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Technicolor ushers in UK HD broadcasting

New multichannel SD/HD playout facility at Technicolor, Chiswick Park, London, UK.

Automation Technology Update (ATU) had a tour around the latest playout facilities at Technicolor Network Services center in West London, UK. The center supports three key broadcast customers and delivers a total of 15 channels and 20 feeds to the UK, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. ATU met with Will Berryman, SVP Business Development, and Maurizio Cimelli, SVP UK & Japan, to hear about the latest transmission suite that handles eight channels, including one of the UK's first HD channels. Technicolor is part of the services division of Thomson.

ATU: Technicolor is best known for its film and duplication services, right?
Will Berryman (WB): Technicolor provides a wide range of services from media creation working with the craft people to all the forms of distribution. Our goal is to offer a comprehensive range of services to work with clients in the way they want to work.
ATU: Are you locked into Thomson group products?
WB: We use the best product to do the job and call on a full range of service providers to provide a managed service to our customers.
Maurizio Cimelli (MC): The theme for the last 18 months has been taking video content and repackaging it for territory after territory. As service providers, we have to ensure that we have the best, future-proof technology.
WB: Some clients specify the tools they want to use.
ATU: What about the HD service?
WB: We have been transmitting HD from this site for five weeks, the viewers are waiting for the roll-out of set-top boxes before they can enjoy the experience at home. We were able to craft the service very quickly using the range of skills at our disposal. Although we are now a HD playout company and it is now part of our portfolio of products, the business needs arose from working in close collaboration with our client.
ATU: Do you see yourselves outgrowing this building as you add more services?
MC: We have economies of scale at this site. We have in part dismantled our traditional playout facilities and replaced them with multichannel format-agnostic suites. One of our offerings is short time to air. We are facing pressures from all our customers to get to air so fast, they want to try different looks. Our latest suite, called Leo (after the star sign), was brought to air in 10 weeks, and it is eight channels.
ATU: And would you get involved with TV-to-mobile devices?
WB: If a client came to us and wanted that service, we could craft a service to fit their needs.
ATU: What about asset management?
MC: We use Pharos Mediator. We have worked closely with Pharos to evolve the product to meet our needs.

The Leo channels use familiar equipment: Omneon servers with Snell & Wilcox Memphis encoding for the HD content, Pro-Bel Morpheus automation, with Miranda branding systems and PixelPower Clarity CGs. The playout is all controlled from Pharos touchscreens, in a complete departure from conventional knobs and buttons. Technicolor is moving away from data tape archives to use a large capacity disk arrays from Isilon for near-line storage. They see tape better used as a deep archive.

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