DATE: April 2, 2019
DigitalGlue Delivers an ATSC “Station-in-a-Rack”
By integrating systems into a turnkey solution, DigitalGlue empowers major station groups to automate nationwide centralized playout…
A large broadcast network with worldwide operations decided to upgrade their existing 30+ U.S. stations. The purpose was to significantly cut operational costs through automation while improving distribution quality utilizing the latest compression technology. Their senior management team turned to DigitalGlue because of its field-tested experience providing innovate turnkey solutions for the contribution and distribution of digital video.
DigitalGlue analyzed the network’s legacy operations and designed a centralized distribution, playout, and control system. While saving approximately one million dollars per location in annual operational expense, each station also benefited from an individualized program schedule, call letter bug overlay, and local content insertion over the national satellite broadcast. They also took advantage of new ATSC guidelines removing the mandated requirement to have a television studio in each local market. Our “Station-in-a-Rack” was installed at each transmitter site. By making this investment, the broadcaster can now sell their studio real estate holdings and generate millions of dollars in additional revenue.
The technology solution delivered by DigitalGlue focused on providing an ATSC 3.0 migration path, automating their program delivery, creating a consistent channel line-up and branding for each station, enabling numerous workflow efficiencies across their broadcast station group, and compliance with all FCC regulations.
The broadcaster required satellite distribution of two (2) HD and three (3) SD channels from their central compression headend to 30+ regional transmitter sites. At each transmitter, the five (5) channel MPEG transport stream needed to be decoded, rebranded, provisioned for local content insertion, dayparted on one (1) channel, add EAS insertion, maintain CALM compliance, and generate dynamic PSIP EPG data prior to broadcast as MPEG-2 compressed content over a 19.39 Mbps ATSC DTV channel.
The Hub-and-Spoke distribution of their programming required a Star Network return path for the centralized monitoring and control, as-run reporting, and play-out verification.
Four main areas needed to be addressed in detail. First, DigitalGlue had to create a reliable “lights out” operation at the local television station located directly at the transmitter tower site. Often the transmitters are located in remote areas with limited network connectivity. Each system had to retain its individual channel branding for its broadcast area, as well as all mandated required ATSC local station compliance. Next, each station upgrade needed to be installed and brought online within a manageable timeframe, while keeping the other non-upgraded stations online and fully operational during this transition. Then, the solution had to allow for remote monitoring and control of the upgraded stations from the centralized Network Operations Center. Finally, the design needed to be forward thinking to allow for an eventual ATSC 3.0 broadcast.
DigitalGlue replaced the client’s Master Control network with redundant hybrid MPEG-4 AVC and MPEG-2 encoders generating two (2) HD and four (4) SD statistically multiplexed MPTS (Multiple Program Transport Streams) for delivery to the 30+ terrestrial transmitter sites via a C- Band satellite transponder. At each site, DigitalGlue installed a single 40RU “Station-in-a-Rack”. The rack includes everything needed to provide a multitude of localized services including decoding, grooming, branding, adding EAS Alerts, modifying the PSIP tables, and retransmitting into primary and secondary channels. In addition, each rack is fully redundant, with automated switching, and local and remote management. The five (5) channels are monitored at three (3) different points in the transmission chain using an IP analyzer and multi-viewer. DigitalGlue’s custom developed DGLogger is used for as aired recording of the transport stream for FCC content verification. The system also includes many innovative hardware and software technologies to address power, security, and ongoing maintenance. Local content insertion and daypart changes are managed from the broadcaster’s central master control facility using SCTE-35 triggers.
Centralized Playout, Remote Facility
DigitalGlue’s “Station-in-a-Rack” solution is based on an efficient DVB file-based workflow, unlike their legacy live video signal infrastructure. Using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to access a central server, programmers are able to upload XDCAM HD 50Mbps encoded video files. Upon receipt, the files are reviewed for quality control, trimmed as needed, transcoded into a transport stream (TS) format, and then distributed to stations in advance of their scheduled local playout.
With a customized web GUI developed by DigitalGlue, operators can easily access, review, and prepare files well in advance of the
on-air schedule. The file creation process, clearly displayed on the web GUI, informs operators of each automated step while alerting them of any issues that could delay or jeopardize on-air playout. Once approved, these local station files are automatically pushed to the station’s playout server.
Several times a day, a nationwide six (6) channel PMCP (Programming Metadata Communication Protocol) file, in XML format, is created by the traffic system. The PSIP (Program and System Information Protocol) data is then dynamically modified and delivered to each station.
The regional playout servers create as-run event logs. Then, DigitalGlue’s software automatically parses the logs into system readable files that are uploaded to the central server for FCC compliance. The network operations center allows the broadcaster to monitor, review, and troubleshoot issues with minimal on-site assistance. By installing the “Station-in-a-Rack” at each transmitter, network operators can remotely verify playout and make schedule changes as needed.
Partner for Success
Why was DigitalGlue chosen to design, deliver, and support this project?
The DigitalGlue team has years of experience providing its clients with leading-edge solutions at a cost-effective price. For this project, we proposed an innovative file-based design that allowed the broadcaster to control the complete network from a central location while automating the ingest, delivery, and playout chain. The cost of the upgrade was quickly recovered through the operational savings of no longer needing local studios and minimal onsite personnel.