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Case study: Telestream encodes over 7,000 hours of content for BritBox UK

Migration to the cloud enables ten-fold increase in media processing capabilities at UK broadcaster

ITV has employed Telestream to move a significant amount of its content preparation operations into the cloud. The project has also established new cloud-based media processing operations in preparation for BritBox UK’s launch on Amazon Prime Video Channels.

Commencing pre-pandemic, ITV started bringing in-house a range of content processing operations that had previously been provided by a third-party service. At very short notice, ITV was unable to use the supplier. With only a few weeks notice, ITV had to design and build a new solution for the preparation of content. 

The creative team at ITV’s Leeds facility was expanded to accommodate any craft edits, as well as scaling up content encoding and packaging workloads. Cloud-based services were the only practical solution for ITV, and after evaluation of several alternatives, ITV selected the Telestream Cloud solution and worked with Telestream’s team to onboard a cloud-based workflow for their own content.

“We only had sight of the workflows required from the client side, so we had limited knowledge of what we could build,” explains James French, content processing team lead at ITV. “Very quickly, we had to get up to speed, since we needed to minimise business disruption and we must not have screens turning black.

“Already, we were well embedded with Telestream using its on-premise solutions,” French explains. “So, it was a natural progression to investigate what Telestream Cloud Services offered us.”

With Telestream’s help, ITV created a Proof of Concept system, which replicated its existing Vantage workflows on Telestream Cloud services. Phase 1 was fully operational within six weeks, allowing ITV  to process 50 per cent of its normal throughput. 

“Within 12 weeks, we were exceeding our previous content preparation capabilities. It was a roller coaster ride with us learning on our feet,” adds French. “We went from PoC to full production in one of the quickest turnarounds that I have ever experienced working at ITV. 

“A lot of this was thanks to the Telestream team and their ability to visualise what we wanted to do. Now, we are in Phase 3 of re-factoring the Vantage workflows, streamlining them and making them productionised. It’s going really well.”

Ramping up for BritBox UK

ITV is expanding its use of Telestream Cloud Services for content processing as their VoD requirements grow in support of the B2C digital strategy. A recent increase in workload included encoding over 7,000 hours of content for the launch of BritBox UK on Amazon Prime Channels. With a very short time available to process this content, the Telestream Cloud Service’s ability to run massive parallel processing has been invaluable, with up to 300 concurrent sessions being initiated to allow encoding of over 200 long-form media assets per hour. 

“Because of the success of Telestream Cloud at ITV, we looked at its suitability for this application,” explains French.  Selecting Telestream as its technology partner on this project has allowed ITV to deploy existing pre-approved Vantage workflows for new platform deliveries in remarkably short times and with little or no risk.

“The transcode profile that we chose to use for BritBox – MXF op1A – is a profile that we already use with another partner,” states French. “We were able to lift and shift this profile into Telestream Cloud with just minor modifications by the Telestream engineers.”

ITV has found that one significant benefit of this new architecture is increased throughput. On-prem, ITV uses a self-built prioritisation microservice that enables up to 200 jobs to be scheduled each midnight, covering seven broadcast partners. ITV is limited to 200 jobs each day since it is constrained by the number of on-prem Vantage nodes. 

“With Telestream Cloud, we have tested up to 300 concurrent jobs each hour, which is a game-changing uplift in media processing capacity,” says French. “We’re just about to kick off the 7,000 hours transcode project and we’re confident that we will complete it in significantly shorter time, compared to using our on-prem Vantage system.

“This is a massive change for us. Once we have completed the BritBox UK launch, we can scale back our production system, safe in the knowledge that we can call a production capacity burst whenever we need it in the future,” he adds. “This makes it so much easier to on-board new partners onto the BritBox UK platform because the media processing capacity and throughput is there at the flick of a switch.”

Learning new production techniques in a remote environment

Cloud implies remote working, even if we were not living in a global pandemic, so how has this impacted ITV? “With Telestream Cloud, we don’t need remote access into on-prem servers to check status levels,” says French. “Now, we go direct to the Telestream Cloud console and all the management information we need is presented there.”

“Telestream’s GLIM is another game-changer,” he states. “Being able to check and QC content that’s on AWS S3 storage and in data centres without needing to download files is great. Previously, if we had problems with a piece of content, I would need to log on to the ITV server, go into our storage and then wait three hours to download a 30GB MXF Op1A file to check if there is any corruption. Now with GLIM, I can connect to the console and view the content, together with all associated media information and get back to the customer within minutes. 

“If we have partners contacting us about problems with a piece of content, we can respond immediately, which is so important to me and my team. In this new remote world, GLIM has been a fantastic addition to our production toolkit.” 

GLIM was developed to solve well known remote work challenges – to be a superior experience to the ‘remote desktop/virtual desktop’ play back experience, and to prevent remote employees wasting hours every day downloading mezzanine grade media files.