A spin-off arises from unique academic research expertise. It lies at the interface between science and economics. This is where research results can make a social and economic difference, going far beyond the walls of the university. Innovation and pioneering are integral to our identity.
Live video capture and streaming are now all the rage for music festivals, concerts, theatre plays, TV shows, sports competitions, conferences and medical training. But professional multi-camera video capture is labour-intensive. As a result, until recently, the technology was only financially and technically feasible for large-scale top events. AZilPix’s Studio.One system is now changing that. It makes recording and broadcasting events a one-man show.
For events such as Premier League football, the Eurovision Song Contest or Tomorrowland, live video capture is a viable option. They have the financial means to allow a highly specialised team of cameramen, directors and technicians to capture the right image at the right time. Until recently, however, the annual school musical or a local music festival could only dream of such professional quality video capture. We wanted to change that with AZilPix.
AZilPix’s Studio.One system consists of a combination of high-resolution cameras, video processing servers and intelligent software which makes it possible to capture and edit complex events with just one operator. We are the only player today that can offer such a system. Studio.One is the result of fifteen years of research into video capture and advanced image processing with the aim of fundamentally changing the filming and distribution of video material. With this system we are redrawing the boundaries of online video capture. We guarantee top professional quality, cost efficiency and intuitive ease of use.
Studio.One is much more than just bringing a better camera or a higher-capacity server to the market. It turns the entire video production process upside down. The reason that multi-camera video capture is so laborious today - and therefore so expensive - is that every action at an event has to be perfectly followed from different angles at all times, because the image frame that a camera operator produces is also the final image frame. In our Studio.One system, ultra-high-resolution video cameras, equipped with wide-angle lenses, record an event from different angles. Due to the high resolution - tens of times higher than full HD - the tracking or framing of the action can even be done afterwards in post-production. And it only requires one operator. This not only makes the process a lot less labour-intensive and a lot cheaper, but it also gives rise to a lot of new creative possibilities.
In addition, Studio.One is an open system that can be easily integrated into an existing production environment. It can even be operated remotely when the presence of an operator is not desirable, such as in an operating room. We have already filmed several operations for medical education purposes. Our spin-off is attracting a lot of interest from the health sector.
The media and entertainment industry is also enthusiastic about this innovative video capture technology. We have already successfully tested the system in the field during events such as the Main Square Festival in France and the Dwars door Vlaanderen cycling race. VRT also believes in this new technology. For them we recorded, among other things, the final concert of ‘Thomas speelt het hard’, and we filmed the group discussions in all episodes of the Canvas programme ‘De Weekenden’. The production house De Chinezen enthusiastically chose Studio.One for the recording of these group conversations because it does not require camera operators in the room and the conversations therefore took place in a much more intimate, natural and unscripted manner. In addition, using photography lenses on our cameras delivered exactly the look they had in mind. In total we filmed about 50 hours of conversations with six cameras.
By the way, Studio.One doesn’t just support traditional video productions. The system can also be used perfectly for productions with 360° video and virtual reality. Our solution with extreme fish eye lenses is unique in that field. It provides a seamless 12K 360° image without image artifacts. And because our 360° images register more than 12,000 pixels on the horizon, those images can also be used for a conventional television production. This is not usually the case with other 360° video systems on the market.
Our solution is unmatched even at international level. In 2017, we won the IABM Game Changer Award in the Acquisition & Production category at NAB in Las Vegas. NAB is the largest trade show in the world in the field of television technology. This award proves the worldwide potential of this technology. The jury praised not only the technological innovation, but also the operational and business advantages of the system. They stated that, in the world of remote-controlled systems, AZilPix has developed the ‘mother of all features’.
However, even with this impressive performance, our ambitions are far from being achieved. There are still unknown possibilities in the technical and scientific field which are closely related to EDM’s research. By applying image analysis and artificial intelligence techniques in real time to our ultra-high-resolution images, we aim to give human operators even better support with this process in the future.
~ AZilPix co-founder Prof. dr. Philippe Bekaert
When we started in 1991, setting up a spin-off was not an obvious thing to do. The academic world was very different back then. Universities were mainly expected to publish research results. Economically useful outcomes were not a priority. On the contrary: academic excellence and economic relevance were seen as antagonistic to each other. Over the past fifteen years, that view has completely changed. The world is gradually recognising that in today’s knowledge-based society it is important to convert our academic knowledge as much as possible into real economic activities that can create employment. The fact that EDM was already setting up a spin-off back in 1991 proves that a focus on commercialisation is really at the heart of its identity. Creating economic and social added value has always been its major concern. Back then and still today.
Androme arose from successful research results produced by EDM. At that time EDM mainly focused on computer graphics and was the international leader in the field. Its researchers had developed some computer graphics software that could make a difference. We wanted to further commercialise this through Androme. 3D computer animations, 3D CAD for architecture and utilities are where it all started for us. Today, of course, that doesn’t sound innovative at all, but in the 1990s it was highly progressive. The whole world had only just discovered 2D, and we were immediately working with an extra dimension. The entire software industry was still in its infancy.
We were mainly developing CAD and geographic information systems for smaller customers, when we were suddenly spotted by larger, innovative companies such as Alcatel, Siemens, Barco and Agfa Gevaert. That’s when the ball really started rolling for Androme. Today, the telecom sector is still our core business. We generate 70% of our turnover with our software services and products for telecom companies.
Our contact with major players in the market opened many doors for us. It gave us visibility and credibility. Suddenly we had an impressive portfolio. Our innovative developments gained momentum and Androme started to grow rapidly. During that period we also received a call from Duco Sickinghe, who was CEO of Telenet at the time. He wanted to take digital TV to the next level and revolutionise consumer viewing behaviour: could we develop something that would allow customers to watch what they wanted, when, where and how they wanted? Were we able to bridge the gap between Telenet’s digital wireless offering and modern multimedia devices such as smartphones and tablets? Three months later, Telenet launched Yelo with the solution we had developed.
Obviously this was a serious challenge. And the timing was extremely tight, but these are typically the kind of projects that we really enjoy. Coming up with innovative solutions, pushing boundaries and pioneering - that’s what we love best. We also feel our innovation-driven spin-off blood flowing through our veins the most with this kind of projects.
Until recently, we only worked on projects for external partners. In 2017, we launched our own product for the first time: Androme.tv, a complete TV solution. Developing new software, turning it into a product and marketing it are three different things. Developing software was something we already had plenty of experience with. The commercial aspect was something we had to learn about. But because we have given ourselves enough time - every year we try to convince a new, international customer of our added value - we are steadily making progress. First we had success in Portugal. Then Malta came the following year. And now we have set our sights on a few other European countries. We want to continue to build on this momentum in the years to come.
Do you want to stay relevant in this domain? If so, you need to keep your finger on the pulse and continue to innovate. Computer technology is changing at an insane pace. New trends follow each other at lightning speed, and global competition is huge. Where will video streaming be in five or ten years time? What optimisation methods will then be mainstream? If you want to innovate, you have to look ahead to the long term. Our spin-off approach and strong links with EDM help us enormously with this.
Androme has its head office at the Science Park in Diepenbeek. EDM is our neighbour. But in addition to being neighbours, we are also sparring partners who like to join forces to create added value. In research projects we look to the future together, each with our own expertise and vision. We build knowledge together. EDM are our antennae, our compass and our springboard. We provide the commercial instinct. If software technologies are suddenly moving in a different direction, we can build innovative applications very quickly using EDM’s strong scientific basis. We move forward together.
~ Androme CEO Raf Van Ham