The Movie Network, a division of Astral Television Networks Inc., is a premium pay TV service that provides first run movies and exclusive series in Canada. We implemented Dolby multichannel audio (using Dolby E) and HD in early 2001, and were looking to enhance our on-air branding with squeezebacks and audio voice-over capability. Given the large number of channels we originate, we sought a product that would combine multiple audio processing functions (to minimize space and power requirements) and could be controlled by automation.
'OFF-THE-SHELF' SYSTEM REALLY DIDN'T FIT
Ward-Beck Systems demonstrated the voice-over capabilities integrated in their AMS 8 monitoring system to us. While the product could perform our basic voice-over needs, it was packaged as a stand-alone 2 RU monitor box. We felt that our requirements in terms of occupied space and specific functionality might be better addressed by a card-based product, so we worked with the Ward-Beck engineering team to fully define our needs. After close consultation, we came up with a solution addressing demuxing of embedded audio, Dolby E decoding, voice-over insertion functions and GPI triggers for automation control, all in a modular card. This would be integrated with existing equipment in our air chain. The single card solution proposed by Ward-Beck was based on the new openGear platform and would be able to handle either HD or SD SDI signals. It would also deal with our mixed AES-stereo and Dolby E audio. After appropriately demuxing the embedded audio signals, the card then allows us to insert the voice-over audio as a stereo signal into the left and right channels of both signals, while "ducking" the level of the original audio.
We received the openGear card frame and M6206AE Embedded Audio Voice-over Cards in early December last year and began detailed testing. After our first trial run we did run into a few problems that needed resolution. We found some switching glitches when going back and forth between stereo and Dolby E and there were also some processing delay issues. We also needed to protect against the Dolby E and stereo signals inadvertently showing up on the wrong AES pair. To accomplish this—and to ensure that the signals were always mixed to the correct channels—auto recognition and auto shuffling of the signals was added. We also needed a simple panel to override the automation so that the human operators could readily intervene if required.
We found Ward-Beck responsive to addressing all of our issues as they arose. The problems that required software modification were quickly resolved to our satisfaction. As we proceeded to the launch date and refined our operating procedure, we experienced a few glitches, but the response from Ward-Beck was always timely. We put the new audio processing system on-air on April 1 and we have now been operating successfully for the past five months.
For more information, contact Ward-Beck Systems Ltd. at 800-771-2556 or visit www.ward-beck.com.