The Starz Encore Group is the largest provider of cable and satellite-delivered premium movie channels in the U. S., offering a 24-hour coast-to-coast service to about 120 million subscribers.
When the organization moved into a new purpose-built facility in Denver, we decided to replace our existing tape-based system with a server-based operation. Our chief requirements included the real-time control of all primary channels - including time zone variations - as individual schedules, as well as a system that offered full parallel backup of all streams and preview channels.
We also needed automation to handle the movement of material between servers and accommodate the transfer of material from the data tape archive system into the servers.
Of course, any system had to let us add channels in the future, as cost-effectively as possible.
We commissioned OmniBus Systems to provide the technology to handle not just the movie playout but also the ingest process, asset and media management and the movement of material around the facility. The station went live in January 2002.
A single application of Colossus, OmniBus' multichannel, multiformat content-delivery and control system, is handling a total of 52 channels that are supervised around the clock by just three staffers: two master control operators and one supervisor.
OmniBus' ability to monitor the server loads and network status is critical in an operation such as ours where we are moving a lot of programming material around the system. The ability to utilize a large primary and smaller backup server is very attractive from a cost standpoint and OmniBus' user interface was the best that we evaluated.
We saved some significant money on our server and hard-disk purchases through the use of the Cache Manager application to monitor and manage the amount of free storage capacity on the broadcast servers. It lets us use a smaller-size storage capability on our backup servers than on our primary servers.
Another challenge we faced was the amount of material the master control operators were expected to process. To this end, the OmniBus user interface was the best we evaluated.
In one screen, you can accommodate a large number of channels giving the operator a very quick idea of what's going on, where the next break is coming up and what's happening on the system.
Much of the quality control process, which was previously carried out manually, is now under OmniBus control, allowing operators to capture information to be fed directly into the traffic system.
Starz Encore runs almost two hours of interstitial material on each channel everyday. Material for the interstitial reels is produced in the facility's nonlinear edit bays and the individual clips are then registered with the OmniBus system.
The Starz Encore traffic system provides OmniBus with mini schedules that contain content and caption requirements for each channel's interstitial blocks. OmniBus then automatically plays the reels, adds captioning and mixing as required and records the output, which is then included as a single completed item in the channels' schedules.
This unique approach satisfies Starz Encore's multichannel requirements with minimal technical equipment and reduced operator involvement.
Screening of the interstitial material used to be a very time-consuming process. With the preview functionality developed by OmniBus for the facility, operators can now call up any of the material on a monitor and view the last 10 seconds of the outgoing item and the first ten seconds of the incoming piece, scanning the breaks very quickly to check for errors.
We were very pleased with OmniBus' ability to monitor the transfer of material between the archive and the server system. The OmniBus Transfer Manager allows us to monitor the status of the network and alerts us when things are getting a little tight, which is a big concern for us.
I would have to say that our day-to-day operation has been smoothed out considerably with this new technology.
For more information, contact OmniBus Systems at 530-470-1700 or visit www.omnibus.tv