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Where next for Systems Integration?

Thursday, March 13, 2014 12:00 AM

In a two-part article, InBroadcast magazine asked leading systems integrators including us at WTS to assess prevailing market dynamics and to consider the impact of the expansion of over-the-top provision on client infrastructure needs. Here's what Ben Murphy, Sales Director of the WTS Group, and Jonathan Lyth, Systems Manager for C2S Systems had to say...

With offices in the UK, Africa and Asia, C2S Systems, the broadcast SI arm of WTS Group, has visibility of the market trends and business climate globally and reports that in general the signs are positive.

"Most companies involved in broadcast equipment supply and systems integration would agree that 2013 has been good for growth,” says sales director Ben Murphy. “We've seen a lot of confidence back in the market and the investment that comes with that.”

The UK outside broadcast sector in particular was jolted with the arrival of BT Sport and further shaken up by the BBC's decision to drop SIS Live, potentially allowing some room for smaller companies to grow. While major projects look thin on the ground, Ben says the company is finding a lot of interest in medium-sized builds. “Many of these were sidelined due to financial reasons over the last four years and are now reaching the point where current installations are at the end of their life so upgrades need to be looked at,” he says.

Like many SI's, C2S is finding Over the Top (OTT) factored into most new fixed installations at some level even if it’s simply a transcode environment to supply packages to a third party distributor or You Tube channel.

“Clients with larger systems are looking at full workflow integration with packages such as Avid Interplay Pulse helping to streamline and make the most of the assets they create,” notes Jonathan Lyth, systems manager. “In addition, we're seeing an increased emphasis on stable broadcast quality interfaces for consumer IP technology for contribution. A request for a gallery ‘Skype PC’ is now as common as a traditional TBU (telephone balance unit - the device used to allow phone calls to be turned into a standard audio signal so it can be inserted into the programme). This, and the ability to take mobile and user-generated content from public channels in the news environment, is critical to staying ahead."

Indeed, the next major transition for SI’s is IP. “We've seen it growing on the contribution and distribution side rapidly over the past five years but for many clients that's tended to be dealt with through a managed service from external providers,” says Jon. “We’re now looking at instances where even small-to-medium-sized installations will have ever-increasing reliance on IP technologies inside their own walls.”

The appearance of partnerships to develop standards such AVB and RAVENNA, and transmission systems such as Cinegy, show that, even if there is some way to go to make this a mainstream technology, the industry is at the point where understanding video IP packets becomes as integral to an engineer's skillset as interlacing.

Overall, says Jon, “There is a more budget-led mentality in the industry than previously. Clients are better educated in equipment specification and are open to using multiple vendors for best-of-breed systems, which in turn means SI’s can and need to offer more flexibility in terms of true integration capability and access to supply channels to stay competitive.”

In action Kenya's SuperSport and MNET Last June, C2S Systems completed installation of a studio complex with post-production facilities for MNET and SuperSport in Kenya. The four-studio complex was designed for flexibility to support production both of MNET’s new prime-time drama-serial Kona, as well as front-end presentation coverage for SuperSport of east African sports events.

Positioned over two buildings, the four studios are supported by two control rooms, nine post suites - including FCP, Avid and Protools - two QC suites, and ICR Central Distribution. MCR and uplink facilities were also designed. With completely file-based production workflows, in two very different and separate production environments, there were some considerable technical challenges in the integration. EVS IP Director was used to provide asset control, and the C2S designed touch-screen router control helped simplify routing operations for studio staff whilst allowing instant status of all paths. Twelve camera channels were installed across the studios; eight for the SuperSport studios and four for Kona with provision for an additional four in future.

Jon explains: “Designing studios for two different types of production made the system quite complex. Three different post-production platforms were needed, and the tapeless production-to-TX workflow meant that each production needed it’s own asset control system to be integrated under a single workflow. We were able to pre-assemble parts of the system in our Leeds workshop prior to shipping to Kenya, which meant we needed less time on-site and could stay out of the way of building works.”

This extract appears in a two-part article titled Broadcast System Integration by Adrian Pennington in InBroadcast magazine's February and March editions

February 'In Broadcast' Edition
March 'In Broadcast' Edition


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