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At its Atlanta headquarters, CNN undertook the replacement of its aging SD feed-ingest, edit and playout infrastructure with new HD equipment. In doing so, it intended to move from a proprietary video system to a more generic data-driven approach that would reduce costs, maximize interoperability, and increase both system flexibility and business unit agility. The demands of the 24-hour news cycle meant there could be no performance compromises during construction and that, when complete, CNN's news production workflows would afford much greater efficiency and speed.
This was accomplished through collaboration between CNN's Broadcast Engineering & System Technology (BEST) and the Omneon (now part of Harmonic) Broadcast Solutions Group, which together defined and shepherded the project through to completion along with other key vendors, including Apple, Avid, Cisco, IPV, Sony and Vizrt. The Omneon Media Application Server (MAS) was the lynchpin of the project, and the platform's open architecture enabled CNN to select best-of-breed components and integrate them into a cohesive system. Today the SOA-based platform from Omneon provides CNN with several key functions. First, it presents a single virtualized view of content across all managed systems. Second, it enables CNN's own user-facing media management system (MediaSource-2) to access media metadata easily and trigger system functions such as file movement and transcoding.

While the system's design does not enforce one specific workflow, the typical workflow starts with Viz Dart, which operators use to schedule a feed ingest or trigger a crash recording. Even before the recording begins in an Omneon MediaDeck, metadata is exchanged to make an association between the file in the MAS and CNN's MediaSource-2. As the HD XDCAM-35 file begins recording on the MediaDeck, the MAS manages file transfers to IPV (to make proxies) and two 126TB Omneon MediaGrid active storage systems. Within 10 seconds of the beginning of ingest, the growing file becomes available on each MediaGrid and can be opened in Final Cut Pro using Sony's Cinemon plug-in. Files are edited on the server; they need not be copied to local storage. More typically, writers and producers use MediaSource-2 to create projects, view proxies and select video clips. Later, an editor selects the project in MediaSource-2, and the project automatically opens Final Cut Pro with all the candidate clips already “in the bin.” When an edit session is complete, the file is exported to one MediaGrid while MAS simultaneously copies the file to the other (backup), to IPV (new proxy generation) and to two Omneon Spectrum media server systems (playout). Playout is managed by Avid ControlAir. Other workflows transcode and rewrap files, send material to and from archive, and exchange material with CNN's New York and Washington bureaus, both of which are planning similar architectures. Through MAS and MediaSource-2, users will be able to view contents from all locations from a single interface. In the meantime, CNN's management can leverage a production foundation that offers the flexibility and agility needed to excel in a rapidly changing environment.

  • Newsroom technology
    Submitted by OmneonDesign teamCNN: Michael Koetter, Dan Shockley, David Adams, Howard Ginsberg
    Omneon: Matt Adams, Paul Lissauer, Chris Lee, Brian Chavez, Freddy Dubon, Simon EldridgeTechnology at workApple: Final Cut Pro
    Avid: ControlAir
    Cisco: 6509 and 3750-E
    IPV: XCode
    Omneon: Media Application Server, MediaDeck video server, MediaGrid active storage systems, Spectrum media servers
    Sony: Cinemon
    Vizrt: Viz Dart

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