Flextech Television goes tapeless two weeks early

An innovative development by Flextech Television and Red Bee Media means that Flextech can cut promos and check programs for compliance in a completely tapeless environment. The Flextech Creative Village in central London is located four miles from the Red Bee Broadcast Center, where all programs are ingested and played to air. Programs are transferred between the two sites as files using a fiber interconnection.

Fast-forward fifteen years
Flextech had been operating its multichannel entertainment channels for the UK satellite and cable viewers using videotape. It used a mix of NLEs for offline and linear online. Ascent Media provided the playout services using VTRs and Flexicarts with video servers for commercials and interstitials. Flextech felt that the system was aging and that workflows could be made more efficient using the latest technology. It wanted to fast-forward to a fully tapeless operation, so it put out a tender for its media management and playout services. The successful bidder was Red Bee Media.

Red Bee uses its MOMS (Media Object Management System) environment to manage Flextech’s program content. Based on Ardendo Ardome digital asset management, MOMS handles all linking of the media to the Pilat IBMS that Flextech uses for program planning and scheduling.

The first step was to ingest Flextech’s tape library, so starting October 2005, Red Bee embarked on the encoding of the 11,000 hours of programming content in the Flextech archive. Program tapes are delivered to Red Bee, where they are encoded as 50Mb/s MPEG-2, I-frame and BWAV audio, and wrapped as MXF OP1a files. Ardome controls the ingest process. From that point on through to transmission, the material is handled as files. All QC takes place in the file domain.

The production and playout sites are connected by two 1Gb/s fiber circuits. Flextech has a post-production facility (the Creative Village) for creating interstitial material such as promotions. All programs also are viewed and checked for editorial compliance.

After extensive review of the options for the post-production systems, Flextech chose Quantel sQ for the task of editing. MOMS receives the upcoming schedules from the IBMS and preloads programs to the sQ cache server at the Creative Village across the fiber network. Content for editing passes through a Quantel Power Portal, which converts MXF files to Quantel’s FrameMagic format. The use of this frame-based file system optimizes the use of the fiber circuits when a partial recall of program files is needed for promo creation.

The creative staff can view material at browse resolution and make rough cuts. Quantel sQ Edit Plus is used for craft editing. Once a promo has been cut, then it is despatched via the fiber to Red Bee ready for transmission.

The launch
After two years in development, Flextech Television successfully completed the switch of its linear channels to tapeless playout from Red Bee Media's Broadcast Center in West London, two weeks before the planned date of July 18, 2006.

For more information, visit www.flextech.co.uk.