When developing product roadmaps for the broadcast industry, one of the main challenges for R&D and product managers is to identify the technological trends that will persist and define the system of tomorrow. For example developing a monitoring system with 3D capabilities would these days be considered somewhat unnecessary, whereas a number of other technological trends are becoming more accepted with increasing number of implementations. Amongst these technologies are the movement towards IP, the virtualization, and the offering of services from the Cloud.
Actus started the implementation of these technologies about three ago and we have implemented virtual systems at a number of customers. One of Actus’ largest playout customers in Europe have announced a fully-IP virtualized playout platform that is probably Europe’s first. The main advantage obtained is the ability to modify channels or add new customers within hours or minutes (instead of weeks – with previous technologies).
This new facility is now all software-defined, and is presented as a private broadcast cloud. It has practically unlimited scalability in terms of number of channels as well as functionality. When the need arises to test a new TV channel, or to add ad-hoc channel for a special event, then all components of the platform, including the Actus recording servers, allow a software based re-configuration of resources.
These objectives are not as trivial as they might appear, some of the challenges to solve are:
- Virtualization means “no plug-ins”. We had to eliminate all hardware plugs and software plugs for all servers and client workstations. The client machine should be any platform, PC, Mac, Tablet or smartphone, completely free from any need for installing any App.
- Cloud means “limited bandwidth”. If you want a remote customer to access your Private Cloud, to scroll through Full-HD content and perform full video editing with a good user experience, then something has to be done about the network utilization.
- Private Cloud means “One for All, All for One”. If the customer has dozens of users, spread across multiple sites, and sometimes multiple continents, then we want all of these users to feel as if they are connected to one LAN and to one central Media platform (rather than having to login into separate systems).
In order to achieve those objectives, Actus has developed a number of supporting technologies over the last few years.
Since 2016 all Actus software has been rewritten for the HTML5 platform. This means that there are no plug-ins, that all browsers are supported (including Chrome) and that all HTML5 compatible devices are supported, and this includes tablets and smartphones.
OneForAll™ Group Architecture
- Each of the remote sites stores all chunks (video recordings) normally on local storage.
- Any workstation, from any site (not only the central site), may access any of the remote sites’ UI servers (after authentication) and act like a full-rights user.
- But there is an easier method; All users, from all remote and central sites, may login into the central site UI server, and from there, access a complete list of all channels existing on all sites.
- Obviously, the central site UI server may be in the Cloud.
This technology has been developed to meet the needs of several current trends:
- An increasing need for clips to be repurposed and distributed to OTT and social Media.
- A larger percentage of these clips are Full-HD and high bit-rate quality, requiring increased bandwidth.
- Some of the servers running these OTT and editing applications, are in the Cloud.
- Video editing of Full-HD consumes heavy bandwidth and CPU
Actus’ solution is to record the linear (Live) TV broadcast feeds in multiple qualities. For example one recording in Full-HD 10Mbps and a second recording, identical content, but in low quality, e.g. CIF 256Kbps.
The users will perform all their work-flow on the low-quality proxy, searching for content, cutting, adding special effects, pre-rolls, layouts, etc. This work is done using the lowest possible bandwidth and is compatible with standard Internet speeds and servers in the Cloud.
The Actus MultiQuality™ technology will duplicate, one by one, all functions and commands, into the high quality copy, and export exactly the same clips, to the selected destinations (Facebook, FTP, local Web site, etc.) but in high resolution, high quality, and nearly in real-time.