TV3 Barcelona

The DAM pioneer describes its successful eight-year file-based production project.
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Televisió de Catalunya operates the TV3 public TV channel in Barcelona, Catalonia, an autonomous community of Spain. The station airs a mix of news, entertainment, documentaries and sports. Original transmissions used to be on a single analog channel, but the station is now distributed via cable, satellite and IPTV, as well as a new DVB-Tservice. TV3 is trialing an HD/5.1 service, but awaits freed UHF spectrum as analog channels are shut down.

File-based production

Master control at TV3 uses vsn playout automation to control two analog and four digital channels.

The station invested considerable effort in setting up a tapeless production workflow. It was an early adopter of digital asset management (DAM) and purchased one of the first systems that was designed for broadcast applications, the Media360 from Informix (acquired by IBM in 2001).

Much has changed in the world of DAM since those early days, and TV3 has evolved the system using its own software team, Activa Multimedia, to create a system that more closely matches the needs of a multichannel, multiformat digital broadcaster. TV3 has also worked closely with vsn to integrate broadcast automation. The current system uses the Digition DAM, based on Informix Media 360, for news and the program archive, and a vsnmulticom for content movement and playout of all channels.

During the transition to a file-based workflow, TV3's goals were to create a complete solution that was simple and intuitive to use, as well as improve the efficiency and speed of production.

News

TV3 has a large newsroom that provides local and international news as well as current affairs programming. It features 400 PCs complete with editing facilities. Digition automates the ingest of agency feeds using a set of rules that automatically distributes stories to designated folders at specific times.

Journalists use Avid iNEWS NCRS to write scripts with desktop editing based on the SGO News, an editor application from Soluciones Gráficas por Ordenador, which has been adapted to local requirements. This desktop editor supports simple edits, voice-overs and basic titling, as well as more sophisticated effects including slo-motion and image freeze. The station uses Apple Final Cut for craft editing of news items.

General program content is shot on DVCPRO50 and edited native on Avid Media Composer. TV3 also uses Adobe Premier Pro for post-production effects and has integrated the application with Digition.

Archive

The station has a large program archive, with 200,000 hours of material recorded on DVCPRO tape as well 1in, Beta SP and Digital Betacam. There is a program in place to ingest videotapes as files in a task expected to span three to four years. So far, 90,000 hours have been encoded. A separate news archive contains 20,000 hours of reports stored on DVCPRO tapes. DVCPRO50 is used for programs and DVCPRO25 for news.

A disk storage array was built with sufficient capacity to store all of the work in progress. Seven agents in the DAM system purge and manage files on hard drive arrays. The lifetime of news content is two days, and the lifetime of sports content is seven days. After that, the files are purged from the drives. The Digition system runs on an IBM Informix database. The iNEWS NRCS has been integrated with Digition, which enables easy movement of news items to reuse in current affairs programming.

The ingested material is stored on D9940 and LTO-3 format data tapes in a Sun Storagetek SL8500 library fitted with five drives. Each LTO-3 tape has a capacity of 400GB, which holds 30 hours of DVPRO25. Using the LTO-3 tapes, the capacity of the Sun library system is 3PB or 100,000 hours of DVCPRO50. A Front Porch Digital DIVArchive interfaces the disk storage with the tape library. The software allows users to make a partial restore of a file from tape.

The Digition Suite creates an MPEG-1 proxy along with key frames that can be viewed from any networked PC. A Web browser gives an operator access to all the functionalities needed to search and index the broadcast-resolution files stored in the archive.

Project timeline

The move to a file-based newsroom kicked off in 2000 when the station began using Thomson Grass Valley Profile video servers for promotions. The original units were essentially closed systems with video I/O. Back then, the Avid systems were also closed, although much has changed in the intervening years.

As TV3 could not buy the technology it wanted in 2000, staff engineers proposed building an IT-centric video server based on Matrox cards. They wanted to use standard hardware and open software to build a complete production system including ingest, editing, asset management and playout. They also wanted the system to be equally suited to news, sport and general entertainment production.

A complete solution

The end result, Digition, is a complete solution encompassing ingest, editing, asset management, archiving and playout. Just as TV3 engineers envisioned, it is suitable for all types of programming.

The system uses standard IT hardware with all functions available though a Web browser. The original designs ran on Matrox Digisuite, but the station now uses Matrox X.mio cards. Nobody likes a single source, so all the low-level card driver software is componentized, making it easy to write a new driver if someone needs to migrate to a new card.

All processes are automated, including recording, copying, archive, restore and playout. The system provides proxy browsing of media to any workstation, which has access to the office network. The original system relied on MPEG-1 proxies but now uses Windows Media. The ingest application records in 10-second intervals, giving almost real-time viewing of incoming material with the ability to edit while still recording.

Ingest can be from satellite links, VTR, live studio feed or as a file via FireWire from DVCAM or DVCPO. At ingest, the browse copy is created, along with thumbnail keyframes with automatic scene change detection. Satellite feeds can be automated against a record schedule.

Playout

For playout automation, TV3 uses many components from VSN integrated with the Digition DAM. A MOS protocol interface integrates playout with the MAM, which enables preloading of material and status checks for the playlists, along with channel and media monitoring.

A vsnmulticom automation system controls six channels (two analog and four digital), including a 24-hours news channel. Its predecessor, Autocon, had run playout for TV3 since 1989, so the station felt comfortable in choosing the new system. Each channel uses redundant servers to play to air with independent control of the advertising server for all channels. The vsnmulticom system also controls Sony Flexicarts and the MCR switchers.

The automation also interfaces to Active Multimedia Automatic TV, an application TV3 uses for SMS interactivity and automatic publishing of banners and tickers. Automatic TV provides logo insertion, tickers and automatic graphics playlist control. Secondary events like crawls can be programmed in the home-brewed traffic and planning system GREC.

Vsnmulticom functions also as a data source for several external processes, including EPG generation for present and future event information and Web-hosted TV guides. The automation controls both the analog and digital Teletext, as well as the multiple language subtitles. Custom software manages the simultaneous record and archive of live programs for repeat airing.

Audio is processed as two stereo circuits, containing Catalan and source language, with support being added for 5.1 for the planned HD service.

Summary

Although today's TV station upgrades are often file-based, in the year 2000 when TV3 started the project, it was not possible to go out and buy such systems. Through a combination of vision and the drive to carry it forward, TV3 pioneered many of the tapeless processes that other broadcasters are only just embarking on.

Was it worth it? The staff savings enable the station to run a 24-hour news channel, plus an additional DTT channel to complement its analog channel. Current affairs program producers now have access to all the news footage, which was not feasible with tape operations. And, file-based news is much easier to repurpose to feed new media outlets like the TV3 Web site, www.tv3.cat. Overall, the station's move to a file-based newsroom has been successful.

Design team

TV3

Xavier Ferrandiz, CTO

Josep Ardanuy, MCR and
transmission director

VSN

Jordi Gilabert, R&D director

Jordi Cantó, support and
development engineer

Technology at work

Activa Multimedia

Automatic TV graphics
automation

Digition Suite digital
production and
archiving system

Apple Final Cut Pro editing

Avid

iNEWS NRCS

Media Composer editing

Unity storage system

Front Porch Digital

DIVArchive content storage
management

IBM Informix database

Matrox X.mio SD/HD
computer I/O card

Sun Storagetek SL8500
library system

VSN vsnmulticom broadcast
automation