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Video systems in an IT environment

The essentials of professional networked media

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Book review Everything is software. Increasingly, the devices we live by (whether routers and switches, or just DVD recorders and music systems) are computers running specialised embedded software. This is generally known as "convergence", which is a term usually used in the context of VoIP telephony, although this is just a small part of the whole picture.

Al Kovalick's book Video systems in an IT environment: The essentials of professional networked media is devoted to an emerging area of convergence: an understanding of "how AV systems can leverage IT techniques and tools".

Subjects covered include networking, storage systems (including network attached storage, or NAS; Storage Area Networks, SAN; caching etc.), high availability, media systems integration, security, and systems management and monitoring. There's a website for the book, with a detailed contents list, here.

A small point: there is only limited coverage of DRM (digital rights management), which is no great loss, as it's probably more a feature of consumer marketing than professional AV. But DRM doesn't appear in the index - "digital rights management" does. What else might be missing - validating an index isn't easy.

Eleven appendices are provided, covering tricks with binary arithmetic, the mysteries of frame sync, new technologies such as blade servers and grid computing, "how to evaluate a video server", and so on. Much of this, it seems to me, belongs in the body of the book somewhere, but it appears to be useful information all the same.

There is a good chapter on the "Transition to IT" (Kovalick recognises that "traditional AV is not dead. The fat lady is not singing, but she is practicing her scales"), which includes some interesting case studies. These bring the subject alive, although I suspect Kovalick could have gone into even more detail on these.

Occasionally, prices are mentioned throughout the book (which will soon date), but otherwise I think the book should last well. Kovalick's style is sometimes a bit "purple" - he quotes everything from Donne to Dylan; and using Newton's Laws of Motion as an analogy for the evolution of professional video services in the general IT environment is going a bit far. However, he mostly gets away with it and the alternative - a dry-as-dust academic tome stuffed with abstruse acronyms - doesn't bear thinking about.

There is, in fact, a glossary of acronyms and if you're more used to general IT, you'll need it. There is also a chapter devoted to introducing the world of video technology to the general IT technician. This is useful, although perhaps not quite suitable for the complete novice.

This is probably a timely book, as increasing CPU power increasingly makes it possible to replace dedicated hardware with software running on general-purpose technology for more and more applications. It documents an emerging opportunity for IT people and Kovalick appears to do his subject justice.

Video Systems in an IT Environment: The Essentials of Professional Networked Media

Verdict: A comprehensive book targeting an emerging area of IT. It is well-written and readable, in as far as a practical book devoted to a sophisticated technology can be readable. It should provide a good foundation for both IT and video specialists seeking to enlarge their horizons.

Author: Al Kovalick

Publisher: Focal Press

ISBN: 0240806271

Media: Book

List Price: £37.99

Reg price: £34.19

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