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Six Questions: CEO of Testronic Labs Seth Hallen

26 Aug, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey

Seth Hallen

In the world of digital delivery, quality control is a must, and that’s where Burbank, Calif.-based Testronic Labs comes in. The company provides testing and consulting services to home entertainment and game publishers, software publishers and developers, and consumer electronics companies. Testronic has opened a new digital file lab. It also tests Blu-ray Discs.

Seth Hallen, the CEO of Testronic, chatted with Home Media Magazine about Blu-ray, digital files and the future of his company.

HM: What’s unique about Testronic’s new digital file lab, and how does it accommodate the digital world content owners are adjusting to?

Hallen: Our new file-based lab was designed from the ground up to facilitate the quality control of digital files, from massive master files to tiny consumer deliverables. We have a 10Gbps fiber connection to most of the studios and post facilities in Los Angeles and beyond, powerful playback devices, and a large storage array. In addition, the administration of the files has been automated, creating cost-saving efficiencies that we pass along to our clients. We’ve made it an easy ‘drag and drop’ process to transmit files to us, verify their integrity and stage them for quality control, with automatic email notifications and an online portal updating our clients throughout the process.

HM: Considering piracy, how does Testronic address security issues for its clients?

Hallen: All content and playback devices reside in our machine room, dubbed the Engine Room. The SAN (Storage Area Network) and playback devices exist on an isolated network with no access from outside the Engine Room. So our clients’ content is perfectly secure behind firewalls (only accessible through dedicated, secure, high-speed network connections), physical security requiring key-and-code access to the Engine Room, and cameras recording any activity around the Engine Room.

HM: Testronic teamed with Technicolor for one-stop Blu-ray Disc testing in late 2009. How has Testronic contributed to the viability of Blu-ray, and how long do you see high-def disc remaining viable?

Hallen: Testronic has always recognized the viability of Blu-ray and remains actively involved with the evolution of the format. Along with other vendors in the supply chain, we were an early contributor to the Blu-ray Disc Association and continue our involvement there. As an official BDA Test Facility, we participate in the ongoing development of specs and verify players for the association. Throughout our business lines, we continually refine workflows and efficiencies to reduce costs for our clients and support their goals by ensuring quality, error-free products.

HM: The home entertainment industry has firmly latched onto 3D at home. How is Testronic working toward offering consumers the best home 3D experience possible?

Hallen: Starting in 2009, Testronic dedicated resources to establish our expertise for the approaching home entertainment delivery of 3D content. Our CTO for North America spent over a year immersing himself in the newest 3D technology, readying for the launch of Testronic’s 3D test plan, approach and physical set-up. In addition to the workflow and physical design of the Testronic 3D Lab, we tested and trained our staff to handle a redefined testing workflow. Testronic consistently works closely with our studio clients to establish testing standards. We even tested the new consumer gear as it arrived at the start of 2010 with early releases of discs from the studios. Testronic was instrumental in identifying many issues that would otherwise have had a negative impact on the success of the format.

HM: Does Testronic see a day when disc is irrelevant, and what are the most significant challenges for delivering seamless, quality digital content to consumers?

Hallen: Discs are going to be around for quite some time. In addition to a huge, embedded base of players in the market, we won’t see widespread bandwidth capable of full HD 1080p playback for a long time (not to mention 3D, which would require two streams). Testronic is focused on serving the entire content ecosystem, and discs are a part of that ecosystem, which includes VOD, broadcast, pay-TV, etc. Blu-ray players are a portal that can access streaming content, delivery services, as well as games. They’ve got a life and function past being just a player, and we have kept our eye on the future of the device, which we believe will be around for a while. Imagine that a consumer can bring up a guide, choose a TV show or feature to watch, and the system chooses the highest quality available version to display. If the best is a Blu-ray in the consumer’s disc library, it will either play it back or ask the consumer to insert the disc. Otherwise, it will simply seek out the best version it can find on cable or the Internet. The technology exists to make this happen; all that’s needed are higher bandwidth to all consumers and some clever software engineers. Testronic plays a key role in making sure that all of these content opportunities are the best that they can be for the consumer and our clients.

HM: Beyond home entertainment, what are Testronic’s contributions in the way of gaming, e-commerce and the Internet at large?

Hallen: Testronic has a broad base of services that are quite unique to the industry. Like many of our customers, we operate globally, and, in addition to our home entertainment testing and quality control capabilities, we are heavily involved in video game testing, website testing, software and hardware testing, and a variety of publishing services. Our extensive range of services helps ensure a successful consumer experience with games and the e-commerce aspect of websites, just as in they do in film and television services.

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