Pavlin Rahnev, director, solution sales, PlayBox Technology describes the most recent installation that saw the commissioning of 15 new playout channels for Bahrain-based Noorsat.
This all started back in early 2007 with a request from Noorsat to provide playout for 16 standard definition TV channels at its operations centre in Bahrain
PlayBox has now been working with Noorsat for nearly five years. Over that time, the relationship between the two companies has grown as the number of channels has expanded. This all started back in early 2007 with a request from Noorsat to provide playout for 16 standard definition TV channels at its operations centre in Bahrain. Noorsat was very careful in its choice of supplier and this initial contract was only awarded after a one-and-a-half month on-site evaluation. Important factors in winning this business were reliability,
stability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness as well as ease of use of the playout solutions. But that was not all; this was far from just a supply contract.
Noorsat provided the DVB chain needed to broadcast the channels but apart from that there was only the empty equipment room, racks and power. So our wider breadth of knowledge and skills were also very important.
Although our playout systems are based on IT technology and use COTS (commercial off-the-self) components, our company has many engineers and technicians with background in broadcast TV engineering. This has been a key factor in fulfilling Noorsat’s requirements.
The installation team
The installation team was made up of four of our technicians and engineers. When the team arrived on-site, there was just the room with racks. When they left three-and-a-half weeks later, the racks were starting to fill and there was a working teleport. The contract included the supply, installation, integration and commissioning of the whole system. This is the way we worked with Noorsat in 2007 and have continued to work in the same way since, as and when new contracts were awarded.
The contract included the supply, installation, integration and commissioning of the whole system
The contracts included the provision of complete system designs, and PlayBox Technology is trusted to supply and build their complete playout infrastructure. Noorsat provides the DVB compression systems and uplink equipment to complete the NOC infrastructure. We delivered everything including third-party products, audio, video, IT, multiviewers, routers, cabling, installation, commissioning, training and support.
Channel-in-a-box and other solutions
Although we are now able to talk about the supply of 120 playout channels, there was never a single order for that. To date, there have been a number of major contracts adding between 10 to 20 new channels at a time, as Noorsat’s business has expanded.
Each contract has been won on business fundamentals including quality, reliability and price. It is also clear that scalability has been important. As we can supply single-channel units at a competitive price, we can add any number of channels at any time. Our channel-in-a-box package, that includes the automation along with a graphics package and the playout server hardware, fits the requirements well. This product has many options, for example at Noorsat the ‘Live in’ feature is often used so that live events can be included in the playout. Also our expertise in service support was another aspect that helped to keep us in line for consideration to supply the next tranche of channels.
The equipment supplied by PlayBox Technology to date comprises more than just the 120 channels of AirBox automation with integrated TitleBox interactive CG and live 3D graphics, SafeBox automated content transfer tool and playout servers
IT-based platform lends flexibility
The equipment supplied by PlayBox Technology to date comprises more than just the 120 channels of AirBox automation with integrated TitleBox interactive CG and live 3D graphics, SafeBox automated content transfer tool and playout servers. Other items include ten CaptureBox ingest servers, a huge central storage facility, well in excess of 200TB, and QCBox that provides file verification and automatic loudness control during playout. The system design includes N:M redundancy but, when all the channels are busy and there is an urgent requirement, there is the flexibility for a redundant channel to be pressed into live service. The total number of servers installed at Noorsat now stands at 139.
The entire playout system runs on IT-based platforms and so there is potential for flexibility in the ways it is used. In fact, Noorsat offers two different ways of operation. The majority of channels provide playout services for customers. In this case, the channels receive their content, along with the playlist that may be delivered on paper or via email, and Noorsat performs the required operations including ingest, QC, playout and uplink, in other words, they are running the entire channel for the customer. For some other channels, Noorsat provides remote connectivity to offer a service that is somewhat similar to that of the remote playout operation offered by the PlayBox Technology EdgeBox. In this case, Noorsat owns and runs the playout server and the customers remotely upload material and playlists via FTP. The customers themselves control the TV channel.
The PlayBox Technology playout system helps Noorsat offer competitive prices for its services. Also, despite the scale of the business, all the equipment is standard and so, significantly, there has been no special development work. This means that there is nothing unique in Noorsat’s workflow and it uses only reliable tried-and-tested standard products.
Not only has this helped to keep the costs down but also, there are no special on-going support requirements. Our normal general support services are sufficient to handle any ongoing needs.
The entire playout system runs on IT-based platforms and so there is potential for flexibility in the ways it is used
Although standard products from PlayBox Technology have met the needs of Noorsat, there was recently an exceptional requirement. It became necessary to somehow migrate the existing channels to a new room. This involved moving the entire playout equipment, which was running about 80 channels, without disturbing their transmission. For us, the real challenge was the size of the project and this required a great deal of cooperation with the existing technical and operational teams at Noorsat.
The Noorsat team was very supportive and their assistance made a big contribution to the success of this migration. We were delighted that, for Noorsat’s customers, it just happened. They had no knowledge that their channel had moved from one rack room in the NOC to another.
Noorsat is PlayBox Technology’s biggest customer and with projects of this magnitude, there are bound to be a few initial glitches. They have been kept to the minimum because only standard equipment is used throughout. When there has been a glitch, we work hard to resolve it in a timely manner. Our people working on site have the knowledge and experience to solve minor challenges then and there. Also, as the products are running on standard PC platforms, we can, if necessary, plug them into the internet for our R&D team to iagnose and repair remotely.