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DVD Serving Savings to Broadcasters

NEW YORK

Today's broadcasters are facing two opposing pressures -- managing an ever-growing volume of media assets for delivery to multiple on-air channels while holding the line on costs.

Because DVD systems-such as automated libraries for near-line storage, DVD recorders and authoring software-provide an ideal solution to both problems, vendors say they're seeing a dramatic increase in demand for these products by major networks and letter stations.

Compared to RAID storage, DVD libraries are user-friendly, stable, reliable, scalable and affordable. Compared to videotape or datatape systems, they offer faster access to desired video files, require virtually no maintenance and provide digital preservation of content.

Most DVD libraries (sometimes described as robotic or "jukebox") function compatibly with traffic, asset management and automation systems on a station's network. After their robotic mechanisms automatically locate and insert the desired DVD into one of the drive slots, the content can be moved from DVD onto the playout server to satisfy the traffic log.

When DVD libraries can offer access and transfer speeds comparable to playout servers, some vendors say DVD systems will likely be preferred for on-air applications, especially because high-end DVD libraries are already capable of delivering multiple concurrent streams of video. Considering how rapidly DVD technology is advancing, vendors predict that DVD libraries could soon become an end-to-end solution for storage, asset management and automated playout to air. But server makers note that DVDs are unlikely commanders of the entire storage universe.

"There are a number of applications in broadcast facilities/operations which require multichannel environments which DVDs simply cannot provide," says Mike Cronk, VP of Servers and Digital News Production for Thomson Grass Valley. "Nor can DVDs handle ancillary data, such as nonlinear editing and other sophosticated applications." Networked servers, he says, are still the easiest way to move media and data around.

BLUELINE TECHNOLOGY

But DVD's uses keep expanding. "Broadcasters are ... realizing that DVD is an ideal medium for near-line storage as well as an ideal replacement for video and data tape," says Wesley Crenshaw, president and CEO of Dallas-based Blueline Technology, which developed MARS (Media Archiving and Retrieval Solution), introduced at NAB2000 using inexpensive DVD-RAM re-recordable disks.

"Today's capacities have moved from 4.7 to 9.4 GB on a platter," he says. "But in the near future, new technologies such as Blue Laser [a higher-density storage method still in development], will accommodate 25 GB on a single platter."

Because DVD jukebox systems typically hold 875 DVDs, Crenshaw says users would have a huge amount of economical storage in a single, reliable system. "We've backed up the entire contents of a 4 TB RAID onto a DVD jukebox," he says. "Data protection is ensured on DVDs, whereas if two or more drives fail in a RAID, the data striped across the array can be lost."

MARS integrates a sophisticated, hierarchical SQL database with MPEG/DVD authoring to provide metadata storage and retrieval from most industry-standard DVD jukeboxes. Blueline uses the NSM Series of jukeboxes, a German line that merged with Milpitas, Calif.-based DISC Inc. (Document Imaging Systems Corp.)

MARS interfaces with most industry-standard station automation systems; in addition, Blueline offers its STATIONMASTER Automation Suite for multichannel automation. MARS interfaces to most MPEG servers as well, but Blueline also offers its own, the Blueline MPEG server, along with its JUST BREAKS system for digital commercial insertion, creating a cost-effective, complementary broadcast solution.

MARS has been installed at KJLA-TV, a full-power Spanish-language DTV station in Los Angeles. It supports a fully automated broadcast operation in which two sister channels also use the same media stored on a single jukebox. MARS stores the metadata from the traffic system with the media, and rotates files from DVDs onto the playout server to maximize the station's storage assets.

SPECIALIZED COMMUNICATIONS

"DVD is becoming more prevalent in broadcast operations because it's stable and reliable, with a lifespan exceeding that of any other medium," says David Kunkel, product specialist for Specialized Communications Inc. in Hagerstown, Md. "It's not susceptible to magnetic interference, and stores massive amounts of data cost-effectively."

Kunkel predicts a fivefold increase in DVD storage capacity and says DVD system speed will increase to where it supports playout to air.

Within its NLE 2000 Series of nonlinear editors, Specialized Communications has incorporated DVD tools such as Sonic Solutions' Scenarist, a full-featured DVD specification-compliant authoring system. Editors can burn DVDs or just use DVDs as removable media for their files or for output to videotape and Web sites.

The NLE Series 2000 product line is part of a larger, modular solution that Specialized Communications calls B.R.A.I.N. (Broadcast Rapid Access Information Network), which also includes Ciprico's DiMeda NAS (Network Attached Storage) for terabytes of easily accessible centralized storage and the VAPS (Video Automated Playback Server), scalable from two to eight channels-all of which may be automated.

"In the DTV transition, many stations have had to tighten their belts, and their engineers are burdened with solving a variety of DTV issues," says Kunkel. "Our cost-effective, reliable solutions can help them meet their budgetary goals without compromising their operations standards."

ASACA/SHIBASOKU

Asaca/Shibasoku Corp. of America, in Golden, Colo., offers a wide array of "Digital Virtual Libraries," including the TeraCart AM1450 DVD-RAM/R library, which the company claims is the highest-density random-access storage system in the world. The AM1450 integrates up to 24 DVD-RAM drives, has a transfer rate of 2.78 MBps and fits 13.6 TB in a single cabinet. The system is scalable to eight cabinets and 109 TB and can mix DVD-Video, rewriteable DVD and write-once DVD formats.

"Our DVD libraries are ideal for the multichannel broadcast environment because a system configured with 24 DVD drives can deliver 24 streams of concurrent video and interface to automation systems by Harris/Louth and Sundance, among others," says Chuck Larabie, VP of sales and marketing for Asaca/Shibasoku, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Japanese company Asaca.

Asaca's DVD library acts as a robotic device, delivering content on DVD (stored at user-selectable MPEG-2 bit-rates) to the playout server automatically. "For commercials and video clips, this system is already fast enough for delivery to air," Larabie adds. "And with the advances promised by Blue Laser technology, we will see an increase in density, up to 25 GB per platter, and speed sufficient for delivery of long-form programs to air."

When these next-generation products reach market, Asaca customers will be able to replace the drives in their DVD libraries with newer ones that will have backwards compatibility, Larabie says.

PIONEER

So far, DVD has tended to appeal to smaller market stations, according to Andy Parsons, senior VP of the Business Solutions Division of the Industrial Video & Mass Storage Group of Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc., in Long Beach, Calif. The company's industrial-grade DVD-V7400 video player was designed for continuous operation in fairly demanding environments. Seminole Government Television, the cable TV channel in Florida, uses this player for its program playback on-air, for example.

Two other Pioneer products that can support broadcast are the PRV-9000 DVD video recorder, which makes DVD videodiscs from other video sources in real time (much like a VTR); and the new DVR-A05 (DVD-R) recordable DVD drive, which operates as a computer peripheral to a DVD authoring workstation. (Pioneer bundles Sonic Solutions' MyDVD authoring tool.)

"For broadcast, the DVD-R [write-once] format makes a lot of sense because it can be used to play content-like IDs and interstitials-on-air from a standard DVD Video player, like the V7400," says Parsons. "But the DVD-RW (rewritable) format offers the capability of changing the content later, as well as making test discs without wasting a write-once disc in case of some problem. [DVD-RW] also makes a lot of sense to store contractually obligated copies of aired commercials on-site ... because of its long life, small storage size, and superior [1,000-plus] rewrite cycles compared with tape."

MAXELL

A big attraction to DVD systems is the low cost of the media-120 hours of digital video can be stored on a $9.99 DVD-R single-sided disc. The leading provider of DVD-R media is Maxell Corp. of America, which has proved to be compatible with most DVD players on the market.

High storage density, superior record quality, noise-free playback, and a shelf life of more than 100 years is owed to the type of dye used by Maxell in manufacturing says Anthony Petruzziello, director of sales for Maxell's Professional Media Products Division, in Fair Lawn, N.J.

"DVD has become an ideal medium to support many broadcast applications. For example, for 'The World Children's Concert' [funded by McDonald's and aired on ABC in November 2002], the production company asked to have the output of the edit sessions put onto DVDs for convenient screening," says Bill Thompson, VP of post production at Crawford Post in Atlanta, a longtime Maxell customer.

"After the broadcast, we re-edited the program to remove commercials and add new content, and burned more than 25,000 DVD copies that were sold to support the fund-raising efforts," he adds. "With the trend to master shows in HDTV or widescreen standard definition with 5.1 channel Surround Sound, we're definitely seeing increased demand for DVD in the broadcast environment."