Today, broadcasters are being challenged to do more with less. New regulations such as the pending C.A.L.M. Act will necessitate broadcasters to stay within certain volume levels, which requires constant monitoring. In addition, the multimedia age requires broadcasters to have content-repurposing workflows in place that ensure the seamless delivery of content to various locations in different formats. Broadcasters must also quickly supply up-to-date air logs to their advertisers — all with a smaller staff.
One way they can address these challenges is with a software-based broadcast monitoring solution (BMS), which provides multiple tasks such as efficient transmission troubleshooting, intelligent search and retrieval, streamlined content repurposing, and archiving capabilities. These systems can make the job of managing media in the era of multimedia less harried for broadcasters. Digital Nirvana has such a solution, the MonitorIQ.
Scalable Web-based system
MonitorIQ is an easy-to-use, scalable networked appliance with multichannel tuner/recorder capabilities. (See Figure 1.) The application is browser-based, so it is familiar to operators. It can be accessed from the office, on-site and virtually anywhere else it may be needed. Its modular architecture makes it highly scalable, so that new modules can be added to enhance an existing feature or add new features. The system is equipped with up to four built-in intelligent tuners and customizable storage for air-check logging. ATSC, DVB-C/T, QAM, NTSC/PAL and HD-SDI inputs are supported.
There are no license limits on the number of clients supported by the system, so all staff members have access to scheduling functions and recordings at any time, from any location, along with trouble-free user management with AD/LDAP integration.
MonitorIQ incorporates an intelligent agent to send customized e-mail or messenger alerts to staff in the event of a signal problem, such as loss of audio or video, black or static screen, encoding, loss of closed captions, processor load, free disk space or free memory/swap space. Alerts are also automatically logged to make it easy to locate and review the broadcast during the affected time period. By having alerts sent via e-mail, a staff member can handle other items until there is an issue instead of standing by the monitors, waiting for an issue.
The system also includes adapters for most traffic logging systems, incorporating ad schedules for automated cross-checking with transmission exception logs. Sales staff can easily identify local ads affected by transmission problems and retrieve the affected content by timestamp or spot ID to see if a “make good” will be required. Customized adapters are also available. An intuitive, easy-to-use Web-based interface enables staff to schedule, monitor or retrieve from any device in any location.
Repurposed content can add value to a broadcaster's bottom line, but only if it can be generated and delivered across multiple platforms quickly and frequently. The content must be delivered in different formats to various locations, which is why the system supports most known formats, including several clip/export ones such as MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and H.263/4, as well as formats supported by nonlinear editors for professional users.
One can also retrieve, repurpose, clip and share full broadcast bit-rate resolution, full-HD/SD or FLV content with MonitorIQ. Output formats include Flash, MPEG-1/2, MPEG-4, XDCAM and H.263/4, so content can be repurposed for use on websites, portable media players and mobile Internet devices. Broadcasters can automate their repurposing workflow by specifying names to clips and upload to a preconfigured/defined FTP location for publishing, making it possible to streamline the entire process down to a few clicks of a button daily.
An intelligent search and retrieval system is a major component of the system. Searches can be performed by channel name, broadcast time, program title, description and captions, enabling users to identify content more quickly and efficiently. Users can also employ the search system to identify content such as news segments and programs for repurposing over the Web or for mobile media.
To help manage content retrieval and storage, the system has auto-expire and archiving features, allowing content to be offloaded to existing NAS systems, but still keeping it accessible. Depending on one's needs, full bit rate recordings or just low-resolution proxies can be stored externally.
MonitorIQ also handles content recording, scheduling the recordings according to the broadcaster's priorities. Intelligent, built-in tuners with an RF, SDI, ASI input facilitate recording of up to four channels 24/7 or specific programs based on prefed/notified recording schedules. The tuners switch to channels based on the recording schedules. To stay on top of any potential problem with the broadcast, a logging and alerting system continuously monitors each scheduled recording.
Proof of broadcast
Low-resolution Flash proxies of all recorded content are made continuously to allow painless air-check logging from any Web browser with a Flash plug-in. An ad tracking module provides for competitive analysis of advertisers and frequency of placements. Users can import as-run, traffic and other custom logs to verify a scheduled ad run.
Multitasking is key when responsibilities are growing and staff is shrinking. Technologies are not an exception. Having an intelligent system in place for signal monitoring, broadcast logging repurposing and archiving as well as for proof of broadcast will allow broadcasters to reap the rewards of a multimedia world. Using the system's monitoring features will help to quickly resolve issues associated with volume levels, transmission and closed captioning, freeing up staff while still ensuring that the station is meeting new transmission standards.
Multimedia content stands to be a great advantage for broadcasters, but only if they can develop a fast, efficient way to deliver error-free repurposed content across different platforms.
Ned Chini is vice president, business development and sales, for Digital Nirvana.