RTBF was seeking for a multi-channel playout system offering the performance and the flexibility to grow the system without running any risks in terms of systems availability and security. In 2008, the company asked SGT and Video Promotion to help them develop a multi-playout control room. A year after, RTBF enjoys a new, powerful system that is based on SGT´s flexible and scalable software solution, VEDA and Video Promotion´s expertise in IT-broadcast convergence. Thanks to its Media Management and Automation components, the solution now seamlessly integrates powerful features to adapt the system to the changing needs of the client, and helps to customize the workflows and grow the system securely, at any time.
RTBF (Radio Télévision Belge de la Communauté Française) is the national broadcasting organization of the French-speaking Community of Belgium. RTBF operates four television channels, La Une, La Deux, La Trois, and ARTE Belgique, along with a number of radio channels, La Première, RTBF International, VivaCité, Musiq3, Classic 21 and PureFM. RTBF was founded in 1953 and began with radio broadcasts, moving then to the television business. The public organization develops increasingly diversified activities and differentiates itself by focusing on sustainability, cultural enrichment and citizenship of the community of its members.
In 2008, RTBF´s playout equipment was getting outdated, providing only limited functionalities and scalability to the Belgian broadcasting company. In fact, RTBF was seeking for a flexible, reliable and robust solution helping them to technically grow their system with the option to increase the number of TV channels as needed.
“Our control room solution no longer responded to our needs in terms of scalability, reactivity and reliability,” said Patrick Moulin, project manager, multi-diffusion at RTBF. “Therefore, we started to look for a system offering the performance, the flexibility and the creativity to grow our system without running any risks in terms of systems availability or security”.
Hence, RTBF´s overall objectives were to overhaul the existing media broadcasting system, implement a robust automation solution and optimize the workflows: The new multi-playout solution should be able to play up-to eight channels in HD, easily integrate with existing platforms (digital production, digital archive …) and adjust to certain workflows inherent in the RTBF system. In addition, RTBF wished to have four control rooms and one global supervision control room to supervise every main or backup channel. Finally, the new system should fulfill the following additional requirements:
- Guarantee optimized media management and efficient content delivery,
- Ensure high-security playout, and consequently maximum systems availability,
- Increase the flexibility and the reactivity of the system.
To achieve this, RTBF called on SGT and Video Promotion, SGT´s privileged systems integration partner for Belgium and the Netherlands, renowned for its broad expertise and competencies in the areas of IT-broadcast convergence.
With 20 years of experience in broadcasting, SGT is a leading global software vendor providing innovative solutions for the broadcast and media industries. More than 300 TV channels worldwide use SGT’s award-winning software suite, VEDA. The solution based on a service-oriented architecture (SOA) features high flexibility and modularity offering seamless integration into each client’s environment.
Since 1975, Video Promotion has been a specialist in the distribution and installation of equipment dedicated to the television industry, mainly in Belgium, Luxembourg and France. The company provides its customers with all means allowing them to set up any type of equipment or project requested in the television industry.
For this purpose, Video Promotion has established privileged relations with the most renowned manufacturers and proposes architectural and workflow consultancy.
RTBF´s new multi-playout transmission system went on-air in September 2009. RTBF had chosen SGT´s VEDA software suite – a powerful, reliable and scalable solution based on a services-oriented architecture (SOA). The new control room system integrated various VEDA components offering functionalities from Media Management, to prepare the playout, to Automation for media transmission and interfacing with external systems. Within the RTBF project, the following components were closely interrelated:
• The VEDA media asset management components ensure the coding from VTR or LIVE (manually by VTR or automatically by Flexicart), the completely automated quality check of coded content (integrating the Baton™ system from Interra), the manual or automatic transfer by an operator, and the consultation of media information in the database.
• In addition, thanks to VEDA, the management of the Aspect Ratio Converter (ARC) is facilitated: Based on the information stored in the database, the video files can be modified to use the ARC that is integrated with the playout servers.
• The VEDA media locator detects new video files on storage units.
• The VEDA Automation system includes five VEDA Automation clients that sit at the front-end and control the media playout and transmission, working as clients of the four VEDA™ Automation servers.
• The VEDA Device Controller manages the equipment either in RS422 (VTR, grid, mixer), over the network (Omneon server), or via GPI (WSS).
• The VEDA Loader manages all file transfers, and in particular those necessary for the playout. It pilots the two Omneon servers, the DIVA archive and the Isilon server.
• The VEDA Central Database provides a single database architecture (the same database for automation as for media management).
• The VEDA Traffic Interface securely manages the exchange with the external traffic system Media Genix What’s On through the BXF protocol. Among other requirements, also the RMB (Régie Media Belge) needed to be integrated in the transmission workflow
Security was key
One of the key requirements was security. The system architecture is built on an active/active security cluster for 16 channels (8×2). Each channel has a channel backup (a main channel and a synchronized back-up channel) to ensure highest availability of the system and continuity of broadcasting.
More reactivity through automation
Via the ergonomic and easy-to-use VEDA Automation client, the operator can easily interact on the playout. Therefore, the playout of the three Premium channels (La Une, La Deux, and one reserve channel) are managed by three independent VEDA Automation clients, each of them with two playout channels: one main and a synchronized back-up channel. The playlists are synchronized 2 by 2. The playout of the five thematic channels (La Trois, ARTE Belgique, and three reserve channels) is regrouped under two VEDA Automation clients that manage ten playout channels: five main and five synchronized back-up channels. SGT installed one additional VEDA Automation client for the supervision of all channels: In case that one client would be unavailable, the supervision client would take control over the other channels. This can be particularly important during the night shifts.
Adaptability and dealing with various channel types
Even running production tools could be integrated in the new system without any problems and the VEDA solution adapted to various situations and dealt with premium and thematic channels in the way the client expected: As VEDA runs complex systems involving a lot of equipment and protocols, it could be tailored to the many different equipment types (not less than 11 different equipment types, of which many are available in more than eight copies) that the client requested and ensure their control for all of them, each one using various protocols such as series RS422, IP network and GPI.
“Thanks to our expertise and specific know-how in dealing with highly complex and challenging projects, we successfully helped RTBF to benefit from a most modern, reliable and scalable playout solution“, said Michel Loiseau, Manager at Video Promotion. “As their privileged systems integrator and equipment provider we demonstrated our ability to adapt to various situations and respond to specific customer requirements in a very customized and personalized way.”
Today, RTBF benefits from enhanced media management, reliable content delivery, and a secure playout system:
1. Flexibility and reactivity
As VEDA integrates the distribution and media asset management systems in one unique database, information exchange between the distribution and previous processes are facilitated, such as the receipt of files or synchronized and last-minute ingests.
2. Secure playout
For broadcasters, such as RTBF, it is vital to ensure the continuity of broadcasting. Consequently, the security of the system was one of the key requirements. With the active/active security cluster, RTBF can be sure that the system is always up and running.
3. Scalability and adaptability
The SGT solution responded to the requirements of RTBF in terms of scalability and adaptability. With the new system, RTBF now can add new channels or further functionalities at any time.
“Our big strengths in this project derive from our broad experience in the automation of TV channels facing big constraints in terms of security and scalability, and from our capacity to personalize and integrate solutions in the specific context and environment of the client”, said Richard de Jong, Area Manager EMEA at SGT.
“The RTBF project was a highly ambitious one requiring powerful tools, new technologies and an in-depth IT-broadcasting expertise. We successfully faced this challenge thanks to a great team work between client, software vendor and systems integrator.”
RTBF today enjoys a scalable and flexible multi-channel playout control room solution “à la carte” that is based on SGT´s proven software suite. Thanks to the powerful media management and automation components of VEDA, the solution now seamlessly integrates in the existing platform and adapts to the changing needs of the client. The professionally conducted global project management by Video Promotion was key for the success of the overall project.
RTBF´s project manager Patrick Moulin concluded: “The playout system that we have in place today is the result of great technology, invaluable broadcasting expertise and know-how, and a good team work. Today we already see great benefits in terms of performance and reliability.”