Sencore Media Analyzer Stars at Starz

May 3, 2010
Andrew Pergeau

ENGLEWOOD, COLO.
Starz Entertainment airs more than 1,000 movies and new original series every month across our pay TV channels, and we also offer advanced HD and video-on-demand. At the end of 2009, our two flagship brands, Starz and Encore, reached 16.9 million and 30.6 million subscribers respectively.

One thing that I like about my job with Starz is that the company stays at the forefront of technology, with its main goal being to deliver the best services for our affiliates, and ultimately, the viewers watching at home.

TEST AND MEASUREMENT CAPABILITY CRUCIAL

Starz Entertainment knows the value of proving technologies before deploying them in the field. Effective test and measurement systems are critical to supporting development of our own technology, and they make us more efficient in fixing problems that arise. Sencore is an important provider of test and measurement devices as well as high-quality video delivery and signal transmission solutions and our relationship with the company over the years has been closely collaborative. We have some 75 Sencore products in use at Starz Entertainment, and communicate regularly with Sencore engineering personnel to let them know how things are going. They're always a phone call away and quick to respond. A major reason that we keep turning to Sencore is this sort of support.

At Starz Entertainment, we place a high priority on the accuracy and quality of the closed-captioning we provide with our programming. In order to avoid the closed-captioning problems that have been experienced by some programmers (displaying words too quickly or erroneous characters), we use a compressed media analyzer. This can take any captured file's content and parse it down to a rudimentary level, enabling diagnosing and troubleshooting with a great deal of precision.

Starz first acquired Sencore's CMA 1820 Media Analyzer in 2008. In fact, we were among one of the first customers for the product, and we even had a hand in its development.

GEAR IS EASY TO USE

Today, we deploy three CMA 1820s, along with Sencore's companion product, the MAP 1870 MPEG real-time analysis platform. Two of the systems are hardwired in place, with one monitoring the broadcast network, and another in the lab to support development of our own technology. The third system is portable and is used for troubleshooting. One advantage to both equipment platforms is their built-in functionality. Even if you don't have a Ph.D. in engineering, you can make the most of these tools. For example, just "hovering-over" with the computer mouse quickly provides expanded information on-screen, without having to open up the equipment manual.

Of course, the CMA 1820 is useful for more than closed-captioning troubleshooting. The system performs many types of compressed media in-depth analyses, enabling us to efficiently verify standards compliance and identify media interoperability and transmission problems whenever they occur. We also use the CMA 1820 to verify that our video-on-demand files comply with standards that our affiliates require at their distribution plants.

Many of our cable affiliates and partners also deploy Sencore test equipment. As we strive to cooperate closely with them and meet standards, we find when we all use the MAP 1870 and CMA 1820 we are always on the same page—or more accurately—the same screen.

Andrew Pergeau currently serves as the director of On-Demand, Broadband & Transmission Engineering at Starz Entertainment. He may be contacted at [email protected].

For additional information, contact Sencore at 800-736-2673 or visit www.sencore.com.

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