NAB 2013 saw the launch by Deluxe Entertainment Services of a cloud-based playout service, MediaCloud.
The platform-as-a-service (PaaS) enables a broadcaster anywhere in the world to use a web browser and network connection set up a new channel. There is a market for pop-up event channels: the recent Olympics saw broadcasters like NBC creating around 50 streaming channels just for the duration of the event. Broadcasters also may want to trial new special interest channels without the need for capital expenditure.
Essentially any file-based operations within the broadcast workflow can be outsourced to platform providers, but areas of broadcast remain real-time, including playout, newscasts and live programming. This has conventionally required baseband SDI interconnections, which provides a big barrier to the use of IT systems based on IP connectivity.
Since SMPTE released the 2022 family of standards (following development work by members of the Video Services Forum), there has been considerable interest in the transport of video over IP. Broadcasters can leverage the easy availability on lower costs of IP connection versus bespoke broadcast circuits.
Vendors are releasing more products based on the 2022 standards, and users are finding that real time video and audio can be transported over fiber links with ease.
In one example, CBC in Canada has replaced its coast-to-coast program distribution network with fiber carriers using IP as the network layer. Although 2022 provides a great means to build distribution networks, it also enables new modes of operation. If realtime systems can connect via IP over Ethernet rather than SDI, then signal processing can be performed with a suitable off-the-shelf server, rather than requiring video cards and SDI interconnections.
Several automation vendors have offered IP interconnected playout systems for the IPTV, mobile and OTT markets, but conventional video has been constrained to SDI and ASI on the output side. The goal of running a channel on a commodity IT platform becomes a reality.
The move to file-based operations has been the catalyst for more broadcasters to consider the cost of setting up disaster (DR). The cost of copying and transporting tape made DR operations very expensive, but now files can be simply replicated to a site possibly thousands of miles away, the economics have changed radically. A tapeless operation, generating an MPEG transport stream become a wholly software operation, with no need for baseband video.
Such a system could even be virtualized, running on a blade chassis, maybe even in a private cloud. Using multiple multicore CPUs deliver huge processing power. It becomes possible to run many channels on a single server.
A couple of years ago, PBS selected Cinegy to supply systems for its disaster recovery site in Lincoln NE. using just such technology.
Having established the principal, the availability of high QoS fiber and secure high-performance cloud provision opens the door to further deployments, not just for DR, but for on-air channels.
Deluxe Entertainment Services
Deluxe has reinvented itself over recent years. From being one of the best-know film processing houses in Hollywood, it has emerged as a general service provider to the creative industries.
At NAB 2013, the company launched MediaCloud, a cloud-based playout service. The company claims significant benefits include reduced upfront infrastructure, technology and staffing costs that result in considerable savings and a quicker path to profitability.
The service is based on Cinegy components that leverage commodity IT platforms in clusters dispersed across different data centers. Daniella Weigner, Managing Director of Cinegy, says, “Cinegy has been committed to collaborative, robust, scalable digital media and broadcast workflow tools for over 10 years. The strategic fit with Deluxe’s world-leading provision of services is perfect – and means that our two companies can increasingly work together to maintain a world class solution.”
MediaCloud has three parts:
1. Portal (an orchestration and asset management suite of broadcasting tools presented through a web browser)
2. Playout (a software-centric, highly scalable and resilient playout platform)
3. Delivery (a suite of tools developed to reliably and securely transport premium broadcast streams across virtually any network topology)
This combination brings a new way of broadcasting, with the potential to interface to media assets and create a television station anywhere in the world.
Unlike some earlier cloud deployments based around sporting events, which only delivered low resolution web content, MediaCloud delivers to any broadcast format, with a very high service quality from a highly resilient infrastructure. Robust system and data security levels rival those found in major banks and military operations and full disaster recovery is implicit within the service offering.
For broadcasters, MediaCloud facilitates very fast time-to- launch; a channel can be ready to air in a week. It also increases the creative opportunities for pop-up channels that enable broadcasters and content owners to fully exploit rights for brands and major events. Deluxe state that typically, MediaCloud can launch a linear broadcast channel in under a week, which compares favorably with three months plus for conventional services.
No capital investment is required, and the service should reduce operating costs of staff and distribution contracts.
The service is operated from highly secure data centers and uses 256-bit AES encryption of all broadcast streams. MediaCloud is designed to eliminate outages. An N+N active/active broadcast playout model is delivered, at a minimum, from two geographically diverse datacenters thus ensuring reliability. This offers a true disaster recovery option for their customers. Software tools support ‘self-healing’ that detects, for example, when a broadcast signal is not present, automatically switching to the secondary active path.
Deluxe believe that this new playout model overcomes many barriers of traditional distribution and removes geographical constraints.