New studio technology - network
TBS’ digital broadcast hub
After years of considerable expansion, Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) had outgrown the broadcast facility on its 33-acre Atlanta campus. It broke ground on a new, 198,000sq ft building in 2000.
The intent was to develop a broadcast hub that would house TBS’ numerous networks, accommodate ongoing business growth and have the capacity to support emerging broadcast technologies and distribution channels.
Today, the facility accommodates 35 outgoing feeds and has the ability to ingest 74 simultaneous feeds. It houses a 300ft central equipment room with more than 400 racks of equipment and servers. Fifteen control rooms are currently employed, with the capacity for 28 total.
Using an innovative design, the facility is sectioned into pods, which contain four control rooms and one or more networks each. Control rooms feature at least a pair of redundant systems, with multiple sets of servers, switches and graphics processing equipment. The design creates isolation between the pods; system malfunctions in one pod can’t affect network operations in other pods. It also creates redundancy within them; each pod has its own backup systems.
Test and monitoring equipment is an essential component to the new facility. A variety of Tektronix instruments — including a WVR7100, WFM700 and MTM400 — are used in each pod to monitor broadcasts, keep track of the various channels being transmitted and automatically send alerts when broadcast errors occur. Tektronix instruments are also used routinely throughout the building for quality testing and optimization.
The facility’s advanced testing, monitoring and backup capabilities ensure the company’s broadcasts are overwhelmingly stable and error-free. The entire facility is digital, employing a file transfer infrastructure. All of the company’s content is stored, transferred, distributed and repurposed digitally using a fiber-optic cable network.
The file transfer infrastructure saves incalculable cost, space and time in the storage and distribution of content. In addition, it provides the ability to easily change the format and resolution of files digitally for quick and inexpensive reuse of content or redistribution to alternate channels. TBS is already reaping the benefits of this file-based system, seamlessly repurposing and feeding content to cell phones service providers and VOD broadband carriers.
The content files are contained in a five-tier storage system, which includes Pinnacle and Omneon play-to-air servers; a central cache for advertisements and short-term storage (EMC CLARiiON arrays); longer-term storage by serial ATA drives; an Asaca DVD Jukebox short-term storage system to backup the central cache; and StorageTek robots for longer data tape files. TBS is also experimenting with InPhase holographic discs for the storage of large HD files and other lengthy content.
TBS’ new facility is now three times bigger and supports emerging technologies and distribution channels.