SYDNEY, Australia—NPC Media (NPCM) is a joint venture between two of Australia's largest commercial broadcasters, Seven Network (SWM) and Nine Network (NEC). From purpose-built operational facilities in Sydney, we distribute the digital terrestrial and OTT channels of both Seven and Nine, plus those of Southern Cross Austereo in regional Australia.
With so many channels to play out, we knew that monitoring and compliance logging was essential for the smooth running of NPCM. To do this effectively we selected technology from Australian developer Mediaproxy, including their LogServer logger-monitor system, which also provides multichannel recording and review capabilities, and the Monwall multiviewer. These are used for emission and off-air monitoring in a master control room designed to carry out a new style of inspecting output in the era of terrestrial-OTT hybrid broadcasting.
FINDING A NEW APPROACH
The design of the playout monitoring setup at NPCM had to encompass all metro, regional and local broadcast services, plus all OTT and streaming for Seven and Nine. Because of this we didn’t want to use the traditional techniques of operators sitting and looking at many monitors, partly because of subtle issues being lost in the multitude of small pictures (PIPS), and also because this method consumes large amounts of real estate.
The big step forward from previous traditional techniques used in MCRs is exception-based monitoring. This is based on interactive multiviewers, which allow operators in the control center to look at different parts of the distribution chain and troubleshoot using integrated software tools. Reacting quickly to complex problems is something only a human can do. To enable our staff to do this we give them a much simpler way of monitoring, without having to continually focus on large numbers of individual pictures.
If you see all green boxes in the display, that means everything is OK. Issues are highlighted in red and these feeds can be monitored as a picture and audio feed and investigated. We have worked closely with Mediaproxy to streamline the traditional MCR workflow. Monwall is now the main means of monitoring emission so instead of passively watching feeds on traditional multiviewers streaming a composite of channels to a remote display and using under-monitor tools to further analyze any incidents, operators can interact with the multiviewer itself and examine any problems in situ.
MORE EFFICIENT MONITORING
Everything runs on standard COTS equipment, with the capability for multiple SMPTE ST 2022-6 streams on one server. To further enhance the workflow and not involve reconfiguring when sources are switched to “protect,” input sources are controlled via the Ember+ protocol to set up virtual source end-points that can react dynamically to sources being played-out by the automation system.
Using COTS hardware gives us a route to the cloud for high-end broadcasting; we're not there yet in terms of full public cloud playout due to bandwidths and latency, but we are effectively using our own private cloud for services.
As a result of such high levels of automation and effective fault detection, the main MCR at NPCM can be run with fewer operators managing more than 200 channels. We are testing other encoding formats—including HEVC—and we have an infrastructure that allows us to economically adopt new formats and technologies.
We're still in the early days of IP network environments but with dark fiber we can increase bandwidths and launch digital services as necessary. With the infrastructure we have the impact is reduced and we know that we can expand our monitoring capability to meet demand. l
For more information visit www.mediaproxy.com.
Chris Howe is GM for commercial and technology at NPC Media. He can be reached at https://npcmedia.com/au/contact-us.
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