PBS Ingest Suite

Focused on establishing discrepancy-free program feeds, PBS teamed with systems integrator CEI of Newington, VA, to develop a comprehensive solution based on a new workflow concept. Together, they designed an ingest suite that did more than reduce errors. The server-based system inspired further enhancements, which provide reliable and money-saving program-delivery solutions.

In traditional master control environments, discrepancies happen. Automation can fail to key a logo, V-Chip data may not be inserted, or the instruction to insert a parental rating message could be left off the program log. Whether hardware, software or human error, the result is the same: Once a discrepancy hits the air, it is too late to fix it.

PBS and CEI decided to examine the benefits of moving the packaging of programs upstream. According to Jay Brown, CEI's director of engineering, a prepackaging approach that is combined with sophisticated quality control measures eliminates many potential discrepancies. Integrating program elements (such as program video and audio, branding information, data, or special inserts) in advance ensures that programs are 100 percent accurate before the program is sent to air. Catastrophic failure or a corrupted file could still impact air; however, the inclusion of redundant systems makes the chances of this occurring relatively small. At weekly meetings, PBS and CEI engineers discussed current projects and future plans. To achieve their goal of discrepancy-free program feeds, the team decided to build a prototype ingest suite. To this end, the design process began in earnest on an SD/HD capable solution.

At the heart of the new ingest suite are mirrored 4.5TB Omneon servers for air and protect. This 58-channel system is the largest installed in North America. Program masters are ingested into the Omneon servers as 50Mb I-frame-only files under the control of Harris Automation. Front Porch Digital (FPD) products address two requirements. DIVArchive manages file transfers between the servers and the 430TB ADIC Scalar 10K tape archive. FPD BitScream transcoders generate 1.5Mb Windows Media 9 files for PBS internal network browsing. Program elements are integrated with the 50Mb program — masters, which are then re-ingested as 12Mb long-GOP air masters. Evertz, Miranda and Videotek products meet demanding QC requirements of monitoring, error detection, alarming and logging. The ingest suite has proven to be reliable and effective since going online in January of 2003.

The success of the server-based workflow inspired the launch of an edge-server prototype program in the spring of 2003 involving nine PBS member stations. The transfer of ingest suite program files to edge-servers in non-real-time brings money saving delivery options to stations, including both terrestrial transmission and the opportunistic use of transponder space. Developments currently underway also will bring browse and request interactivity to PBS and member stations.

The new ingest suite at PBS headquarters began as a concept-based discussion and was built as a prototype discrepancy-free delivery solution. Now in operation, it promises to be much more.

Design Team

Marilyn Pierce, sr. eng.
James Seaman, sr. eng.
James Kutzner, sr. dir./chf. eng.
Andy Butler, sr. dir./eng.
Stephan Scheel. sr. dir./tech.

Jay Brown, dir. eng./proj. mgr.
Ruber Huertas, sr. systems eng.
Tom Hackett, sr. design eng.

Equipment List

Mirrored Omneon Video Servers totaling 9TB storage

ADIC Scalar 10K LTO-1 Tape Archive

Front Porch Digital DIVArchive with 860TB Managed Storage

Harris Automation

Dolby-E hardware

Clarity 67" Lion LCD Display

Miranda Imagestore

K-2 Display Processor