Red Bee, Marquis collaborate for Virgin Media TV compliance workflow

Red Bee Media provides technology and creative solutions to broadcasters, channels, content rights holders and brand owners. Aware of the rapid changes in the way media is used and how consumers interact with content, Red Bee Media has developed integrated solutions to help clients reach broader audiences, build stronger brand identity and engage with the latest technologies to maximize revenues from their content.

In 2005, Virgin Media TV contracted Red Bee Media in London to manage its extensive media library. Red Bee Media immediately set about creating an advanced digital workflow infrastructure linking its broadcast center in White City and Virgin Media TV’s head office on Great Portland Street, some 6mi away. The new workflow enabled the two sites to exchange content securely and efficiently.

At the end of 2009, Red Bee Media introduced a new workflow to prepare the infrastructure for the increasing use of HD originated media associated with the launch of Virgin Living HD. Red Bee Media wanted to ensure that the large HD files could be processed quickly and efficiently as they moved between different systems. This was particularly important because the operators at Red Bee Media were using QuickTime as their media format, and the operators at Virgin Media TV were using Avid Media Composers.

Red Bee Media worked with Marquis Broadcast to identify the most efficient method of upgrading the compliance workflow to allow HD media to move efficiently between the two sites while retaining their respective preferred formats, which allows the operators at Red Bee Media to continue using QuickTime and the Virgin operators to use Avid.

With the original workflow, media was ingested at Red Bee Media as MXF-wrapped DNxHD185 files with 10 tracks of discrete audio including stereo, 5.1 mix and audio description. It was transferred via the workflow engine to Virgin Media TV and imported into two Avid systems where the compliance editing took place. MXF OP-Atom file wrappers were used to get the media in and out of the Avid systems. When compliance editing was complete, the editors would export reference QuickTime files and add a zero-decibel gain audio effect on the audio tracks. Afterward, they consolidated the files to QuickTime-wrapped DNXHD185 files complete with all the discrete audio tracks using QuickTime Pro. This was transferred back to Red Bee Media. The files were transcoded using FlipFactory software for playout and subsequent archiving.

Red Bee Media and Marquis integrated Medway file transfer and media conversion software into the workflow to facilitate the movement of media between the different file formats. Medway uses Media Highway Technology that allows files to pass seamlessly between software and hardware systems without causing delays in the workflow that may otherwise arise from file format incompatibilities. It wraps the files and all of their associated metadata appropriately, allowing them to move at full network speed.

Red Bee Media now ingests QuickTime-wrapped DNX185 files, allowing the QC process to be carried out in the QuickTime format. Media files are transferred as a batch overnight by Medway from Red Bee Media to Virgin Media and delivered straight into the Avid edit workstations ready for compliance editing to take place the following day by Virgin Media’s operators. After the edit, complied files are batch exported to QuickTime DNX with all the audio tracks, again using Medway to process over night, and sent back to the broadcast center for transcoding. In this way, Medway provides the gateway to the Avid Media Composers, allowing Virgin Media TV operators to use their Avid systems for compliance and Red Bee Media operators to remain within their chosen QuickTime environment.

The workflow between Red Bee Media and Virgin Media TV includes the capability to quickly process and manage all file formats. The mechanics of getting the media from one point to another and back again are taken care of automatically. Mass importing and exporting tasks takes place at night, which means resources are not tied up when they are needed most during daytime hours. In effect, the workflow now uses in-line processing, in which the files being moved only touch the network and disks once in any transfer. Metadata is managed effectively, thus avoiding the need for it to be input manually and leaving operators free to focus on creative and productive tasks.