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Estonia’s Levira siezes the day

IT Broadcast Workflow 2010: Taking Levira to international heights; plans to expand service provision and boost the number of channels on its books.

IT Broadcast Workflow 2010: Taking Levira to international heights; plans to expand service provision and boost the number of channels on its books.

With a legacy of playout, content insertion services and digital content management serving a population of just 1.3m, Estonian services provider Levira faced stagnation. In 2007 it put into plan a strategy to take the company international as a playout service targeting channel owners in neighbouring Baltic and Scandinavian countries.

“There was no independent service provider offering playout in this market and we decided to seize the chance,” explained Indrek Lepp (pictured), director Multimedia Services Division, Levira.

To do so Levira, part owned by the Estonian state and part by French group TDF, opted to build a fresh facility on a greenfield site and issued a tender that focused less on the technology and more on the features and functionality it expected of the technology. It would be handling multiple file formats from day one.

Finnish reseller and systems integrator Mediatrade was tasked with designing and managing the project to completion. They in turn brought on board broadcast automation software developer Oasys as the key workflow partner.

“One of the key roles of an SI is that they act not just as a dealer in broadcast equipment but can articulate and understand IT workflow design,” commented Mark Errington, CEO, Oasys. “There are very few suppliers who can address the entire end to end workflow and they need vendor partners on their side.”

The first phase of the workflow allowed for simple ingest with low res proxies and high-res files plus subtitling. “The tasks were simple and limited with no live content,” explained Lepp. “We had no wish to invest in services and facilities which our customers didn’t need at that time. The idea was to start gradually and evolve.”

In 2007 most content was delivered on tape or hard drives for ingest using Oasys into a central storage of Rorke Data nearline and offline storage connected to a library.
Playout could be made in HD or SD either directly from storage or indirectly via a Softel enabled DVB subtitling.

Remarkably from order to going live on air took just eight weeks. “We weren’t convinced it could be done at the time but we trusted our SI and the vendors and they fulfilled this trust,” said Lepp.

Phase two, completed last spring, saw Levira maintain the same workflows and basic infrastructure but with additional procedures. These include QC and repair of assets via AmberFin solutions, file management and assessment from IBIS, scheduling via XML and storage from SGL. In addition to pre-recorded content, live material was enabled alongside variable time-delay and local ad insertion.

“Critical to the whole project was the playout solution which had to be open to interact with different systems,” said Lepp. “We talked a lot about metadata and asset management but Oasys look at it differently and from the perspective of how the playout engine develops part of the workflow. By using the same playout software with the same UI we can use it for many types of playout functionality since all broadcaster needs are different.”

Starting from zero three years ago, Levira currently has 20 channels on its books with capacity for another ten and plans to expand its service provision.

“This was a prime case of the customer not knowing what they needed so long as the technology could adapt to the workflow over time,” said Errington. “Proprietary solutions were simply not suitable. The only reason this could be achieved in such a tight timeframe yet be adaptable over time is if the core system component uses open standards.” – Adrian Pennington