Playout automation evolves to cloud

  • By Adrian Pennington

Playout automation evolves to cloud

Automated content manipulation and delivery systems are getting more sophisticated, many introducing graphics workflows, ad insertion capability and management of multiple formats with integrated end to end systems from cloud to prem and everything in between…

Pebble recently announced new configurations and a new brand for its powerful Pebble Remote solution, the remote management, monitoring and control tool for Pebble Automation and Integrated Channel deployments. 

“Now more than ever, broadcasters and service providers need secure, remote access to their playout environment, especially when systems can comprise multiple channels across several playout sites and in cloud deployments,” explains Mat Shell, Head of Sales. “Pebble Remote, formerly known as Lighthouse, enables users to securely monitor, manage and control their channels from inside or outside the normal transmission environment. Featuring fully configurable web-based dashboards, it provides mission-critical overviews of upcoming issues across the entire system, allowing users to react with ease and agility.” 

Pebble Remote is suited to business continuity applications, with a single operator able to oversee automatic playlist synchronisation between geographically separate systems. Deployments deliver robust security featuring full HTTPS support with TLS encryption, protection against brute force password and username attacks as well as secure password hashing. 

“Pebble’s user base has relied on Pebble Remote to provide continuity of operation, enabling flexible working scenarios over a series of lockdowns and at times reduced physical access to their playout facilities. Here the benefits of secure remote management and control have been demonstrated time and again.” 

VSNOne TV VSN’s playout system. A single software that simplifies the management of a TV channel integrating the ingest of files, baseband signals and IP streams, as well as live events, transcoding, device control and advanced graphics. Each box of this system allows up to eight SD / HD playout channels or four UHD channels, simultaneous SDI / IP / ASI / NDI broadcasting and publishing content to social media. 

The latest release of the system incorporates new improvements like HLS output stream encoding mode in playout for Ethernet module: Adding the ability to issue video segments and HLS playlists to the file system for subsequent issuance by a third-party web server and the possibility to upload those to remote web servers using HTTP PUT or POST requests. Furthermore, VSNOne TV has also improved the support of UHD and 1080P modes and added support for redundancy (SMPTE-2022-7) when issuing and capturing SMPTE-2110. 

“As you can see, VSN are always developing the latest features to our products and trying to adapt to our customer’s needs,” says Content Manager Marcos Cuevas. “Therefore, VSNOne TV and the rest of our solutions are available on premise and for cloud or hybrid environments. In addition, we provide the opportunity to choose between a pay-as-you-go model (SaaS) or a Capex business model.” 

“Chyron is driven by our customers,” states Carol Bettencourt, VP of Marketing, Chryon. “We aim to streamline workflows, without adding other complexities. Commander is the perfect solution for automating MOS-driven rundowns, without a lengthy installation and launch process.” 

For your core production, Chryon’s PRIME Commander executes switcher ME control of sources, cuts, and transitions; cues and plays graphics and clips; and makes audio mixer adjustments. For higher production value, PRIME Commander also drives PRIME Live’s AR and Video Walls.  

A playlist contains colour-coded playout status, expandable stories with scene details and timing, and mouse-over media previews identical to an NRCS. It will automate 24-hour news wheel programs with automatic time-of-day sequences, or for more dynamic programs, it will utilise manual controls to trigger sequences at the perfect moment. 

PRIME Commander plug-and-plays with MOS 2.8 compliant NRCS to automatically build and update playlists based on your journalists’ rundowns in real-time. Additionally, Commander leverages industry-standard control protocols to drive a wider production ecosystem. The solution can manage additional I/O with external router control, control playout on VDCP media devices, and send simple commands to GPI-compliant devices. 

 With Imagine’s latest suite of clean browser-based interfaces, operators have full control over channel automation, content ingest scheduling, and management of media assets. Requiring only a secure connection, an operator can remotely access browser-based clients anywhere in the world to monitor, control, and make changes to channel schedules easily and quickly.   

“Most existing user interfaces (UIs) are in the form of thick clients that require hardware and a specific operating system to run on,” explains Product Marketing Manager, Ignacio Revuelto Rosello. “A gateway system (Jump Box) is typically used to enable a remote operator to connect to the in-house system, and then a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) session is established to the thick client. This requires facilities to invest in additional hardware for each operator to connect remotely and has a limitation of a single operator per Jump Box.  

“Giving our customers simple yet flexible UIs enhances their operational experience, reducing the risk of errors so they can focus on mission-critical tasks for disruption-free services. Automation users in demanding playout environments can more easily manage highly reactive workflows and complex operations for multiple playlists simultaneously.” 

He adds, “Imagine’s existing ADC and D-Series customers will be able to leverage the agility of our new UI framework, enabling their operators or supervisors to customize UIs for broadcast-grade, remote-friendly playout automation dashboards.” 

ENCO Systems’ ClipFire is designed to offer broadcasters, cable operators, and streaming media providers a comprehensive, reliable and cost-effective platform for organizing, managing and automating critical broadcast production and integrated channel playout tasks. ClipFire combines functionality including ingest, media asset management, dynamic graphics, live production, and playout automation within a unified, easy-to-use platform while integrating seamlessly with third-party solutions to form frictionless, end-to-end media workflows. 

“We’re continually adding powerful new features to our ClipFire television automation platform,” says Bill Bennett, Media Solutions Account Manager. “ClipFire can now ingest and play out multiple channels of video simultaneously, with support for both baseband SDI and NDI inputs and outputs.” 

Further, on-the-fly transcoding enables ClipFire to effortlessly play a variety of mixed file formats and resolutions with transitions, while a new native Clip Editor allows users to adjust in/out points and merge clips directly within the ClipFire application.  

A new, resizable L-bar automates live video squeeze backs to accommodate wrap-around graphics for sophisticated visual experiences, while dynamic graphic overlays can be automated for real-time information display. ClipFire can also be optionally expanded to feed custom streaming channels with Visual Radio content on platforms such as YouTube Live and Facebook Live. 

  ProductionAirBox is PlayBox Neo’s TV content manipulation and delivery system with the near-zero latency demanded for the fast-paced work environment of broadcast news, sports and live production. A wide range of file formats and resolutions can be imported into the playlist, with up to 16 digital audio channels to accommodate multi-channel multi-language programmes. The feature set also includes forward or reverse shuttle at up to 32x speed, mixing of different video resolutions and formats in a single playlist, logical content trimming, multi-channel audio output, plus support for a wide variety of compression standards and media containers. The NewTek NDI open protocol for IP production workflow is supported. 

Commercials are a necessary element of many publishing operations, not least in the TV arena. AdBox allows content owners to target advertisements for specific audiences by using ad insertion and digital programme insertion in both standard and high definition. PlayBox Neo’s Capture Suite is designed to simplify the entire process of broadcast content ingest. A multi-channel multi-server live ingest system, it supports a wide range of codecs and containers.  

“2021 to date has been a year of refinement centred on our Neo-20 series software,” says Pavlin Rahnev, CEO, Playbox Neo. “Operator efficiency continues to be the key driver, allowing reliable round-the-clock playout. Scheduling, ingest, QC, video editing, promo-creation, graphics, news banners, tickers, prompter feeds and presentation are all handled within a user-friendly unified graphic interface which is easy to learn and to operate.” 

Graphics overlay ads, a popular concept in traditional TV and digital media, is now making its way into OTT. Amagi’s graphics overlay solution enables content owners to deliver targeted ads across Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV (FAST) platforms.  

“Our server-side stitched, graphics ads solution is a unique technology offering that helps overlay contextual ads as lower thirds ads on linear channels, intuitively based on the video content,” says Srinivasan KA, Co-founder. “Real time insertion of graphic overlay ads at scale are compute intensive and cost intensive.” 

There are many ways in which it facilitates this. One is by leveraging three SCTE triggers - prefetch, immediate and insertion triggers - wherein the ads are fetched from the server, graphics processing is enabled and a trigger to identify the exact frame on which to overlay the ad is generated. 

This, says Srinivasan, “is an impactful solution for live broadcasters, ensuring minimal end-to-end delay.” 

Another method is by enabling ad fetching from ad servers based on user profile parameters shared with the servers. A series of images are created, zipped and shared in a standard VAST response. The graphics assets are then passed on for transcoding using a low latency solution, “saving a significant amount of time,” he says. 

It can also be done by transcoding graphic overlays. These include decoding the HLS video stream - a compute intensive process executed for every single unit graphics and master segment, as well as tiled encoding - a process by which the entire video frame is divided into tiles, with one of the tiles (bottom third) exclusively set aside for graphics. This is considered a much less compute intensive process compared to the classic decode-> overlay-> encode process.   Srinivasan says, “This technology customizes the service based on the programming strategy, offering content owners a cost effective and scalable solution for delivering impactful ad experiences.” 

The VOS360 cloud streaming platform from Harmonic is a fully managed solution that runs on the public cloud. It speeds up the creation of linear channels, live events and streams, direct to consumers or syndication partners. Using the platform, operators have creative control over content ingest, scheduling, playout, encoding, monetization and the creation of channel variants, with real-time agility.  

“Using the VOS360 platform, operators can deliver exceptional video quality from source to screen. 

“As an end-to-end platform, it simplifies all stages of media processing and delivery,” explains Rob Gambino, Director of Solutions. “With it, everything can be controlled via UI or API. We offer an easy-to-use, feature-rich scheduler, or customers can bring their own. Our cloud platform supports rich graphics, including HTML5, as well as monetization, channel variant creation and personalization, all in one platform, without the need for any complex integration between multiple platforms. 

The VOS360 platform is innovative for a few reasons, Gambino explains. “VOS360 simplifies cloud playout workflows by supporting partnerships with multiple traffic management and playout automation vendors. In addition, it empowers operators to explore new markets such as free ad-supported TV (FAST). With the platform, it’s easy to create and distribute FAST channels for live events, without investing in additional infrastructure.” 

Aveco has customers with a complex network of primary, secondary and tertiary channels, with channels centrally controlled and originated at their headquarters, in regions and in the cloud.  

“We have running solutions that combine the power of on-prem and in the cloud for processing and delivery,” says CEO Pavel Potuzak.

“We do direct ad insertion as well as SCTE-35 management. We expand beyond playout to also bring to customers playlist driven social media publishing. 

“However, we are also focused upstream of playout - to media asset management. Our new generation MAM - GEMINI - has been designed with playout in mind. After all, it is important to manage assets, but the ultimate goal is to deliver them to the viewer. GEMINI has been integrated with our playout solutions in a unique way - both products share the same database and even share many microservices. There is no integration; it is a unified platform where events are flowing without boundaries and where the lifespan of assets is managed from the initial bits and pieces to delivery of final product to the viewers.” 

For virtual NAB, Rohde & Schwarz and Pixel Power are presenting an integrated workflow solution from ingest to playout that includes broadcast wide monitoring, multiviewing and storage solutions. These workflow solutions are available today, on premise, virtualized within a data centre or the public cloud.  

Well known for its successful studio production server VENICE, R&S is now showcasing the evolution to cloud functionality for ingest, transcoding and studio playout using public cloud with existing storage hardware that will synchronize content in the facility with the cloud solution. Studio content being ingested could be passed straight to master control for scheduled or immediate playout. Monitoring and multiviewing within the cloud uses SRT to bring multiviewer mosaics and monitoring content back to the studio.   

For delivery, again using public cloud, Pixel Power offers Master Control Playout workflows within the cloud as well as offering an on-premise or hybrid solution. Content ingested in the studio cloud could be made available for playout.

“With integrated software defined, virtualizable monitoring and multiviewing a powerful portfolio for playout and transmission suites is now available in one system,” explains Ciaran Doran, Director of Marketing. “Integrated graphics and branding come with 30 years heritage and experience and offers workflow solutions for a range of sophisticated in-channel and cross channel branding and promotion as well as playout.”