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DIRECTV’s new 120-channel HD facility provides unique IT-based automation and playout - TvTechnology

DIRECTV’s new 120-channel HD facility provides unique IT-based automation and playout

Category Station automation Submitted by OmniBus Systems Design Team DIRECTV: Hanno Basse, VP of broadcast sys. eng.; Mitch Jacobs, principal eng. for automation and workflow; Mitch Wasden, sr. dir. of broadcast sys. eng.; ...
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Station automation

Submitted by
OmniBus Systems Design Team

DIRECTV:
Hanno Basse, VP of broadcast sys. eng.;
Mitch Jacobs, principal eng. for automation and workflow;
Mitch Wasden, sr. dir. of broadcast sys. eng.;
George Vasquez and Shawn Mottley, support eng., integration;
Dien Nguyen, Jason Shimizu and Neal Yamamoto, principal eng., software.

OmniBus Systems:
Ian Fletcher, CTO;
Tim Mendoza, proj. exec.;
Mark Wilson, Eric Hicks, Andy Broadhurst, proj. team

Technology at work
Harmonic Electra 7000 HD
encoder
HP
HP ProLiant BL465,
BL685, DL145 and
DL365 servers
HP BladeSystem
c7000 enclosures
Isilon IQ 1920i and 6000i
clustered storage
OmniBus iTX automation
and playout
Sencore MRD 3187
modular receiver
decoder

DIRECTV’s new 120-channel HD facility provides unique IT-based automation and playout

DIRECTV began construction of its new HD playout area in May 2007 with a tight deadline: nine months from inception to deployment of up to 80 fully redundant new HD channels based on a system architecture that was flexible enough to rapidly accommodate a range of further services when the need arose. The number of channels, the short timescale and the decision to run the operation on IT server hardware made this an innovative and ambitious project.

Based within DIRECTV’s existing facility in the Los Angeles Broadcast Center, the equipment for these new HD services needed to fit into a smaller area than is typical with a conventional, multivendor installation. OmniBus iTX was chosen for its versatile features and performance, space efficiency and because, as an integrated system, it can be installed and commissioned in a comparatively short time.

Integration needed with DIRECTV’s proprietary business and engineering management systems required custom development from OmniBus. Web services and high-level interfaces were used to develop further solutions for specific requirements such as real-time connectivity for schedule updates, real-time alerts to provide feedback to the engineering monitoring system and interfaces to DIRECTV’s conditional-access systems to automate the insertion of access information into playlists.

A major requirement was the flexible handling of Dolby surround sound, a common problem for broadcasters scheduling content with various audio formats. The solution was OmniBus’ highly flexible audio engine with native Dolby surround encoding and input/output remapping, which gives staff control over the integration of encoded material into the schedule.

The iTX software runs on HP ProLiant servers with Isilon storage. Using these readily available industry-standard hardware components helped the project stay on time and on budget. The installation of 80 channels was increased to 120 to coincide with the launch of a new satellite and provide capacity for future channels.

iTX provides significant workflow benefits and serves DIRECTV in three key areas: pay-per-view HD channels, including ingest and playout; automated commercial insertion, whereby live signals are passed through iTX and commercials are automatically inserted at specific times using SCTE104 triggers (this is the first use of SCTE104 carried in the VANC and was developed specifically for this system architecture); and playout of highly crafted channels requiring a significant degree of flexibility, such as DIRECTV’s flagship 101 channel.

iTX simplifies routine operational tasks such as file ingest, signal routing, playout, channel branding, logo, and commercial insertion and trafficking. In addition, the flexibility of the system allows commercial spots to be sold and included late in the automation schedule.