Managing workflow at Viasat

The growing trend for customers to create a single asset that can be used in multiple geographic markets necessitates being able to add new language tracks to a single video stream. At Viasat AB in Riga, Latvia, Pebble Beach Systems automation is at the heart of a unique multilingual, multi-site workflow.

Part of Modern Times Group (MTG), Viasat AB is the largest free-television and pay-TV operator in Scandinavia and the Baltic regions, and the main shareholder in independent Russian broadcaster CTC Media. As part of a major modernization program coordinated by Luxembourg systems integrator Broadcasting Center Europe (BCE), the operator recently elected to centralize its three existing playout centers in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. It asked BCE to build a new flexibly configured central playout hub based at TV3 in Riga to manage all the existing channels and incorporate expansion capability for the future.

As well as representing a complete upgrade of the setup, this project added an active standby capacity of eight channels to act as a full disaster recovery facility for the main Viasat broadcast center located in London. To accomplish this, BCE incorporated a digital content archive that mirrors the archive of the operator’s London playout. The system connects the London and Riga sites, as well as operations in Tallinn and Vilnius, and allows the use of content originally ingested in London or Riga to be viewed or copied to the other sites. Crucially for this multilingual region, it also permits new audio voiceover tracks to be added to ingested content, enabling a file-based workflow for the local production of promos in addition to locally produced content.

In addition to the Neptune automation and Anchor content management, the installation incorporates six Harmonic Media Director servers for ingest, main TX and backup TX in Riga, together with two 6-channel Media Decks in London to act as ingest and TX disaster-recovery servers.

Based on Neptune automation, the installation involves a complex workflow that handles content movement between three sites (London, Riga and Vilnius). The movement of content between London and Riga is handled in conjunction with Front Porch Diva automation, with Neptune tracking assets throughout the entire system to ensure that the correct versions, containing the appropriate audio tracks, are available at the right time and in the right place.

Once assets are tagged as QC passed, a low-resolution proxy file is automatically generated using IPV XCode transcoders. These low-resolution copies can be used for promo production, where operators using Razorfish, Pebble Beach Systems’ own cuts-only editor, are able to create rough-cut EDLs. Completed promos, polished using Apple Final Cut Pro editors, are returned to a Harmonic server before being archived, transcoded and moved to playout.

Most of Viasat’s media assets have multiple associated audio files to accommodate language variants. New language-variant audio files may also need to be added to the asset once it has already passed through the QC process. To accommodate this, Neptune’s audio track tagging software will automatically recognize the arrival of new audio files, add them to the original asset and present the result for QC prior to adding them to the archive.

The ingest GUI accommodates the marking up of different audio files and enables users to add tagging information to the Harmonic header. A new application, Track Tag, is linked directly back to the Pebble Beach Systems database and handles instances in which information is incorrect at the ingest point and needs to be changed. Neptune will recognize the differences between material that is ingested from London and material that already exists in the Riga Diva archive to ensure that the latest copy of the content is always used.