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Vector MultiPlay Powers Playout Automation with Flexible Redundancy Architecture for India’s ETC Network

ETC Indian small screen programming commenced in the early 1980s and since then Indian television channels have grown in leaps and bounds.

Overview

Indian small screen programming commenced in the early 1980s and since then Indian television channels have grown in leaps and bounds. Initially it was only the Doordarshan, a national channel that served as the source of information and entertainment. However, with the introduction of satellite TV, the scenario drastically altered the landscape. ETC Networks Ltd. emerged as one of the leading television networks in India with multiple channels including the country’s two most popular language channels: ETC Hindi and ETC Channel Punjabi.


Challenge

ETC Hindi and Punjabi channels air 24-hours, 7 days a week; a mix of live programs, reality TV, and movies. Each has a versatile program schedule, which requires an infrastructure able to support live programs and file-based playout. The engineering team was looking for a playout system that would integrate with existing studio components, as well as the production and traffic systems to facilitate both modes of operation. The ETC staff wanted to utilize the same equipment to manage the ingest of multiple sources, as well as provide backup to main playout. Thus, the requirements would push the RFP to include an automation system that not only could manage a dynamic 24/7 operation, but include capabilities for multi-channel ingest with pre-production tools, and a redundant architecture that could easily switch from ingest mode to back up server for channels 1 and 2 during the evening hours when the station was unmanned.

Looking for a hardware/software combination not typically found in automation systems, ETC turned to Vector 3. Fulfilling their extensive wish list, MultiPlay offered the added bonus of a unique redundancy management infrastructure that would enable them to fully utilize server capabilities and dynamically switch from ingest to back up mode as the operation switched from heavy human interaction during the day to completely unmanned playout at night.


Solution

Vector MultiPlay was selected to provide ETC with playout automation and back up and pre-production capabilities, including ingest. Vector MultiPlay consolidates each aspect of the broadcast workflow for ETC, including ingest, pre-production, playlist creation, CGs, device control, and on-air playout into one highly scalable software solution that leverages IT-based hardware. While Vector MultiPlay provides complete control over each aspect of ingest, playlist creation, and on-air broadcast; the technology is fully integrated with the ETC broadcast equipments, including switchers, routers, production, traffic and archive systems. It also offers an agile redundancy management approach, and therefore reduces equipment overhead. The new infrastructure adapts to the station’s busy daytime schedule and changes configuration to manage playout and backup when the station is unmanned at night, saving more than 30% of resource costs, since the backup is never idle.

“Vector MultiPlay provides a number of features that enable ETC to do more than manage playout. Our systems provide extensive media management capabilities that allow operations to better organize their content. Features like mark in and out, trimming, and fades add control over content during pre-production and playout,” comments Roman Ceano, General Manager, Vector3. “The redundancy management capabilities allow ETC to control priorities and server assignment. They can reconfigure ports to become back up for other servers on the fly. This is ideal for nighttime when the station is unmanned and also for during the day when there is a heavy mix of new material, live shows and recording of programs. The flexibility lets them change the setup to meet their workload. This type of price performance with Vector MultiPlay gives an outstanding return on their investment.”

The Vector MultiPlay expertly controls media ingest from video servers, VTRs, satellite feeds and any other type of routing systems found in the broadcast operation. To save on the infrastructure costs, ETC utilizes the Vector MultiPlay‘s second output for ingest during the day. The comprehensive feature set ensures broadcasters can manually initiate spur-of-the-moment recording, as well as automatically schedule daily jobs.

The built-in Vector MultiPlay master control room component offers state-of-the-art automation with extensive capabilities controlling playout, including: early checking of events with configurable horizons, time-stamped “takes", offsets to compensate for any kind of latencies and communication delays, live & time delay events, automatic filling with emergency material, clips categorization, interactive real-time cataloguing, and more. The flexible playlist’s user interface not only allows the user to configure columns width and order, but also adds the metadata of the clips as new columns.

The Vector MultiPlay video server also allows operators to add — on the fly — a wide range of transitions between clips, such as fades, wipes, and fade-to-black, all with corresponding audio control. Deeper feature capabilities include the ability to crop, rotate, adjust color, and more. The integrated channel branding feature set makes it easy to create dynamic CG templates for news tickers, titling, clocks, quizzes, “What’s up next,” and weather graphics using any graphic file format and alphabet. These can be used in combination with effects, such as shading and transparencies; and video effects, such as zooms and squeeze backs, to brilliantly present a creative idea, provide for audience interaction, and increase profits through SMS chat or advertising and sponsorships.

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Workflow

Vector MultiPlay supports two different playout workflow needs at ETC; day shift (fully staffed) and night shift (unmanned station).

During the day Vector MultiPlay ingests live feeds and satellite downlinks. Using Vector MultiPlay tools for selecting, cut-editing and trimming media, operators assemble incoming content and link it with associated metadata. Content is immediately available to be edited by the postproduction team.

At night, when the station is unmanned, Vector MultiPlay is reconfigured so each videoserver becomes the backup for the other. In the event a Vector MultiPlay server goes down, the other Vector MultiPlay server seamlessly takes over transmission. Monitoring the health of the systems to ensure a fail safe operation is the Vector Autovia application. Autovia continually monitors the state of the servers, and in case of a server failure automatically puts the live server on-air. These automated processes ensure trouble-free broadcast when the station is unmanned.

Vector MultiPlay is also used for live studio playout and provides a shotbox for videos and bumpers. Late-breaking events can be easily updated. Titles and tickers are superimposed in real time using pre-defined templates fed with RSS or manually introduced metadata.

Vector MultiPlay’s MCR manages the station’s main transmission round the clock, orchestrating file-based playout, pre-recorded packages and commercial break insertions. Operators can create the station’s playlist manually in MultiPlay or connect to a traffic system for playout instructions.

Vector MultiPlay’s flexible architecture lets ETC fully organize live and batch ingest, a shotbox for news and playout automation for their two channels, optimizing infrastructure costs. And it provides a clever redundancy strategy that reduces equipment needs by 50%.


Benefits

Vector MultiPlay provides ETC with a comprehensive playout system that incorporates ingest capabilities with pre-production tools to accelerate the postproduction process. The dual ingest/playout capabilities optimize costs for building two master control rooms. The dynamic, on the fly reconfiguring ports for back up and integrated health monitoring technology, ensure a smooth operation for both the Hindi and Punjabi channels when the station is unmanned during the evening hours — saving up to 50% on mirroring backup hardware.

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