Integrating systems on a global tight budget

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The key to any successful system integration (SI) project is to be exceptionally diligent
in determining the precise requirements for the customer. With modern file-based
infrastructures, the technical scenarios are almost endless, so getting the scope of the
system right first off is critical to the success of the entire project. Getting it right on a
tight budget is even more important.

As modern technology advances, it continues to provide multiple solutions within the
field of systems integration, and broadcasters and post-production houses are finding
themselves faced with seemingly endless possibilities. Customers of system integrators
(SIs) face a significant challenge right now, along with most businesses – the economy!

Sony Professional Solutions Europe recently announced that it is in discussion with an
undisclosed number of employees as the company prepares for restructuring and
redundancies.

Says Katsunori Yamanouchi, vice president of Sony Professional Solutions Europe: “Our
customers are changing and Sony must too, to ensure the value we offer is relevant
and differentiated.’

The company plans to restructure its core AV Media and Solutions for an increased
emphasis on IT and cloud-based solutions. It reported that its Digital Cinema, Video
Security, Presentation and Communications businesses had shown strong growth and
would receive increased investment and that the company would “streamline in some
areas to strengthen its operations’. This includes the closure of its System Integration
business.

Rate of change

Global economic times are tough, yet the rate of change of technology and the way in
which consumers are now demanding and using content, is accelerating at an ever
increasing rate. With this in mind, if broadcasters fail to invest in new systems, they run
the real risk of being overtaken by their competitors.

The need to deliver the most advanced and innovative solutions must be tempered by
the ultimate goal of delivering a project to a defined timeline and budget, so all targets
set must be attainable. With independence from the SI comes the ability to work with
clients to develop bespoke solutions, often comprising of sub-systems from a selection
of suppliers, to meet the project’s needs and expectations.

C2S Systems, the SI arm of the WTS Group, was faced with and met this challenge
recently with the completion of a new studio and post-production complex in Kenya for
pay-TV broadcasters M-Net and SuperSport.

The four-studio complex positioned over two buildings in Nairobi is supported by two
control rooms, nine post-production suites, two QC suites and ICR distribution. These
facilities were pre-built and tested in C2S’s Leeds workshop in the UK, while the
buildings were refurbished. With completely file-based production workflows, there were
considerable technical challenges in the integration.

Good prep essential

Whether upgrading or building a new production system, preparation and planning are
key to ensuring the project can be completed on budget and on time. This was
demonstrated with a unique requirement from maverick Canadian company theScore
Inc., a digital media company which specialises in website and mobile content delivery.

theScore is the ultimate, personalised mobile experience which serves a new generation
of sports fans. By providing an insanely addictive combination of real-time engagement
and shared experiences, theScore connects sports fans to what they love, dispensing
real-time sports news, scores, fantasy information and alerts, while creating and
curating content which is compelling, relevant and seamlessly shareable.

As a result of a divergence from parent company Score Media, theScore Inc. needed to
build a new state-of-the-art digital media facility to service its web and mobile
customers. Applied Electronics Limited, a Canadian SI, was engaged to design and build
the new facility. As a company that is entirely turned-on and tuned-in to new media,
theScore Inc.’s new facility needed to be designed with a completely “plugged in’
generation in mind. As such, many monitors were placed at optimal viewing angles
throughout the facility to ensure all live sports games could be viewed during their live
broadcasts.

It was determined early on in the project that a simple multi-viewer setup would not be
adequate for routing the many signals to over 40 monitor destinations. As such, a
professional routing system was brought in and joined with robust broadcast
infrastructure and conversion gear to ensure steadfast signal delivery. Due to limited
time from design to move-in date, Applied Electronics worked efficiently in order to
purchase the equipment, do the cabling, install the equipment and configure and test
the system within a month.

theScore Inc. is considered one of the most advanced digital media facilities in the world.

The right solution

If not enough time and effort is made in analysing the broadcaster’s specific operations
and future business needs, the project may well not succeed, a strong reason why
consulting with one’s integrator at the early stages of the project will ensure the right
solution can be found easily, and within budget.

But sometimes time is not on the SI’s side. SporTV is Brazil’s most popular sports
channel and covers more than 4 000 events, transmitting more than 30 live sports
categories each year. They approached the internationally renowned systems integrator
TSL to deliver a full-spec temporary outside broadcast (OB facility) for SporTV’s Olympic
coverage into the 19th floor of Lund Point, a block of 1960s council flats, just outside
the Olympic Park.

Following a pre-build of the facility at TSL’s headquarters in Maidenhead (UK), they had
just six weeks to install the facility on location, which included a full-spec HD/SD gallery
and control room housing nine operators, three Final Cut Pro edit suites and a three-
camera “glass’ studio. Constructed at such a highly unusual location, Globosat and TSL
met with some unique challenges.

“Physical limitations, asbestos, structural floor loading, fire proofing, power and zero
tolerance deadlines were just some of the issues we had to overcome,’ explains Nigel
England, TSL project manager.

But they did it, on time and on budget. The SporTV hub received 56 incoming video
feeds from Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS). Four SD/HD channels were fed back to
SporTV’s base in Rio de Janeiro, with each showing some 15+ hours of unique content
per day.

Bruce MacGregor, director of solutions at TSL Systems points out: “A solution is
required for the client’s actual workflow and not simply one that is based solely on
technical needs. In order to achieve this aim, we recommend that a reasonable period is
spent on defining the detailed workflows and full operational requirements. From this
work, an appropriate system design can be designed, noting the balance between
essential and “nice-to have’ functionality.

“The best advice is to devote the appropriate amount of time in the design and choice of
technology, as this will have a crucial impact on the operating costs and future flexibility
of the system. Never forget, a large playout and media asset management (MAM)
system is likely to be in place for many years, so it’s best to spend quality time to get it
right in the first place.’

African market

Sub-Saharan Africa represents a vast underdeveloped media and telecommunications
industry. With a population of more than 525 million viewers it constitutes a great
opportunity for growth; indeed industry experts and SIs project a continued growth in
demand for broadcast systems and equipment into African broadcast media.

The problem that has been witnessed in Africa is cost. Most SIs design systems for
Africa are no different to those of wealthier Western countries, despite the fact that
smaller systems may be required in Africa.

Other problems include skill sets, infrastructure, high maintenance costs and electrical
energy. Installation of equipment is very expensive and follows a very old convention of
analogue broadcast systems and it also fails to cater to the smaller broadcasters who
are struggling to secure funds.

A number of projects have been aborted before they are finished due to high costs. For
example TV Zimbo in Angola, a multimillion dollar project, was aborted along the way
because they ran out of money. These problems limit the growth of the broadcast
industry and the local SIs that serve this market.

Fortune Engineering PLC, a leading broadcast and AV SI based in Ethiopia, recently
selected an experienced solution design and project management provider based in the
UK, MJO Broadcast, to design and build a new file-based production and play-out centre
for client TV South – a regional TV channel managed by the Ethiopian SNNPR Mass
Media Organisation.

The new facilities in Hawassa will enable TV South to deploy efficient file-based workflows
to create, manage, distribute and archive locally produced content, in both SD and HD.
The project involves the provision and integration of playout automation, video servers
and workflow from Pebble Beach, an Octopus newsroom system, Avid editing and
NetApp storage; archiving from DiskArchive, Pixel Power graphics and Ross Video
broadcast infrastructure.

MJO Broadcast will manage the overall system design and project delivery on behalf of
Fortune Engineering PLC, including off-site pre-fabrication and testing, installation,
commissioning and training. This contract follows recent assignments to define, design
and deliver new MAM and file-based workflow solutions for national broadcasters such as
RTE in Dublin, BBC in Manchester and DMI in Dubai.

“MJO Broadcast’s in-depth understanding of workflows and file-based solutions
combined with practical experience of deploying technology in emerging markets has
proved invaluable,’ says Abdul Duri, CEO Fortune Engineering PLC. “Their proven track-
record of project managing and delivering complex systems has made them the ideal
integration partner for this project.’

Therefore, consulting with an SI who is a specialist in their field is the most effective
course of action for those companies faced with multiple choices and limited budgets.
Investing a lot of time talking to all the leading vendors to understand their strengths
and weaknesses will lead to the best solutions to create seamless integration.

Integrating different brands and functionality allows end users to achieve a total end-to-
end solution using equipment that is either best suited for their purpose and more
importantly, fits the available budget.

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