In the world of digital news creation, speed is necessary, but reliability and format flexibility are even more crucial. Content producers, looking to install industry-standard platforms that can handle the rigors of daily production while improving productivity, are increasingly turning to Hewlett-Packard (HP) and its family of ProLiant blade servers to achieve their goals. That’s because HP’s open platform servers, with their IT-centric way of handling data using off-the-shelf components, reduce cost of ownership while ensuring 24/7 reliability.
This new generation of server platforms has changed the way content is managed and stored. For broadcasters and production companies, it has meant increased efficiencies and the ability for a wider range of users to afford shared storage networks that pay for themselves in a year or two.
“Everything has moved to a file-based workflow, and this is something HP understands implicitly,” said Stephen McKenna, vice president of the Media & Entertainment division at HP. “Media storage has become just as important as editing software, so HP, with its product lines and computer networking experience, has assumed a larger role in all types of media production installations.”
HP continues to target the media space with its ever-expanding lineup of server products by working with key technology partners with an established foothold in the broadcast industry. One such partner is Dalet Digital Media Systems, a provider of news production and asset management systems with more than 100 installed sites worldwide. The two companies recently supplied the main production systems for Warner Bros. Television’s syndicated TMZ television show, airing on FOX affiliates.
TMZ offers numerous short video clips during its half-hour program, and represents the new generation of TV newsgathering. One of the challenges of designing and installing a system robust and flexible enough to produce the pioneering rich media TV show was to devise a way to allow the staff to leverage the same fast, flexible and lean production processes it uses to put together content for the TMZ.com Web site. This had to be a collaborative environment that could recognize any incoming format, allow the editors to search and retrieve clips from a large database, and then turn around packages — sometimes minutes before they go to air.
The show’s management chose a newsgathering and production system based on the Dalet Plus News Suite and several standard HP ProLiant servers along with an HP storage area network and an HP tape library for archive. Each day, content is ingested and then later quickly located and retrieved from the centralized HP storage. A rough-cut edit decision list (EDL) is generated on a Dalet workstation before it goes onto to a Final Cut Pro editor for HD finishing. The XML EDL instructs the Final Cut Pro editor where to find the original material stored on the HP SAN. Once files are finished, they are sent back through the Dalet system, where a show rundown is created and constantly updated before being played out from an Omneon Spectrum server.
The Dalet Plus News Suite includes a variety of intuitive modules for the creation of stories, including scripts, video and graphics, the operation of the TV show, and the repurposing of content for the Web. This includes such modules as Media Logger, Media Cutter, Rundown Editor, Archiving, On-Air and centralized Ingest. All are used by TMZ staff in one way or another.
One of the key elements of the storage area network infrastructure (with 30TB of capacity) at TMZ is that it accommodates eight of Apple’s Final Cut Pro edit workstations working alongside 89 Dalet workstations (often working simultaneously). Quantum Storage Systems’ StorNext software works in tandem with HP StorageWorks EVA disk arrays to enable the editors to get material on and off the disc drives very quickly. Now shows contain more material than other entertainment news — because it’s right at the editors’ fingertips — and are finished faster. In TMZ’s universe, like that of the World Wide Web, speed is critical.
“What makes this type of system interesting is the high level of flexibility and the ability to handle bandwidth intensive HD content quickly,” said Benjamin Desbois, general manager of Dalet U.S. “The Dalet platform running on HP servers allows editors and producers to concentrate on the content itself and not the tools used to create that content. This has allowed TMZ to run a very tight ship and produce content before many others in the market.”
Another advantage of working with standard platforms is that installation of the equipment usually goes a lot smoother than when outfitting traditional baseband video facilities. For the TMZ project, National TeleConsultants (Glendale, CA) installed the systems in two months—going from initial installation in mid-July to on air in September 2007. Desbois said it was “the fastest deployment I’ve ever seen.”
TMZ now has the same flexibility you’d find in a news production environment. They can change things on the fly and reorganize a show rundown at the last minute. Due to the project’s success, Warner Bros. also employed the Dalet/HP solution for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which leverages HP ProLiant servers and HP storage.
Because the Dalet Plus News Suite is software based, and the HP servers incorporate a modular design, customers can pick and choose the features and modules they need without having to purchase features they don’t. This keeps the technology affordable and allows customers to get more for their money.
“The HP servers provide a good platform for collaborative production environments, and we highly recommend them for anyone needing readily available bandwidth for SD and HD content,” Dalet’s Desbois said. “They can also accommodate different levels of service on the same network, which keeps costs down while still making the content available to anyone on the network who needs it.”
As for the HP/Dalet partnership, both parties feel their combined offering facilitates unique, customized solutions to fit any business model or budget. Cross-platform production is a reality to today’s media world, so Dalet and HP have worked hard to developed preconfigured systems that are guaranteed to work together in the real world. The systems they are designing support not only traditional TV but also the Web and new mobile devices. The speed of data management inside the HP servers facilitates a highly productive workflow to make it all possible. It’s the clear choice at the right price … and it’s available now.
For more information on HP’s ProLiant servers for content distribution, visit http://www.hp.com/media/ entertainment/.
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