Softel Launches "vFlex HD" Ancillary VBI, VANC and Graphics Processing Platform

Softel, a UK-based company that claims to have over 25 years of experience in providing ancillary data solutions--including solutions for interactive TV, opt cuing/ad insertion, subtitling and captioning--to leading broadcasters and service providers across the world (note: for an in-depth overview of Softel and its work in the interactive TV space, see the interview with its CEO, Sam Pemberton, that was published on, July 31st), announced Tuesday the launch of vFlex HD, which it bills as a multipurpose ancillary VBI, VANC and graphics data processing unit for HD and SD broadcast applications. According to the company, vFlex HD offers the same functionality as its existing vFlex SD product, providing a compact, single-unit solution for multichannel configurations and highly complex multi-event cuing and opting--thus, the company says, enabling network operators to better service client demands for flexible regional broadcasting and targeted advertising.

According to Softel, vFlex HD encodes, decodes, re-encodes and re-generates vertical blanking interval (VBI) content, including widescreen signalling (WSS), Video Programming System (VPS), cuing, teletext, subtitling, video index and PDC signals. This, the company claims, gives broadcasters and network operators the flexibility to implement and integrate new services, reusing the original source ancillary data or accurately inserting replacement data, with minimal effort and cost. The company says that support for OP47 and SMPTE 2031 encoding and decoding for HD-SDI means that vFlex HD can insert subtitling and other information services into the HD video path, allowing self-contained and easily portable media assets containing ancillary data to be created, and streamlining workflows. According to Softel, the product "uniquely" combines these functions with encoding of animated or stationary logos and CG clocks under manual or automation control, and the output of "Key & Fill" signals for downstream mixers, allowing the insertion of graphics without a dedicated character generator. These CG functions, the company says, additionally provide generation of SD and HD open subtitles. "vFlex HD brings together the collected expertise of our years developing and deploying data inserters, cue encoders and subtitling character generators, into a highly versatile and powerful new platform," Softel CEO, Sam Pemberton, said in a prepared statement. "vFlex HD's multipurpose design helps reduce running and maintenance costs, with its 1U low-power consumption design and optimized power management features. Integrated with other Softel solutions, such as Cyclone Teletext generators and Swift subtitle transmission units, vFlex HD truly is the most flexible and powerful ancillary data inserter available today."

Softel bills vFlex HD as broadcast-ready with dual power supplies, network interface cards (NIC's) and timecode reading, and as offering robust functionality and low maintenance demands. Web-based remote management, configuration and control, combined with Network, Serial and GPI interfaces, make the product easy to integrate with any infrastructure and to deploy in large-scale, high-density environments, the company says. The product also features what Softel describes as a simple, custom-designed front panel with quick-access buttons that allow for rapid local access to configuration and control functions--which, the company says, together with independent monitoring output, further eases management and helps ensure high quality of service.