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Many DTV broadcasters are looking to expand their channel counts by creating subchannels, using repackaged content from their main channels. This offers the potential to attract new viewers and generate additional advertising revenues.

However, subchannels tend to earn lower advertising rates, and in turn cause these channels to require lower capital costs and minimal operational costs. This makes a high level of automation fundamental to their success.

This demand for cost-effectiveness and playout simplicity is equally applicable to specialty channel providers, who need to maximize their returns when expanding their channel lineups. Low-cost playout is also important for small affiliate channels and in the localization of networks.

The creation of additional channels and network regionalization, however, has traditionally involved spending significant capital. For example, adding an extra channel has typically demanded extra capacity for the station automation and the traffic systems, as well as more server outputs and additional TV graphics equipment. Often, this takes a long time to implement, and many broadcasters with older servers have found that extending the capacity of their existing infrastructure can be a major investment. The integration of the equipment from multiple manufacturers has also created technical challenges and consumed precious engineering resources. Taken together, it's not surprising that these factors can discourage and delay system expansion.

No need for multiple boxes

To address this situation, Miranda has developed the Xstation, a one-box solution for the playout of additional TV channels and network localization. This HD/SD system incorporates a graphics processor, graphics automation tools, a video playout server and playout automation. It's a single device that provides all the software and hardware needed to create, schedule and air television without compromises in presentation quality.

This integrated design reduces the cost of playout, as well as simplifies and speeds the installation and playout processes. A channel can be on-air faster, allowing a broadcaster to start realizing revenue faster.

The Xstation is well-suited to localizing a national channel, mixing some live content from a network playout center with regional news and advertising. With this edge operation, most content is played out by the automated, local Xstation, creating a high level of efficiency with respect to both capital costs and manpower.

The system uses a high-performance Vertigo XG graphics processor and a suite of graphics automation applications. The video content and asset management server at its heart features almost 2TB of storage for 400 to 500 hours playout at 6MB/s to 8MB/s. The system is available in SD, HD and dual-format SD/HD versions, and provides full-featured playout with graphics rendering. It offers dynamic control over long-form clips, commercial spots, tickers, crawls and more.

It features a keyframe animation editor and timeline for real-time animation playback, along with unlimited virtual keyers that can be controlled independently. A built-in multi-input DVE is ideal for many picture-in-picture applications, such as squeezing back full-frame video to reveal promotional graphics.

Advanced workflow tools

The advanced suite of applications offers easy graphics creation and template building. The applications can be used to manage data-driven graphics using data interfacing to standard news feeds, such as AP NewsWire, Bloomberg, Environment Canada, Hyperfeed, Reuters, STATS and Weather Central, as well as weather alerts, Web data and other sources of real-time information. Graphics can be created with broadcast logic which simplifies the process of adapting the graphics to the data reflecting, for example, financial data dynamics with arrow directions and colors. On-air graphics can be easily controlled from user-definable soft control panels, which provide a friendly and highly responsive control surface.

Xplay is the playout automation application that features a graphical interface with a preview of upcoming events, including bugs and crawls. The system runs as a standalone, turnkey system, using playlists created in Xbuilder, or it can use an existing third-party traffic system to trigger all primary and secondary events.

Scalable operation

Although Miranda's Xstation represents a fast and cost-effective solution for adding extra channels, the workflow systems behind it can be scaled effectively for much larger multichannel applications, and for widespread network regionalization. This flexibility has led to interest in the system from many types of broadcasters and TV service providers, driven by the need for newer and more effective methods of playout.

Eugene Plawutsky is product manager — graphics products for Miranda Technologies.