The Mill Group is an award-winning visual effects facility with offices in London, New York and Los Angeles, and owner of a subsidiary called BEAM, a global service provider specializing in the distribution and management of media content. In turn, BEAM launched Adtext, a dedicated, digitally streamlined subtitling operation that offers broadcast-quality subtitling and distribution to advertising clients as a single, combined service. Adtext works on about 90 percent of the output from the major advertising agencies. Advertisers want to be sure the message gets through to the largest audience, from the hard of hearing to people in the gym watching MTV while listening to their iPods.
The company’s decision to move from a tape-based operation to a file-based workflow was made with the dual aims of streamlining the subtitling procedure, making it easier for its team while lowering operating costs, and a reduced hardware overhead. Moving from a tape-based subtitling workflow allowed Adtext to easily transport assets around the system electronically. It developed its own FTP system and started investigating subtitle encoding solutions, finding that some products appeared to do the job, but were not flexible enough in operation.
During initial discussions between Adtext and Softel, Softel rapidly produced a user interface that was exactly what Adtext had in mind. Softel’s thorough project management approach, from presale to acceptance testing, allowed early delivery of the subtitling transmission system and full compliance with The Mill requirements. Softel provided full access to its development team throughout the project, easing the pressure on Adtext’s in-house development team to meet its tight deadline. Softel also worked with video server supplier Omneon to ensure seamless integration. For acceptance testing, Softel created a full replica transmission path on-site, so Adtext could be sure that what was going on-air would be correct.
The result is a highly efficient and simple workflow: The agency sends the script and commercial on tape or in digital form as an MPEG-2 file. Adtext employs a fully automated digital workflow to ingest files and create a WM9 file, which is delivered automatically to the subtitler’s desktop (or by e-mail for off-site freelancers). The file is then encoded by Softel’s Swift vTX with subtitles in VBI. After quality control, the files move from the subtitling room to transmission via BEAM-developed software and from there to the broadcaster, all in an automated process via a Web interface. This workflow reduces machine control input, leaving the subtitling operators to do their work uninterrupted by concerns about requesting and cuing machines, and eliminates previously cumbersome processes.
The effect on Adtext’s productivity and responsiveness to clients is significant, increasing turnaround speed by about 50 percent. Adtext can call up off-site freelancers on short notice, and they can get to work straight away. Additionally, the solution enables Adtext to offer its clients a modern, fully digital automated file-based process, with receipt or delivery at any time.
New studio or RF technology — station
Submitted by Softel
Softel: Richard Mansfield, Swift vTX product mgr., design and commissioning.
Adtext, The Mill: Miles Stormer, head of MCR and external facilities; Jem French, contractor; Tim Yeo, sr. Eng.; Lance Gaunt, head of transmission; Roy Trosh, group technical dir.
Technology at work
Softel: Swift vTX with custom user interface
Omneon: MediaDeck video servers