Red Bee Media
In the summer of 2009, TSL completed a major project for Red Bee Media to move the UK Channel 4’s playout operations from its previous premises at Horseferry Road in London to Red Bee Media’s broadcast center in White City.
As one of the last UK broadcasters to perform its own playout, Channel 4 made the decision in 2007 to outsource those functions to Red Bee Media, with the expectation to reap annual savings in the region of 10 percent to 15 percent on Channel 4’s annual operations budget. Under the terms of the agreement, Red Bee Media committed to a significant capital investment in new state-of-the-art facilities at its premises in White City.
Following a highly competitive tender process, TSL was chosen to design, in conjunction with Red Bee, a dedicated file-based facility that would deliver the substantial improvements to efficiency sought by Channel 4 operations by utilizing the latest technology and innovation in media management and delivery. The project also required the transfer of the entire Channel 4 operations department with library, media management, QC, playout and transcoding — all without interrupting live service.
The file-based system designed, prebuilt and installed by TSL included four Omneon Spectrum media systems, in a main and backup configuration, for playout of Channel 4, More4, Film4 and E4. The extensive playout systems experience within the TSL team enabled such a large and complex design to be realized. The system includes 20 automation playlists, driving a total of 43 transmission outputs. Channels are a mixture of SD and HD core services and are transmitted across ATT, DTT, DSAT and broadband networks. The Spectrum now delivers both SD and HD output and allows for expansion of operations and functionality as required without broadcast disruption.
Morpheus automation, HD Cygnus routing, HD Masterpiece master control and the new version of Morpheus control and monitoring were supplied by Snell. Morpheus automation allows complex sequences of events to be packaged together, instantly providing simple presentation for the Red Bee Media operator and easy manipulation within the Channel 4 schedule.
Project timetable and risk were well managed through a strategy, including a TSL off-site build. Making use of the extensive prebuild facilities at TSL’s Maidenhead site, the system was running at an earlier time than would have been possible on-site, helping to expose interface issues earlier, particularly around new HD standards and ancillary data handling. Manufacturers worked on updates and fixes in parallel with Red Bee Media site preparation. The main on-site build phase was completed and handed to Red Bee Media for testing within eight weeks.
The relocation of Channel 4 playout to Red Bee Media is one of the UK’s largest playout projects in recent years and has provided the broadcaster with a sophisticated facility that has vastly improved efficiency by taking advantage of the latest technical innovations that will further improve services and efficiency well into the future.
Submitted by TSL
Red Bee Media: David Popper, head of implementation
Snell: Mike Eason, proj. mgr.
TSL: David Phillips, managing dir. and proj. dir.; Andy Appleyard, proj. mgr.; John Newsome, video eng., core systems; Nigel Williams, video eng., ingest sys.; Martin Paskin, control eng.; Simon Warburton, audio eng., IPE subcontract; Jason Needham, eng.; Steve Moore, installation mgr.
Technology at work
AXON: Synapse modules
Omneon: Spectrum servers
Snell: Cygnus routing, Masterpiece master control, Morpheus automation, Quasar Ph.C upconversion