TV Technology Europe Mediaset04 March 2004
Etere automation in a unique playout system
Mediaset is the leading commercial television group in Italy and one of the largest media organizations in Europe. Twenty Mediaset studios in various location in Italy deliver 7.500 hours of TV annually to three networks in Italy and international clients. To improve workflow and decrease production costs, Mediset has begun to upgrade its internal Ethernet and fibre optics network and streamline all the process associated with production, news, external locations and transmission. the company has recently changed to a unique server-based playout facility, for use by Mediaset's three terrestrial networks. the palsn is to build a system with a 90 % of this functions software -based, but without a single point of failure. the result is afault-resilient infrastructure that guarantees continuous operation. tha facility even has a forth auxiliary playout channel identical to the three for normal use. the mediset project is one of the first television installations usin SeaChange's recently available 72GB disk drivers, and facility has been an excellent test-bed for Italian automation company Etere's software, too. the set-up - all controlled by ETERE software - includes material to be ingested at least six days before going on-air. It also enables "live" management of the programs, sccording to network requirements. The video stored in two 7-node SeaChange Broadcast Medi aCluster (BMCs) is the equivalent of approximately nine days for each of the four channels, and BMCS are used as main and backup storage of everything including the live material, which can be recorded on the servers as required. the same material in low-resolution for browsing is fed on ti a 3-node Broadcast Media Server. Ingest procedure involves the simultaneously automated loading of the main and low-res browser servers, so all three have exactly the same material. Each of the three "live"ingest suites has workstation running software that controls manula and automatic operations. Incoming signals are distribuited via passive splitter to two identical 96 x 96 routers ( main and backup), which, under ETERE control feed the respective servers inputs. Remote XY control panels offering access to both these routers are strategically located throuoghout the facility: et the four pleyout desks, in the equipment room, the four quality control posts, the three mnual ingest suites, enabling manual control in emegency situations or for operations for which automation-free control in required. two routers ( main and backup) are used for timecode management. the main router on the other hand, feeds the master control A/B inputs by means of software, which also controls insertion of the appropriate logos, clock and titles. in the vent of live transmissions such as newscasts, operators can disable the automation and intervene manually on the controls. everything is controlled by an ETERE main and clone backup automation controller system. if an operator isn't stisfied with what's happening on the main chian, he cans witch everything over to backup, running the same scheduling frame synchronized. An operator can also go on-air via router, ensouring flexible continuity even in the event of a block of both master controllers. each of the facility's four quality control suites uses a workstation with automation software analysing the material in the servers according to Mediaset/s quality criteria. The main challenge for ETERE was the size of the system. the largest investment by ETERE for this project - resulting in what is now a prodouct called Etere Version 12 - was in "Glue Software" that connects playlist assembly, automation, an as-run logs with existing Mediaset structures. a playlist editor already existed, but not with all the current characteristics. Although the material used in preparing Mediast playlists can be divided into four macro groups ( programs, publicity, special initiatives and promos), in fact it comprises 900 different types of ?objects?, so numerous different methods for calculating publicity traffic are involved, based on national legislation and Mediaset's own regulations - which limits items such as promos to a certain percentage. Etere also keeps this aspect under control. Mediaset is the frist broadcaster to implemnt IP control of seaChange equipment, so there's no more RS 422 - all the commends arrive via IP, which gives the great advantage of offering a fault-tollerant set-up that eliminats approximately 250 ports and relative cable runs. In the ingest zone, the PCs controlling three Flexicart units for long events have software that ensures items are uploaded in the order in which they are needed, streamlining the Flexicarts' feeds to the servers. playout operators have main and backup attheir disposal, but ETERE has vistualised this aspect, and the two systems are in fact physically just one, from which it's possible to control both. as main and backup are interconnected, it's possible to work with just back-up controller or just the main controller. It's a unique system.