Ascent Media launches new European Transmission Center

A modular system enables clients to launch new channels with a quickly deployable, high-reliability playout system.
Ascent Media's new European Transmission Center airs Sony Pictures' AXN channels to central Europe

Ascent Media has launched its new European Transmission Center (ETC) in London. Built to fulfill the latest broadcast playout requirements, the new ETC, located at Ascent Media's Stephen Street offices in central London, provides a world-class playout proposition for channels looking for high reliability, and is designed to offer a capacity of up to 32 channels with more than 99.98 percent on-air availability standard.

When Discovery moved 28 channels from the facility to a new center in West London (also operated by Ascent), Ascent gained valuable space that has been used to build the new transmission center. The old single-channel pods designed to play programs from VTRs and Flexicarts have been replaced with eight-channel desks designed for more flexibility.

The new channels are customized, but are generally based around Omneon Spectrum video servers, Miranda branding and multiviewers, and Pro-Bel Morpheus automation. Designed to be highly modular, if a client has special branding and graphics requirements or bespoke subtitling needs, these can all be accommodated. Unlike the build at West London for Discovery, which was a single-client, single-storage system, the ETC uses modular storage in blocks of eight channels.

Video signals are handled with Pro-Bel Sirius routers and Snell & Wilcox modular products. The system is HD ready and equipped for 32 channels. Further blocks of eight channels can be deployed as required.

The monitoring system uses one vertical column per channel, with server ports at the bottom, and off-air at the top, so that the operator can rapidly identify transmission problems. Miranda Alto multiviewers drive the NEC 46in LCD displays, each showing 10 sources — sufficient to monitor two channels. The NEC displays are mounted portrait fashion so the DVI video is rotated through 90 degrees using DIDO Pro from Aurora Multimedia. Technical monitoring uses Videotek on-screen monitors.

The launch of the new ETC is the first phase of a tiered investment by Ascent Media, which will see the scaled development of state-of-the-art ingest and output facilities for clients looking for a turnkey broadcast solution. The ETC offers the potential for clients to achieve affordable, modular growth.

The first eight of the 32 channels are on-air, with six channels for Sony Pictures Television International (SPTI), which is using the new facility as its European transmission hub. SPTI channels currently being played out from the ETC include the AXN branded channels in central Europe along with AXN Sci-Fi and AXN Crime. The other two are UK channels: Teachers TV and Information TV.

The Sony channels air material ingested in Hungary. MPEG-2 TS files are dispatched to Ascent in London using FTP. Using the Pharos Rewrapper, the multilingual files are converted via elementary streams to the QuickTime format used by Omneon. The six playout channels are multiplexed at the Stephen Street facility before delivery to mainland Europe.

As well as the core video and audio system, the basic offering for the modular channels includes subtitling and logging. Most European channels are multilingual, with the SPTI channel carrying up to five languages. Screen Subtitling's Polistream supports VBI or DVB subtitles. Ascent is using Ideas Unlimited's ContentProbe for compliance recording.

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