Marina ingest and playout automation at Canal Sur

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

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Canal Sur upgrades with Pebble Beach
The teams from Pebble Beach Systems and their Spanish partner, Promovisa, have provided exceptional service, especially during the first few weeks as we built up to transferring control of our HD channel to Marina.

Today’s broadcast operations have to react quickly and efficiently to evolving technical demands and commercial pressures. Many are faced with increasing channel counts, delivering services on new platforms whilst at the same time having to reduce costs and staffing levels. Vendors who are agile and able to deliver flexible solutions which save costs and drive revenues are well-placed to succeed in this fast-paced environment.

Pebble Beach Systems’ most recent wave of products has expanded the scope of play-to-air automation, extending both upstream and downstream to encompass content capture, management and delivery across all channel types. This approach translates into operational efficiencies for the end users and radically simplifies the management of playout operations.

2012 is set to be a landmark year for the company, with its ground-breaking automation system, Marina, scheduled to go on air at several major broadcasters internationally. Here we examine how the first Marina system, which went live in the summer of 2011,is delivering operational benefits and an enhanced user experience to key Spanish regional broadcaster, Canal Sur.

When Canal Sur, which is headquartered in Seville and part of Radio y Televisión de Andalucía (RTVA,) took the decision to modernise its entire playout facility, Pebble Beach Systems’ partner in Spain, Promovisa,proposed an innovative and cost effective solution centred around Marina, Pebble Beach Systems’ new next generation automation system.

Promovisa’s Technical Director Tomas Nielsen explains. “Our challenge was to put together the most appropriate solution both technically and operationally which would bring Canal Sur’s facility completely up to date.  Crucially, it needed to incorporate the flexibility to adapt to their future requirements, whilst maintaining compatibility with those components of the proposed workflow which were not being replaced, such as the Tedial media asset management system. As the project went to public tender, it was also vital for us to remain cost-effective without compromising the integrity of our proposed solution. When we incorporated Pebble Beach Systems Marina automation into our bid, we were confident that it offered Canal Sur significant operational and technical benefits over competing systems.”

Broadcasters and service providers need solutions which are capable of handling new, flexible business models, and Marina was developed by Pebble Beach Systems as an all new enterprise level automation system which features an almost infinite variety of configuration options to cater for fluid and varied content delivery requirements.  The system’s fully distributed architecture enables software components to be hosted across multiple servers, and sophisticated user rights management delivers unprecedented levels of adaptability and security. As an all-new automation solution, it exploits 64-bit processing and the new generation of multi-thread processors to deliver unprecedented performance, and features full Unicode compliance to enable multiple language support - a key factor in Canal Sur’s decision.

Tomas Nielsen again“Canal Sur wanted to replace their legacy system with a modern automation solution which was straightforward to configure and operate, and were looking for a vendor with whom they could build a good on-going relationship as the project developed.  A key factor in choosing Marina was the flexibility of the user interface, and the fact that it could be offered in Spanish.”

Jose Enrique Zamorano, Technical Director at Canal Sur confirms “In addition to meeting our technical requirements, Pebble Beach Systems was the only automation vendor who offered full language localization. Marina’s Spanish language GUI has made commissioning and training very straightforward, much to the appreciation of our operators. We were also very impressed with the look and functionality of the user interface. In contrast to the sober, spartan UI which automation operators are usually faced with, Marina delivers an enhanced user experience, with a wealth of display options and configurations available. Operators can customize the display to their individual preferences, and we are able to present a different user interface to our Ingest and Transmission areas – restricting access to ingest devices and dub/live panels for the Ingest operators, while transmission users simply have access to playlists.

We broadcast to an audience of around 6.7 million across Southern Spain, and updating the playout facility was key to our ability to keep pace with our changing programme requirements. Marina enables us to be much more agile than previously, and our operators genuinely appreciate being able to work with such a user friendly system.”
The fully configurable Marina user interface offers a range of user-friendly features such as keyframe previews, multiple ‘themes’ and instant access to multiple layouts to cater for the varying preferences of individual operators. The operating environment has been specifically designed to allow an operator to manage a very high density of channels from a single workstation making a positive contribution to reducing operating costs. It also permits system administrators to disable and conceal parts of the interface if required.
Controlling both Ingest and Playout operations at Canal Sur, the Marina system has a total of 6 clients, 4 of which are assigned to Playout and Ingest operations, with 2 allocated for marking up and trimming segments. The system will ultimately control a total of 15 channels: 4 main channels featuring A/B playout, full mixer and graphics: together with 3 simpler channels, a spare channel and 7 regional channels.

The system incorporates Tedial asset management, Provys traffic, Grass Valley K2 servers and routers, Miranda DVE and mixing, Starfish subtitling and Orad graphics, together with an innovative Ingest solution. Rather than employing traditional video servers for ingest, the system incorporates a cost-effective solution using mxfSPEEDRAIL S1000 and F1000 ingest solutions from MOG Technologies, together with their mxfSPEEDRAIL S1111 recorders. Marina’s operators are able to review incoming feeds in high resolution, rather than the more usual low resolution proxy versions which are conventionally generated at this point, and trim the media with mark in and out points. Once finished, the new clips can be merged to create a conformed clip, which saves storage space and removes the need for content to be passed through edit suites. During this process mxfSPEEDRAIL F1000 maintains the original metadata from the clips and allows new metadata to be added with its extended metadata annotation capabilities.

The mxfSPEEDRAIL F1000 functionality standardises the ingest of MXF files from several sources, generating OP1A files and creating new clips with preview and sub clipping capabilities. Pebble Beach Systems will shortly be delivering a custom API for Canal Sur’s K2 Servers, controlling them via the AMP protocol. This gives the ability to use extended commands not available over VDCP, such as playing out very short clips and building small internal timelines inside the K2 server itself, and also enables metadata to be transferred from the clip which is more comprehensive than the simple Media ID, SOM and duration which are available using the VDCP protocol.

Tomas Nielsen elaborates: “Canal Sur envisage that they may require extremely short clips to be cued. Since it takes anywhere from a few hundred milliseconds to several seconds to cue a clip, this can cause an issue if very small clips are required for back to back playback. In order to successfully bypass this issue, the AMP protocol enables multiple clips to be cued onto a timeline at once, essentially making that timeline long enough to successfully cue the next clip.”

Marina integrates closely with the traffic system selected by Canal Sur, Provys TV office, receiving both Ingest and Playlists in XML Marina format, complete with information regarding primary and secondary events. Once an Ingest operator designates the clip as “QC Passed” following ingest and review, an automatic entry is made into a special table within the Marina database which is constantly monitored by the Provys traffic system. Every time new clip metadata is detected in this table, Provys automatically updates its database, ensuring that the two systems remain synchronized.Marina also provides Provys with an AsRun log in XML format.

Zamorano again: “The teams from Pebble Beach Systems and their Spanish partner, Promovisa, have provided exceptional service, especially during the first few weeks as we built up to transferring control of our HD channel to Marina. It is vital for any broadcaster to be able to build a good relationship with their automation provider and we have been very impressed with the responsiveness of the team and with how friendly and approachable the engineers are. With their support, the plan for this quarter is to bring all of the remaining Canal Sur channels under Marina control.”

Pebble Beach Systems Managing Director Peter Hajittofi comments: “Faced with the need to accommodate future expansion, and the drive to provide new and enhanced revenue streams, today’s broadcasters need to be able to dynamically allocate resources and require a high degree of scalability and modularity from their automation solutions. With many new systems scheduled to go live over the coming months, we’re confident that Marina is the right product at the right time, delivering a real advantage to broadcasters internationally.”

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