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Starz Encore Group

Starz Encore Group moved into a brand-new facility and went on the air in January of 2002. The move consolidated the business and technical operations of the company, which were previously in two separate locations. The company is housed in a new 300,000-square-foot building located in the Meridian office park in southeast Denver.

Starz broadcasts 13 channels: Starz, Encore, Starz Theater, Black Starz, Starz Cinema, Starz Family, Westerns, Mystery, Action, Love Stories, True Stories, WAM and MoviePlex. All of these channels have east coast and west coast timezone feeds, which are distributed nationwide on three satellites. Five channels are uplinked as analog signals to the backyard C-band dish market. A total of 36 feeds originate from the facility.

In conjunction with the move to a new facility, a decision was made to upgrade the on-air operation from a semi-automated tape-based playout system to a fully automated, digital video server-based playback and transmission center. To facilitate this upgrade, a study of the operation and processes was made, system requirements determined, and RFPs were prepared and sent to automation, server and data archive vendors, as well as systems integration companies.

Over a period of several months, numerous systems and equipment proposals were reviewed and evaluated. The selected companies were Omnibus Systems (automation), Pinnacle Systems (servers), Sony (archive), Pinzone Engineering (uplink) and Beck Associates (systems integration). Wiring of the technical plant was on a severely constricted six-month timeframe in order to reach the on-air target date.

The broadcast center contains three automation systems, 12 playback servers, two ingest servers and one data tape archive system. A total of 52 lists are running around the clock on the automation system to control the broadcast ports of the primary and mirrored backup feeds. There are approximately 200 hours of storage per channel on disk, at a playback data rate of 15Mb/s. The channels/feeds are monitored by two playback operators and one supervisor. Three channels (six feeds) are configured for playback of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. All materials on the server and archive contain three pairs of audio including English, Spanish (SAP) and Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0.

The uplink transmission facility contains four 9-meter transmit dishes and six 4-meter receive dishes. The transmission chain is designed with an automatic one-for-one redundancy on digital feeds and one-for-five redundancy on the analog feeds.

The facility went on-air on Jan. 21, 2002. In the first eight months of operation, discrepancies and outages were reduced by two-thirds in comparison with the previous tape-based system at the old facility.

Design Team

Starz Encore Group:
Ray Milius, Lonnie Scheele, Jim
Porter, Kirk Trost, Ron Hill, Andy
Pergeau, Randy Pike, John Ferguson, Kent Wallace, Jonathan Cote

Omnibus Systems:
Stan Kingett, Ben Frost

Beck Associates:
John Fitzrandolph, Terry Breay
Jerry Stooksbury, Pinnacle Systems
Randy Brigham, Sony Broadcast
Basil Pinzone, Pinzone Engineering

Equipment List

Omnibus Colossus automation
Avalon Archive Manager
Pinnacle servers
Sony Petasite archive
Nvision routing switcher
Pro-Bel routing switcher
Barco monitor wall and Hydra system
Motorola Digicipher II encoders
Vertex satellite dishes

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