Starz Encore productivity and air operation

The major system design goals for Starz Encore included full-program stream redundancy with dual “hot standby” feeds and media redundancy within the server systems. The technical team also decided that a move to a server-based infrastructure, using automation, was required. Beck Associates supplied both technical systems design and space planning expertise.

The Starz Encore technical plant can be conceptualized as two separate but interacting facilities: production operations and air operations. Production operations includes 18 digital edit suites, 10 graphic suites and three audio post suites. Beck Associates moved much of the production equipment directly from the existing plant at NDTC. Thorough, careful pre-wiring, cabling and harnessing of the new suites prior to the move allowed the majority of suites to be functional within a few days of the move.

Air operations is responsible for the continuous real-time origination of 30 separate program streams (15 “channels,” each with independent East and West Coast branding and timing). These feeds are continuously monitored in a large, 2-tiered master control room. The OmniBus automation system efficiency is such that only two operators and one supervisor are typically necessary. The system is designed to monitor and alarm on failure of video, audio (multi-language, Dolby E and AC-3), closed captioning and transmission path failure. Error messages are displayed immediately and dynamically on the nine Barco multi-channel multiplexed display screens.

Program material is brought into the facility on Digi-Beta masters. After quality evaluation and promotions editing, the movies and interstitial material are moved to the video server. Pinnacle supplied the 14 core servers that comprise the broadcast chain. Two of the servers are used for encoding operations, while 12 (six primary and six redundant backup) servers are used for play to air. Because a large amount of program material is shared among channels, OmniBus automation moves the material from the encode servers to a Sony Petasite archive system using an Avalon archive system. There the material is stored before it is moved to the multiple play servers on a just-in-time basis. OmniBus is responsible for maintaining a database that includes all media that exists in the system. OmniBus must automatically delete material on a timely basis to maintain server capacity and overhead. Masters supplied with Dolby E material are decoded and then encoded to AC-3 for final airplay. To allow these operations, the signal routing systems are designed to handle discrete 6-channel audio as well as encoded AC-3.

All of the routing systems are controlled by automation. The routing systems include a 192 × 192 Nvision transmission router, an Nvision “encoding” routing system (AES and SDI) and a Pro-Bel transmissions or “return” routing system. Evertz supplied the primary “glue”, which includes, but is not limited to, audio-to-video MUX and DEMUX units, audio delay units, and V-Chip encoders. Both Tektronix and Videotek supplied the pervasive test and measurement equipment. Pinnacle supplied the DekoCast units that are used for channel branding.

Design Team

John FitzRandolph, proj. chf./sr. eng.

Fred Beck, sr. eng.

Jeff Morris, design cons./sr. eng.

Terry Breay, system eng.

Brad Martins, system eng.

David Basil, lead tech.

Oscar Ramirez, inv. mgr./ACAD

Misty Proulx, inv. mgr./ACAD

Equipment List

OmniBus Colossus automation system
Archive interface w/ Avalon preview

NVision SDI transmission router

Pro-Bel return router

Pinnacle playout primary and backup
Ingest servers
Deko Cast

Evertz delay and cc

Sync generator
Reference distribution amplifiers

Dolby E decoder and AC3

Tektronix monitors

Wohler 5.1 audio monitors

Sony picture monitors and ingest VTRs

Barco Monitor cubes

Videotek test and measurments