DIRECTV's single-operator control requirements

DIRECTV, a United States digital satellite television service, needed to expand its local broadcast television station programming to further compete with cable offerings. DIRECTV accomplished its goal by engineering a state-of-the-art network of facilities, which included multiple local collection facilities that capture local TV broadcast programming at the source and transport it back to one of two (soon to be four) central broadcast facilities over terrestrial fibre.

DIRECTV wanted the new system to consist of an extremely complex group of inter-related subsystems. The most complicated architectures would be located in the studios, control rooms and central technical areas. The system would need to communicate with all the controlled elements via whatever physical connection is offered and present timely and relevant information to the users regarding status, progress and available options. The system would arbitrate between concurrent users sharing resources, assist cooperative working and deliver fully automatic, semi-automatic and manual control in exactly the way different users require at different times.

The solution would run on standard PC hardware. User-friendly, touch-screen technology would provide the interface to the system and allow single operator control and monitoring of many pieces of equipment at multiple locations — including remote and unstaffed areas. This reduces the amount of equipment — and therefore space — required to support multiple channels and broadcast streams.

The solution would be able to control multiple systems/devices from a single workstation, including cameras, codecs, integrated receiver/decoders, ISDN terminal adapters, routers, satellite receivers, upconverters, video disks, video mixers, and VTRs. The system would integrate otherwise incompatible devices into a single, coherent control system, using a simple WAN or Intranet connection to control multiple systems at different sites. The system could provide a status display of every device at every remote facility, providing useful information such as system status of a video feed or Web page. Status display screens also would provide system-wide fault logging and alarms management from one single, intuitive display.

DIRECTV also required a trial program in which the vendor installed simulator systems at DIRECTV's broadcasting centers in Castle Rock, CO, and Los Angeles.

In order for this system to be cost-effectively deployed, the facilities needed to be unmanned while maintaining the utmost standards of serviceability and reliability.

BBC Technology's software-based Colledia Control was selected because it allows greater customization and configuration than other control platforms. Its software runs on standard PC hardware and operating systems and is both cost-effective and simple to install. It is scalable and currently rolling out in DIRECTV's two new satellite uplink facilities in Oakdale, MN, and Winchester, VA.

DIRECTV implemented a distributed broadcast monitoring and control solution, which allowed it to carry out checks at its unmanned distant sites to ensure that the local channels maintained the same picture quality, broadcast availability and general reliability as their existing programming.

Design Team

Dave Baylor, exec. vp
Gary Loo, sr. mgr., eng.
Rick Purpura, sr. dir.
Frank Hironaka, sr. dir.

BBC Technology
Mitchell Linden, sr. vp-ops.
Julian Williams, pre-sales and product mktng.
Shannon Kim, vp-sales
Peter Watson, lead architect

Equipment List

Boeing 601 HP spot beam satellite

Barco screen display wall

BBC Technology Colledia Control