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AMC Networks protects against disaster

Nothing is more important to broadcast operations than staying on air. That’s why broadcasters and content providers go to great lengths to protect against system failure. In the world of signal distribution, if you lose it your business could go with it.

AMC Broadcasting & Technology (formerly Rainbow Media Holdings) is building a highly redundant disaster recovery (DR) platform at its ingest and playout facility in Bethpage, Long Island, N.Y. AMC Networks, its subsidiary, provides playout services for a variety of clients, including the company’s own AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel and WE tv channels, as well as such premiere cable channels as fuse, MSG Network, MSG Plus, MSG Varsity, Mid Atlantic Sports Network and SportsNet NY. Loosing any of these channels could mean lost revenue and angry subscribers.

The DR system will be installed in two phases and will be completed by the end of the year, according to both companies. It includes a Pebble Beach Systems Marina playout automation platform controlling several Pebble Beach Dolphin integrated server, automation, master control and branding systems (also known as channel-in-a-box devices).

Due to the fact the facility handles a multitude of content on a daily basis that arrives in a wide array of formats, John Barbieri, senior vice president and general manager of AMC Networks Broadcasting & Technology, said they needed a system that was flexible and allowed them to handle as many file types and compression methods as possible. That’s why they chose Pebble Beach Systems.

The Pebble Beach Systems solution will initially be used for automated control and playout of five HD and five SD channels. They will be fully networked together and share a single database that will be available to the entire staff. They will also have unlimited access to separate Front Porch Digital Diva HD and SD LTO tape archive libraries, as well as with a near-line storage system. The system is designed to handle such formats as GXF and MPEG-4 in both HD and SD, together with HD AVC-Intra compression. All of these formats can be mixed on the same timeline and automatically upscaled or downscaled as required for the desired output format of the Dolphin decoder. Scaling and aspect ratio conversion is performed automatically by analyzing the source material and the time of playback.

The equipment at AMC Broadcasting & Technology will also handle simulcast playback operations, with the Dolphin system providing two simultaneous video outputs (one SD and one HD), from a single playlist, with separate SD and HD graphics. The Marina automation system will be supplied with a total of 10 clients, controlling the AMC Networks facility’s router as well as the Dolphin devices. Although the Pebble Beach Dolphin-originated channels offer integral graphics capability, AMC Networks will use its existing Miranda Vertigo graphics.

Under Pebble Beach Systems automation control, the Dolphin system delivers automated, frame accurate multi-channel playout and ingest capability, and it integrates seamlessly as a standalone device into a system that might also incorporate third-party video server, graphics or captioning devices for prime channels. The company said the system can also serve as part of a hybrid channel, mixing Dolphin with other devices.

This, said Peter Hajittofi, Managing Director of Pebble Beach Systems, means that “service providers can choose the optimum technology for the budgetary and technical needs of each channel. Operators are presented with the same user interface whatever the underlying channel technology across the entire system, and a single system-wide database avoids creating operational silos and simplifies channel control.”

The best part is that AMC Networks has the security of knowing that if a server or other critical device should fail, another one will automatically replace it. And viewers will never know the difference.