The Strata option on Inscriber’s Inca AutoCG allows CBC/Radio-Canada to create multiple channel effects on a single channel.
CBC/Radio-Canada, Canada's national public broadcaster, invested in 20 SD and two HD Inscriber Inca AutoCG graphic playout systems for all network and regional branding.
CBC Television, the company's English television network, transmits its broadcast from the Network Control Center (NCC) in the Toronto Broadcast Center. To accommodate time zones and local program variation from coast to coast, 19 program channels are currently used, with plans to deploy two HD channels.
As a national broadcaster, CBC required an efficient, powerful and flexible graphics solution to address its varied branding needs. It needed to trigger different branding elements such as crawls, bugs and animations on different areas on the screen for different regions of the country. Previously, the broadcaster was not able to integrate the level of branding it wanted with its current infrastructure. The broadcaster wanted more sophisticated graphics that did not have to be manually loaded, a tedious and error-prone process. CBC needed a solution that provided the graphics capabilities, coordination and playout for template-intensive programming such as news, sports broadcasts or other live events.
The Inca AutoCG system offers the broadcaster a central graphics playout system that provides the combined functionality of a still store, CG and clip player. The rich SD or HD output of the systems can operate under control of industry-standard automation systems or MOS-enabled environments.
Each of the broadcaster's 19 channels must have its own unique branding elements inserted by the automation. Each channel has a single-channel system controlled by the NCC automation system. To simultaneously display multiple elements such as a logo, a rating key, a weather alert or an animated tab showing upcoming events, the CG has two control ports, each controlled as a separate device from the automation.
To achieve sophisticated branding, the broadcaster chose the Strata layering functionality option of the graphics system. This allows the creation of multiple channel effects on a single channel. By using the layering functionality, two separate instances of the graphics application are running, each receiving its control input from the automation and rendering to the same physical output channel and mixing its graphics elements to the program video.
Several types of graphics elements are used. There are static and animated logos that are rarely updated, and elements that change daily. These include animated tabs with messages such as “coming up next … .” Last-minute items such as crawls are also handled by this system and can be delivered to air via automation or manually.
The broadcaster's workflow involves daily tabs created by a department responsible for on-air scheduling. These tabs are loaded into two server PCs in the branding delivery system via FTP. One of these PCs updates all of the branding machines with the latest changes on a continuous basis, while the second machine is continuously synchronized to the first and acts as a standby in case the first PC fails.
Both PCs double as CG workstations by using Inscriber Inca Studio offline. Any of the NCC operators can log into one of these machines via a KVM matrix to make last-minute changes, create crawls or verify the material.
The broadcaster had to overcome several challenges during the installation of the system in order to integrate into the live on-air national network without interrupting normal operation. Before it could proceed with the installation, all the branding material had to be prepared and tested. Even though the system is transparent for most of the normal NCC operation, it was important that all operators were trained and became familiar with the new system.
Although extensive testing took place prior to installation with an off-line automation, configuration adjustments had to be made to work flawlessly with the busy on-air automation. CBC Television initially installed one machine into one of the channels and resolved its issues there before proceeding with the remaining channels.
The broadcaster recently implemented two HD channels as part of the NCC network delivery. These channels went on-air in late February. Two AutoCG machines were integrated into the branding delivery system to deliver the branding elements in HD format seamlessly to those channels.
Manfred Weitzmann is a senior systems designer with CBC Technology, Broadcast Engineering Toronto.