News Production & Post

UK’s C4 chooses Pharos for tapeless

17 August 2006

Channel 4 Television has chosen Pharos Communications to provide the infrastructure for its new Media Access Project. The new installation will centre on a Pharos Mediator media management system and will enable Channel 4 to migrate from its videotape-based library to a file-based content archiving and access system.

“Pharos enabled us to pioneer the use of server-based browsing of transmission content in 2003, reducing the need to circulate VHS preview cassettes within our Westminster headquarters,” commented Channel 4 CTO, Kevin Burrows. “Pharos also provided the backbone of our master control system so the company was a logical partner for this new project. Many broadcasters have moved forward from tape-based to a hybrid tape/disk workflow. Our intention is to derive the full benefit of file-based operation by making the complete transition to server-based content handling and playout. The Pharos team have proved their ability to implement IT strategies in a broadcast context reliably, flexibly and efficiently. Equally importantly, the system they will be supplying will be scalable to allow future expansion of the Channel 4 network, whether SD, HD or IPTV.”

Pharos Mediator automatically tracks content flow from initial acquisition to playout and post-transmission storage. Configurable for large or small networks, it includes ingest tools, browsing, quality-control processing and management of tape, near-online and archive libraries. Individual operators are presented with a familiar web-based control screen matching their specific roles. As content progresses towards and beyond transmission, it is automatically presented to the appropriate user.

“All content arriving at Channel 4 is currently ingested from Digi-Beta tape to the browse server and can then be accessed from a network of desktop PCs,” adds Pharos Technical Director, Spencer Rodd. “The Media Access Project takes this a stage further as incoming programmes and clips will be ingested at full 50 Mbps I-frame-only MPEG-2 transmission resolution to a 36TB Isilon server storage cluster as well as at browse-quality.

Content on the Isilon cluster will be transferred to Pinnacle servers for playout. Channel 4 will then be able to perform the entire broadcast operation from its online digital library store. This will greatly improve operational efficiency while retaining the freedom to make last-minute changes to the transmission schedule when necessary. The Isilon server storage cluster will be interfaced to a near-online Sony Petasite data archive using LTO-3 800GB data tape cartridges. The Petasite will have a 1PB capacity, making it the largest data tape system ever installed in Europe.”

Work on Channel 4’s Media Access Project begins in August and is due for completion by June 2007.

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