RTL Nederland Deploys Media Excel to Expand VOD, Streaming

RTL Nederland is the largest national commercial broadcaster in the Netherlands and is expanding heavily into the VOD market.
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Valentijn Siebrands

HILVERSUM, THE NETHERLANDS—RTL Nederland is the largest national commercial broadcaster in the Netherlands and is expanding heavily into the VOD market. We launched a SVOD service and needed to upgrade our SD-based AVOD “RTLXL” catch-up service for HD video, as this service is increasingly popular on connected TVs and tablets, in addition to traditional Web consumption.

Along with VOD, we also needed to expand our live streaming services. The big challenge was in reducing publishing times while quadrupling file size. This required an upgrade to our own Internet infrastructure, in both caching and storage areas, as we don’t use a content distribution network. For live streaming, we needed a system that was both stable and redundant.

THERE HAD TO BE A BETTER WAY
Our old SD publication encoding system was based on capturing playout triggers which were translated to start, pause, and stop commands during recording. Missing a trigger often resulted in manual reprocessing, and frame accuracy was lost. The introduction of our internal browser-based video editor made matters worse by extending the length of time required for encoding and publishing. Most systems available (including our SD system) used some form of mezzanine files before the actual online assets are encoded. We needed something completely different, with more speed and versatility, and a system that was easier to manage, and one that incorporated a better encoding system.

While we were looking at encoders, several manufacturers were asked if they could modify their firmware to allow us to insert timecodes, burn-in OP47 subtitles and enable archiving to disk using segmented ISMV files. We soon learned that only Media Excel was willing to do this.

We worked together with Media Excel and their partner, Garland Partners, in specifying and developing the customization we needed. The subtitling was tough, as typical Dutch subtitles do not fit into the OP47 specification for number of characters per line. We needed to make other changes too, such as allowing subtitle embedding with four lines of text while at the same time burning in two lines. Again, Media Excel was able to do this.

TURNAROUND TIME IS GREATLY REDUCED
After a year of development, our new HD catch-up backend has accelerated the time it takes to publish both live and recorded TV shows. The new system is based on embedding SDI/UTC timecodes in H.264, while archiving the broadcasting signal in ISMV files. Our archive can be used as a source in the workflow, allowing new I-frames to be added on the fly based on timecodes. This has enabled us to incorporate a process called “stitching.” Publication of new material is essentially the same as a copy action based on time ranges, together with the playout timing information. This speeds up content publishing significantly. Typically a movie can be published in HD in eight different formats within five minutes after broadcasting, with commercial breaks removed during the copy-stitching process.

We have been very pleased to work with Media Excel; their know-how, support and speed are just spectacular. With the company’s worldwide coverage, we quickly learned that if we reported a bug during software development on Friday night, we’d have a “fix” by Monday morning.

Valentijn Siebrands is the Streaming Media Architect at RTL Nederland. He has been working in the media industry since 1991 and has been with RTL Nederland since 2008. He may be contacted atvalentijn.siebrands@rtl.nl

For additional information, contact Media Excel at 512-502-0034 or visitwww.mediaexcel.com.