Storage and automation

NAB2001 provided additional evidence that many technologies that were once separate, clearly delineated systems continue to fuse into contiguous solutions for the television broadcaster. Two technological areas that demonstrate this are storage and automation. Media companies are developing strategies for capitalizing on the dramatic growth of distribution channels and the corresponding demand for more program material. These companies need networking and shared storage solutions that facilitate migration from existing analog videotape to packet-switched, disc-based digital operations. Evolving program production environments need large-scale collaborative capability providing simultaneous access to program material within and between geographically separated facilities. Program distribution is migrating from broadcast only to simultaneous distribution of targeted programming via any transmission method including traditional broadcast, Internet and emerging broadband services.

What's new in servers

Avid has built a complete news system based around their servers. The system can accommodate in excess of 50 dual-stream clients, all with access to the same, or any media, simultaneously. The system uses a server-assisted architecture in conjunction with a virtualized storage system.A File Manager runs a custom file system (OMFS, Open Media File System), which assigns and maintains the block-level address of media on central storage. Clients query the File Manager for media location data first, then retrieve the media directly from the storage.

Grass Valley introduced a real-time, shared-storage system that allows simultaneous access to video and to the NT-based tools, such as Vibrint NewsEdit, required to manipulate that video. Its network runs up to 48 channels up to 50Mb/s with DVCPRO or MPEG 4:2:2, HD MPEG up to 80Mb/s as well as low-bit-rate browse video.

Odetics introduced three major initiatives in the storage area: support for a modular, scalable DLT Library system from Quantum?ATL to power its Data Library Manager archive management system; support of Grass Valley's InSync mirroring software; and an HD-version of its TCS Library Series.

Omneon added to its Networked Content Server System. The newest products within the system are a network switch and an Extended File System. The Extended File System allows multiple networked content servers to share a common file system. The switches are content-aware packet switches that transport both isochronous and asynchronous data, extending the network's reach via optical fiber.

Panasonic introduced a new multi-format DVCPRO video server, which comes standard with 20 hours of RAID 3 protected storage @ DVCPRO25, utilizing 36GB HDDs. Each of these servers offers up to four bi-directional channels of SDI, SDTI or analog I/Os, and each channel has its own discrete RS-422A port. This new server also has the ability to do 25-, 50- or 100Mb/s at the same time on the same server.

Pinnacle introduced a new full-featured four-channel server and image store. It has 120GB of true-mirrored internal storage (25 Hrs @ 10Mb/s). It sports a 3D DVE for over-the-shoulder shots per channel. Pinnacle also introduced a beefed-up version of the same server that has the features of the LT with the added features of shared SAN external storage for up to 12 channels of I/O and 340 Hrs of common storage.

SeaChange offered three families of media servers, including a high-end system with a sixteen-drive chassis that is available in three- to seven-node cluster configurations. The company also introduced a mid-range machine supporting twelve drives per chassis and an entry-level product supporting eight drives per chassis.

The SGI Media Server for broadcast is now available with SGI Fibre Channel Storage System and a clustered version of SGI XFS file system software, which enables the simultaneous and concurrent file access essential to a Storage Area Network (SAN).

Sony introduced new options for its MAV servers, internal HD encoders and decoders. New DVB/ASI boards were introduced that allow integration to their multipurpose bridge for encoding, decoding and transcoding real-time streams and network distribution. Sony also was demonstrating full integration between server and data tape products that are used as near line and archive devices in newsroom and transmissiom applications.

Vela introduced a combined project with ASACA that marries its disc libraries with a Vela's video server in the same appliance. The entire system is contained in one of the ASACA DVD-RAM libraries. This includes an MPEG-2 encoder, decoders, 10 or 20 hours of online storage at 8Mb/s, and the RapidAccess suite of control software in a single appliance.

Storage suppliers

As the industry becomes more dependent on servers, servers are becoming more dependent on the storage vendors. Each year the show has more of these vendors displaying their wares.

Ciprico demonstrated its 2GB Fibre Channel technology. Ciprico is found in OEM server vendor products from Leitch, Panasonic, Philips, and Pinnacle.

Digi-Data Corporation introduced RAID systems featuring 2GB interface for SANs and a new Ethernet adapter option that allows users to connect the system directly to the Ethernet for NAS support. Systems can be configured ranging from 36GB to more than 4TB.

EMC has formed partnerships with Anystream, Artesia Technologies, Convera, e-Media LLC Keyvia, Sony Broadcast, Thomson Multimedia, Video Network Communications, and Virage. EMC also demonstrated technology for media asset management, IP streaming, nonlinear editing, DTV and multichannel broadcast.

Gadzoox Networks, which claims to have coined the term SAN, introduced a 2Gb open-fabric Fibre Channel SAN switch.

Grande Vitesse Systems introduced network servers that support up to nine 10/100 Ethernet (network) with up to 350GBs of online RAID storage as well as a single tape DLT Archival solution.

LSI Logic Storage Systems introduced full-fiber, enterprise storage systems (SAN), and network-attach storage solutions (NAS).

Nstor is expanding its 3.5-inch form factor enclosure technology to include a complete SCSI product line to complement the existing Fibre Channel line. Nstor OEMs its products to Omneon Video and First Virtual Corporation. They also resell to Chyron video server resellers.

StorageTek introduced a storage offering and solution for digital video archives, partnering with Front Porch Digital and ManagedStorage International.

Truesan introduced network storage systems and storage management software. Truesan storage systems deliver SAN and NAS at the same time from a single system, while making storage capacity accessible over both Fibre Channel and IP networks.

Texas Memory systems showed a solid-state storage system packaged in a 2U form factor, with up to 64GB of storage and 15 Fibre Channel interface ports.


As servers become the anchor that facilitates televisions physical and operational metamorphosis into a different entity, automation is increasing needed to manage the flexibility enabled by this new storage. The switch to digital is the driving force behind a proliferation of channels and content. This in turn means computerized management and control is becoming essential for profitable operation.

Autocue is offering a package that consists of four modules: Production Scripting and Prompting, Full-function Newsroom System (wires, diary, assignments, scripting, rundown, prompting), a machine-control system for news, which is expandable to full channel automation, and a media ingest, management, and archiving, including low-resolution desktop browse and edit with conformance at high-resolution. Autocue's package is essentially a single body of code, which can be implemented in a highly modular form.

Blueline Technology introduced its latest version of station automation. Blueline allows the customer to select their own preference of databases such as Oracle, MYSQL, SQL, Access etc. along with the OS, i.e. Windows 2000, Linux, Unix, Unix IAX, MAC OS10 etc. Its automation applications are written in JAVA with Cobra communication links that allow for control over the Internet.

Crispin demonstrated a number of products. Among Crispin's products are applications which move or copy clips from one video server to another. The servers do not have the same format.

Quantel showed its Clipbox Studio live production server, which offers access to video clips and stills for studio programming and provides re-sizing and re-aspecting capabilities for each output through internal 2D DVEs.

Encoda Systems introduced two next-generation products this year: Both automation solutions seamlessly integrate with Encoda Business Systems. Their high end system is a full-facility automation product based on a engine-client-server architecture, it is designed to address a broadcast facility's changing environment — including centralization and distributed control. Encoda also has a entry-level product for automating video servers.

EMC Corporation demonstrated a range of technologies for media management, IP streaming, non-linear editing, digital television and multi-channel broadcasting.

Wegener's COMPEL network control system administers receivers both as individual sites and as groups, and issues commands that are accurately synchronized with video and audio programming.

Florical displayed examples of CentralCasting and Multiple Time Zone control. They also showed products specifically for newsroom operations.

Louth introduced several new products, including one that provides control of the automation system over a TCP/IP network. To support control of equipment over WAN they showed control of an EMC video server using their new Network Device Control Protocol (NDCP). The NDCP protocol uses XML over TCP/IP.

Odetics Broadcast showcased products which offers CentralCasting, real-time streaming Web delivery of re-purposed broadcast content using Pinnacle's Stream Factory. They also introduced a low-cost automation system using an HD version of Odetics Video Tape Library. Odetics also announced a partnership with Wink Communications to offer interactive television enhancements — with customers to include The Discovery Channel and TLC.

New this year was the OmniBus Process Unification System , which takes a core asset and media management system that ties together all of the media and physical assets and provides a tight link with business administration systems, planning and scheduling systems, desktop working and the control and management of a broadcast facility. OmniBus also debuted a multichannel, multidelivery automation and control system that has been designed to bridge the gap between video, audio, Internet and data-streaming applications.

Qubit-Automation displayed a system that uses what they call a ‘device frame’ to control each device, essentially a frame with each card in the rack and a PC that is dedicated to a single device. Each device is available to the whole system, i.e. any channel.

SeaChange is introducing a small backup automation package. The package can support four playlists in the event the primary automation has failed. This software is an option that runs on the software control system that ships with every SeaChange server.

Sundance Digital launched the next generation of its automation system. It now supports Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system and SQL Server 2000. Also shown was a tape-to-server caching option for Sundance Digital, Inc.'s automation. This system is designed for use with Sundance's FastBreak Automation.

News automation

An important group within the automation area is the newsroom automation vendors. The applications and hardware that comprise these systems often resemble an on-air automation package. The major differences being that the functions, and thus the names for the various components are different. As with video servers SANs and NASs are rapidly shaping the direction that newsroom architecture is taking. The industry is moving towards direct server editing with editing files on a SAN located between a video server and a NLE.

A number of vendors offer products aimed exactly at this area, Avid, Grass Valley, Panasonic, and Sony are a few. These are server vendors who have built a newsroom software layer above their hardware. A few “on air” automation vendors are expanding into this area, while at least one, Autocue, started in the newsroom and now is expanding out in the “traditional” automation venue.

Jim Boston is director of emerging technology for the Evers Group.