Interactive, Customizable Graphics via the Crystal Metadata Cloud

By Alan Young  |  December 13, 2017

I love the fact that I can watch my favorite news channel on my big screen TV at home and on my smartphone when I am out and about. The content is exactly the same on both. However, the screen sizes are very different and reading the “ticker” that runs across the bottom of the screen, or the latest value of the Dow Jones Index, on a smartphone is hard (especially as you get older). What if the graphics could be customized for each OTT/TVE device? We at Crystal have figured out a way of enabling just that. What’s more, it requires little or no workflow changes at the content provider’s origination facility and it doesn’t impact the traditional broadcast delivery in any way.

Crystal’s approach is to abstract the graphics from the video and treat it as metadata: What information to show, where on the screen to show it and when it should be shown. But because the graphics are abstracted, the device that generates the graphics can be anything from a PC browser, a cloud originated stream to mobile phone or all simultaneously. This means graphics metadata can be sent out-of-band (e.g. via micro service ‘reflectors’ in the Cloud) direct to a smartphone and then the smartphone’s inherent graphics capability can be used to render customized graphics on to the video as it plays. The video onto which customizable graphics is rendered would obviously need to be clean, before graphics are applied at the broadcast facility. This approach has several advantages: a) the graphics that are applied can be completely customized for each individual device; b) the graphics can be ‘clickable’ containing hyperlinks; and c) the graphics can be made user selectable.

In order for the content provider to retain control over which graphics are displayed and at what exact times during the video, Crystal would extract the graphics information (metadata) directly from the content provider’s automation system playlist which is the same information that drives the graphics overlays on the main linear broadcast. In order to synchronize the rendering of the graphics with the video playing on the device, Crystal would use its patent-pending Temporal Fingerprinting technology. By timestamping the Temporal Fingerprints and the graphics metadata at source it is straightforward to render the graphics (using a custom presentation format) on the device in sync with the graphics on the broadcast. Temporal Fingerprinting and out-of-band metadata delivery are the core components of Crystal’s Metadata Cloud technology.

The main broadcast delivered via traditional means – cable, satellite and/or Over-the-Air – remains unchanged but the graphics that users see on the video on a smartphone or tablet can be tailored to each user. For example, a BMW advert may have a ‘clickable’ BMW logo overlaid which when clicked allows the user to find out more or perhaps arrange for a test drive. When combined with addressable advertising this could be a particularly powerful way of ‘activating’ a brand in a measurable way. The broadcaster may also choose to make certain parts of the graphics user selectable – choose between the Dow Jones/ S&P Index graphic or the daily top five stock graphic. Of course, they could also make the graphics ‘clickable’ too and use it to enhance (and measure) viewer engagement.

According to Crystal CEO, Roger Franklin, “Crystal’s Metadata Cloud is the culmination of more than thirty years of work in the monitoring, control, and automation of video delivery. We believe it is a game-changer for end-to-end control of content, advertising, and monetization in general across today’s diverse television distribution environment.” Through its unique combination of advanced metadata micro services and patent-pending Temporal Fingerprint technology, the Crystal Metadata Cloud provides the necessary technology for content providers’ metadata to be distributed to specific locations/devices under the control of the content provider for synchronous combination with the video.


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