Globecast relaunches London playout center with 24 channels

Globecast has just relaunched its London playout center after a nine-month refurbishment. The operator has also been trialing a new Adobe Flash-based broadcast graphics server for automated promotions graphics and channel branding.

Globecast runs two main facilities in the UK, a teleport at Brookmans Park just north of London and the playout center collocated with UK news provider ITN. The Brookmans Park uplink center passes 100 channels through permanent circuits from a master control room at the site.

The central London facility includes an MCR for ad hoc circuits and the media management facility. The center was used to run 12 playout channels, but now plays out 24 channels with a mix of movies, shopping channels and sport.

Playout is split into two pods, and two operators run 12 channels each; although, if necessary, one operator can run all 24 channels from a single position.

Globecast prefers clients to submit their content as files, uploaded to a secure FTP server. About 85 percent of programming is delivered as files, but Globecast can still accept videotape. The preferred delivery format is 10Mb/s long GOP MPEG-2, which avoids the need to transcode before broadcast.

The system is based on Omneon media servers with Pharos management systems. Two Omneon MediaDecks are used for ingest, and four 12-port Spectrum servers are used for playout in a mirrored configuration to provide main and backups facilities. The real-time media servers are backed by 20TB of nearline storage on an HP SAN. Globecast plans to provide data tape backup in the future, but the facilities are driven by the requirements of current customers.

Globecast uses Pharos Mediator for media management and Playtime to control playout. Mediator is also used to for content management of the many other services Globecast provides for on-demand operators.

As a separate project, Globecast has been working with interactive services provider first person media to create a Flash-based platform for channel branding and more. First person’s ibs animate platform puts Flash into the broadcast stream. The graphics server renders Flash animation to conventional video and keys it over the background video channel. First person media is linked with the Pharos automation to trigger Flash events from the broadcast playlist. Other out-of-the-box features of Flash, such as ActionScript and Java, can be used to populate graphics from external data sources like the traffic system for “coming next” graphics.

This brings a number of advantages to the broadcaster. It uses a low-cost, non-proprietary platform that can be maintained by IT staff, and graphics can be created using tools such as After Effects, Flash Professional and Maya, rather than requiring a specialist broadcast graphics designer.

Pharos has developed driver technology to parse business information, so this combination of technologies has possible applications in business information and shopping channels where data driven graphics form a core part of the onscreen presentation.