fighting for bandwidth and congestion usage with the spectators.
Jim Jachetta: There are 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 fans at a football game – how are you going to transmit your video out when you’re competing with all those cell phones in the venue?
Mike Horton: Maybe I don’t understand, but are you actually sharing the bandwidth with all those 100,000 people with the cell phones? Don’t you have your own network?
Jim Jachetta: Yes you are. Well, yes, you can have different networks in the same space, but then the networks will interfere with each other, so it’s like the traffic jams here in LA. We’ve got too many cars for the amount of road. You could think about it as we might each have our own lane, but if the highway’s jammed, the highway’s jammed. The spectators might have one lane, the broadcaster’s got another lane, another provider’s got a third lane, but if all the lanes are jammed, nobody’s going anywhere.
Mike Horton: Nothing is as simple as we think it is, is it?
Jim Jachetta: Right, right.
Larry Jordan: Let’s see. What you’re doing with the NHL is you’ve got a wireless camera which can be remote controlled with power that’s supplied with a battery at the camera, simply to make sure that the goals are, well, you can review them for replays. Do I have that correct?
Jim Jachetta: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Mike Horton: Oh, and it’s absolutely awesome too. We live in Los Angeles, as you know, so we watch the Kings/Rangers final and that was a big, big part of it, was those replays of the goals, so good job.
Jim Jachetta: Gary Bettman and the NHL did a tremendous job this year. They got a little bit of a black eye with the lockout last season and they came back with a vengeance. They did the Winter Classic at the Big House in Michigan with the Red Wings and the Leafs; they won an award for that. Bettman won an award for Sports Executive of the Year; and the six outdoor stadium games, the game in LA, the Dodgers and Kings wasn’t that crazy?
Mike Horton: Yes, the Dodgers’ stadium. It was awesome. It was wonderful.
Jim Jachetta: Dan Craig is like the VP of ice. I joke that he invented ice and he said, “Jimmy, I don’t know how I’m going to make ice in 60 degree weather. I don’t know how we’re going to do this. It’ll be night time,” but there was a hot spell during the week before the game. But back to why we chose 60 gigahertz. The NHL knew that the 5 gig band wasn’t desirable because of competition from spectators and other operators, so we chose 60 gig because no-one was using it, but it’s the best of both worlds.
Jim Jachetta: It’s unlicensed but, because of its directionality, it’s not susceptible to interference, nor does it cause interference, so it was like the best of both worlds. There were no licensing fees involved; due to its directionality it didn’t cause any interference, not susceptible to it, so the NHL was able to have a reliable bird’s eye view of that goal line. Did you see the plays, I think it was game four, where the puck got stuck on the ice, right onto Lundqvist there, did you see that?
Mike Horton: Oh, absolutely. That was from the goalie camera, right?
Jim Jachetta: Absolutely, absolutely. There’s a camera in the goal that moves. That’s rented or provisioned by NBC or CBC. Our shot was a still shot. We just watched that line. There’s a copy of it on our blog or it’s on the NHL YouTube channel and that’s what it’s all about, it’s that trickle. I mean, our camera will cost the fast shot but the fast shots are easy. If it bounces off a post in the back of the net, those are easy to detect. It’s the ones where it sneaks under the goalie and the goalie’s partially obstructing it, so that shot that was caught in game four was the sweet spot. That’s what our camera’s all about.
Mike Horton: Yeah, it just falls short about an inch. There were some great shots and there was a lot of heartbreak for the Rangers.
Larry Jordan: One of the things that you guys do is you work with a variety of clients. Your list is like a Who’s Who of broadcast networks. One of the things that I’m most interested in is you also specialize in webcasting and video communications for streaming video. There’s an interest there in both large companies and small trying to get their message out to the web. Where can you become helpful in that case?
Jim Jachetta: What we do is we make a system that will not only stream one camera, it’ll stream multiple cameras. Clients are being more sophisticated where they just don’t want a talking head on a webcam or even just a simple webcam and you want to switch between your Powerpoint presentation and your speaker or your moderator, or if you have a panel of people you might have a wide shot on the panel and then a tight shot on the person on the podium. We have systems that will do multi-camera shoots.
Jim Jachetta: We’ve also integrated some technology where we can do bonded cellular, so if you don’t have a LAN connection or a good wifi connection, you can stream over multiple cellular modems. If you’re traveling, doing seminars, trade shows, or guys like yourself, maybe you want to do your show on the road in remote locations, then the internet may be unpredictable in hotels and conference centers, so you could use a combination of wifi with some cellular and, by bonding small bandwidths together, make an aggregated bigger pipe to get your video or audio feed to the web.
Larry Jordan: Ok, but now I’m confused, because if I look at the switching technology that new tech provides, why would I consider VidOvation?
Jim Jachetta: Everybody loves Kiki Stockhammer, she doesn’t age. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her. 1989 was my first NAB and I think the toaster was their first product and Kiki was there. They make a nice product, I’m not going to say anything negative about that. We have solutions that fit below that, so if you don’t have the budget for a 20 or 30 thousand dollar TriCaster, we have systems that start at 3500 bucks, 4,000 bucks to do one or two cameras, so nothing against their products. We integrate some of the live view bonded cellular into our products, so that’s a little bit more of a value add for us.
Larry Jordan: But one of the challenges we’ve got with the web, in addition to getting sufficient upload speed, is there’s so much native latency inside the web. What can we do as video producers to get our program to look good when it hits the end user?
Jim Jachetta: It takes training. If you look at the guys on CNN and they’re like, “Ok, we’re here in Afghanistan,” and their anchors are trained to say, “Hello Bob, how’s it going in Afghanistan?” and they go, “Three, two, one,” because of the three or four second satellite delay. Now, a lot of our clients, when they’re going to go to somebody in the field and if they’re talking over bonded cellular and they’ve got an eight second count, they’ll start a ten count and they’ll give the reporter the cue at eight to start talking and they’re talking to them over a lower latency cellular line or IFB line, so there are ways to compensate for that, so by the time the anchor gets around to saying, “So, Barbara, how’s it going down in LA today?” you time it and you look at the latency a few minutes or 30 seconds before you’re going to go to the piece.
Jim Jachetta: There are ways around it. Net neutrality is a big issue with the cellular providers because they’re tied in to the consumer internet. Telecom companies for years have sold high speed networks to corporations a cut above the consumer grade connections, but the phone companies have been restricted in that it’s a violation of net neutrality to sell a broadcaster or a higher end client a fast lane, as it were, for the internet or to cellular.
Jim Jachetta: Cellular connectivity kind of gets bundled in with internet and it’s really different. It leads to the internet but it’s that first mile from the camera to the cell site that we need to have a fast lane for, or maybe the Verizons and AT&Ts need to build a different network for higher end use for broadcasters, a dedicated network for that.
Larry Jordan: In terms of your own company, what markets are you looking at for the next six to 12 months that look interesting to you?
Jim Jachetta: We’re doing a lot in sports and sports we look at as a sub-set of the broadcast industry. Broadcast includes TV stations, sports leagues, your NHLs. Sports is always a good segment. Independent TV networks are up and down. It seems like the people pulling the strings right now in television are the content owners, your Disneys, your major studios.
Jim Jachetta: Every other month there’s a channel that’s threatened to be blacked out on your local cable or satellite company because the content owners are putting the screws on the distributors or the distribution arm, so the industry is probably going to change but sports is always a good segment. People might lose their job, but they’re not going to get rid of their NFL package or their MLB package or their hockey. Sports is always a good segment.
Larry Jordan: Jim, for people who want more information about your company, where can they go on the web to learn more?
Jim Jachetta: They can go to vidovation.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s vidovation.com. Jim Jachetta is the CEO and Founder of VidOvation and, Jim, thanks for joining us today.
Jim Jachetta: Thank you for having me.
Mike Horton: Thanks, Jim, and go Kings.