The PBS Technology Center in Alexandria, VA, is responsible for continuous delivery of transmissions — four HD channels and eight SD channels — to member stations across the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska, Guam and Samoa. Each month, PBS, with its nearly 360 member stations, reaches more than 120 million people through television and nearly 21 million people online. This broadcast model and all file-based workflow, a significant achievement since coming online, has been firmly established at PBS for some years now, and by 2010, the logging system that monitored satellite transmissions had begun to show its age. To refresh its video monitoring and logging capabilities, PBS sought a more advanced solution capable of monitoring multiple channels, merging as-runs from automation with aired video, providing fast response times, enabling effective searches across aired content and supporting easy clip exports. The Observer Enterprise, an automated and fully redundant digital video monitoring and logging system, met these demands and offered additional functionality that streamlines PBS monitoring processes.
A main priority for PBS was to have the tools necessary to get to video immediately, and the Volicon Observer allows engineers to watch live video or recorded material within just two seconds. In addition to enabling fast visual confirmation, the Observer system allows staff to search back on a playlist for a particular program or for words that would have been present in closed captioning at the time. Staff thus can monitor any signal impairments and diagnose those issues quickly. Because the system synchronizes channels to a specific time point, engineers can troubleshoot and determine the scope of the issue.
PBS uses its new clip export capability to send video logs to its vendors in order to illustrate what was previously only able to be verbally communicated. This capability not only enhances communications and eliminates misunderstandings, but also helps to speed resolution of video or audio problems.
Another key challenge that the Observer will help PBS to meet is that of metadata logging, including AFD. The broadcaster has been embedding metadata and AFD in its MPEG streams since 2009, but until PBS adopted the Observer, the staff had no way of logging what had been sent. Soon, through Volicon development specifically targeted to PBS operations, the Observer will provide a fast and easy way of confirming that AFD codes have been sent correctly and that stations have received the data they need to display a given piece of video properly. If any metadata is determined to be incorrect, engineers in Alexandria will be able use the logging system to look back, see what metadata was transmitted and begin troubleshooting.
PBS made an early commitment to file-based operations at its Network Operations Center in Alexandria, and it continues to leverage advances in broadcast and multimedia platform technologies, including sophisticated video monitoring tools, to ensure the high quality and consistency of broadcast services provided through its extensive network of member stations.
New studio or RF technology — station
Submitted by Volicon
PBS: Philip Schoene, sr. sys. eng.; Steven Francis, proj. mgr.; Bill Bowman, NOC tech. maint.; John Osborne, NOC tech. maint.; Yue Sun, NOC tech. maint.; Li-zhi Zhou, NOC tech. maint.
Technology at work
Sencore: 3187A IRD
Volicon: Observers, Monitor Server