aQ Broadcast Limited has announced that Big Centre TV, the latest of a new wave of UK local TV stations, has gone live with a combination of aQ Broadcasts QNews newsroom system, aVS video server and aPS production suite.
Big Centre (BCTV) is the new local TV (LTV)-licenced channel for Birmingham, the Black Country, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. Available from the Sutton Coldfield and Brierley Hill transmitters on Freeview Channel 8, and shortly also to be on Virgin Media cable, the new station covers an area that includes approximately 1.2 million homes.
BCTVs licence is the second-largest after that held by London Live and was awarded by UK communications regulator Ofcom to Kaleidoscope TV, the holding company for Big Centre TV. The license was awarded on the condition that the new channel would be on-air by 28 February 2015, a scant 12 working weeks for a channel that, at the time the license was granted, had had no staff, no office or studio space, and no technology in place.
Enter aQ Broadcast, which designed, developed and installed a complete solution for BCTV that satisfies all aspects of their required operation, including shared media storage for all users and program teams, ingest and playout ports for news and transmission operations, newsroom computer system (NRCS) scripting and rundown handling, automation for news playout, video and audio handling for the production studio, file processing and upload handling for delivery to Comux (the operators of the digital transmission infrastructure for the LTV licence holders) and hardware down-conversion for the stations ultimate SD output.
aQ Broadcast Managing Director Neil Hutchins said, We were the single supplier for all of the video and network infrastructure involved in the project, including PC server and workstation hardware, network switches and hubs, video routing, teleprompter hardware, ingest VTR, off-air receiver and monitoring. This meant that we could build and test much of the system before delivery in fact the majority of the system is housed in a single 18U wheeled rack, which was prepared off-site in advance and simply rolled into position. This approach ensured that a reliable solution could be installed extremely quickly.
BCTV now uses almost every element of aQs product range, including QNews (NRCS), aVS (video server storage and ingest/playout), aPS (Production Suite for studio production) and FMC (Flexible Media Controller). The FMC provides a common user interface for all aspects of the system and is a vital part of BCTVs operation as it enables different users to take control of different hardware components from any workstation connected to the network, including remotely. This allows, for instance, the news director to control two server ports for playout and record functions from the news gallery and the programme scheduler to control a third port for ingest from a VTR from the production office, whilst both have simultaneous control over the router in order to allocate their respective sources. This flexible approach, with centralised hardware but distributed control and monitoring, has ensured that the overall system can be easily adapted to all requirements.
BCTV Channel Director Chris Perry said, "aQ has been involved with launching several local TV stations and they were an obvious first choice to design and build our infrastructure. The training and on-site support has been tremendous. It's no exaggeration to say that they are key technology partners of Kaleidoscope TV Ltd moving forward as we build and equip more studios."
The very short timescale for the project meant that there was no opportunity to attempt untested workflows or complex integrations between disparate systems. However, aQ, drawing on its experience of getting previous Local TV projects such as Mustard TV and Latest TV on air, plus other work with small-scale and tightly-integrated operations, was able to deliver and install BCTVs system a full three weeks before the 28 February on-air date.