PLAZAMEDIA, one of the leading full-service TV and new media providers in Europe, is
Germany’s largest producer of sports TV, and currently transmits 19 simultaneous channels
as a 24/7 service. Looking to streamline their operations, while simultaneously allowing for
easy expansion both in terms of number of channels and new delivery mechanisms, their
challenge was to create a reliable and resilient platform that would provide the ability to
work in a file-based mixed-format environment, effortlessly move content throughout the
facility and provide seamless integration with other leading third-party applications. This new
central facility, the PLAZAMEDIA “eCenter” needed to embrace state-of-the art workflow
solutions in order to satisfy all the challenges in achieving their goals.
Having relied on scalable and highly reliable Spectrum media servers to satisfy their
playout needs for a number of years, they knew when designing their new eCenter facility
that Omneon was ideally placed to provide a range of products to enable the creation of a
comprehensive and scalable platform to support future growth. Omneon partner – and
solution provider – Netorium were contracted to oversee the design of the solution. In the
resultant cutting edge design, the workflow is directed by a Media Asset Management
system from Blue Order, playout control is managed by a Morpheus automation system
from Pro-Bel, and edit requirements are handled by Avid editing systems. Bi-directional
transfers between the Avid systems and the rest of the workflow are managed by a
Medway system from Marquis Broadcast.
Incoming material is recorded on 4 multi-channel Spectrum mediaservers as IMX 50
material, in an MXF wrapper. The ingest of material is controlled by a Pebble Beach
automation system under the direction of Blue Order. To facilitate the quick-turnaround
requirement, the incoming material is immediately transferred to an Omneon MediaGrid,
while the content is still being recorded on the Spectrum servers, using Omneon’s “low
latency MXF” capabilities. The use of low latency MXF and tail-mode FTP ensures that
the content is available on the MediaGrid (and available for processing) as soon as
possible, satisfying the low latency demands of applications such as sports production.
In parallel to this transfer, an Omneon ProBrowse system is used to create low resolution
proxies of the material. These proxies are not only created while the media is still ingesting
and stored on the MediaGrid, but are available to operators as recording occurs. Proxies
are also used throughout the facility to enable operators to make editorial decisions about
the incoming content and create edit decision lists that can be used to conform the high
resolution material later in the workflow.
The IMX 50 material makes its way through the edit and packaging phases of the workflow,
and the finished product is stored back onto the MediaGrid. The editing and packaging
functions are handled by Avid editing systems, the transfer of material between the
MediaGrid and Avid being directed by Medway.
As is true with many broadcast facilities, PLAZAMEDIA have selected a single house format
for ingest, production and archive, and another more efficient long-GOP format for
transmission. In the future, it is entirely possible that finished product may be delivered
by PlazaMedia via some other mechanism, such as web and mobile devices, which will
require selection of yet more different delivery file formats. This, coupled with the fact
that some of the source content used at the eCenter is received via file transfer in
formats other than PLAZAMEDIA’s house format, means that bi-directional conversion
between multiple file formats is an absolute requirement in the workflow.
Since the speed of these transcodes has a fundamental impact on the end-to-end latency, PLAZAMEDIA looked for a solution for their
broadcast requirements which offered high quality, low latency translation to and from multiple formats. To fit these requirements,
PLAZAMEDIA has deployed a number of transcoding mechanisms, including ProXchange, the Omneon grid-powered transcode solution,
for their file conversion needs. The ProXchange system utilizes the excess CPU capacity of the MediaGrid to perform the transcode
functions. By capitalizing on the parallel processing capabilities of MediaGrid, and eliminating the need for network transfer of material
to stand-alone transcode “farms”, ProXchange eliminates the bottlenecks found in most transcode solutions.
The real-time playout duties of the system are handled by another set 4 Spectrum systems, under the control of a Pro-Bel automation
system. Material is transferred from the central MediaGrid system to the playout servers over the network.
Omneon system APIs are used extensively in order to ensure a productive and coherent workflow. Blue Order uses the Omneon APIs
for media management, the ProBrowse API to order the generation browse proxies, and ProXchange is also controlled and managed
through its API. The use of these APIs ensures a level of integration which is not available through other legacy control methodologies.
The resulting system is a platform that enables PLAZAMEDIA to provide unrivalled service to their customers, and produce and
manage content in a previously impossible way. Retaining all workflows in a purely file-based domain, their operators are able to
work in the most efficient manner possible and are shielded from all complexities of the system. The improvements in efficiency in
the workflow, enabled by Omneon’s innovative products will provide additional benefits as those workflows expand to embrace new
formats and delivery mechanisms. Omneon products continue to grow and adapt to this changing landscape, and PLAZAMEDIA can
be confident in its ability to respond to the changing needs of their clients.