Playout in a recession


Times are tight and budgets are being cut. Weak companies may fail but the stronger ones will survive. Those in good shape and offering a lower priced alternative could actually thrive – but the product still has to perform.

With the television industry still actually expanding the number of channels on-air are increasing with many looking at lower budgets. The recession has made people think harder about costs and so they are looking again at the lower cost offerings, including those for playout. Channel-in-a-box solutions can offer all the performance at a fraction of the cost of more traditional playout systems. At the same time, choosing the right channel in a box could also achieve more, with long term savings derived from the creation of a fully tapeless file-based operation. Choosing the wrong one could carry heavy overheads in system integration and not significantly streamline operations.

Format handling
A major requirement for a playout solution is fitting in with existing systems and operational routines. Getting this right can save a lot of money and transform operations. For example, if the playback system uses its supplier’s pet file format then how can it work with your existing archives that are formatted differently? All too often people resort to SDI as the only common denominator between the old and the new, running 100s or thousands of hours out to tape, and then re-recording them into the new system. This route may be a large one-off costly project, or a daily routine to complete the route from editing on one format and playout on another.

To avert such wastage PlayBox has always strived to work directly with all common file types, and many not-so-common ones too. As a result, it has directly accessed archives, including those in ‘pet’ formats. It has also formed the lynchpin between disparate file-formats to enable the much sort and very efficient file-based workflows.

Reliability
Even is a recession, ask any broadcast engineer what is their number-one priority for live on-air equipment and they will say “Reliability” – not cost. Playout is always on air so reliability is paramount and it is achieved as it has always been; by selecting the most suitable tried-and-tested PC platform, populating the ‘box’ with approved cards and configuring and testing in-house as a complete system. Of course, the quality of the software is important too.

There is no substitute for well-established applications that have proved to work reliably through the years. Still, failures may occur so, where budgets allow, various levels of redundancy can be added such as dual or triple power supplies, RAID-protected storage and fully redundant channels. Other features, such as alarm reporting, help to minimise any downtime.

Playout is just one of the many functions required to present a TV channel on air. Customers want a complete workflow, typically from ingest through to as-run logs and compliance recording. Ingest, graphics, data flow management, playlisting, monitoring, subtitles (including DVB), multichannel audio, MAM, NRC and, of course, what used to be called automation – that’s now become an integral part of the IT-based playout solution – any or all may be required. The modules can be supplied within ‘the box’ or with additional boxes, as required to meet customer requirements. PlayBox playout systems are modular allowing a free choice of functions that will be tested working together, as a system.

In a box?
The term ‘channel in a box’ has been banded about for many years now, but rarely, if ever, are customers insisting that their entire playout operation runs from just one box. No. The term implies ‘low price’ and ‘IT-based’ as well as small size in the rack. What the customers want is broadcast performance at IT prices. Ten years ago ‘channel in a box’ might have looked like a bit of a gimmick, but today it is proven, well accepted and very widely used.

In a recession, or even in better times, people running TV channels want reliable and efficient playout workflows. While poor IT-based designs will probably fall short of requirements, well designed, tried-and-tested IT-based systems can be both highly reliable and, rather than being a pure replacement, actually enhance workflow efficiency and enable or enhance file-based workflows. This makes IT-cost playout solutions even more valuable and an excellent choice for price and performance; you do not have to compromise in a recession.




Tags: iss040 | playout | playbox | transmission | in a box | recession | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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