Philip Stevens talks to the latest TV station in Romania about its file-based investment
Launched in November 2009, Vox News is a Romanian television station broadcasting a mixture of news, talk shows and documentaries. The privately owned station, which operates from a new, purpose built facility in the nation’s capital, Bucharest, is the third news channel in Romania. It provides free-to-air national coverage with both analogue and digital transmissions via the Amos 2 satellite, and SDI feeds to several cable companies. Currently, all programmes are broadcast in standard definition, but the facility has been structured to allow easy conversion to high definition at some date in the future.
“The launch was timed to coincide with the second round of the country’s presidential elections,” explains Dan Lita, technical consultant for News Television Romania. “But the overall aim of the station is to reflect the political, economical and social Romanian environment.”
At present, all original programming originates from the station’s one 240 square metre studio. “The equipment at the studio is currently rented,” says Dan Lita. “But a new project is currently under development and I can only say that we have selected equipment from Ikegami, Snell and Nevion on the video side. I cannot talk about other options at this stage.”
One aspect of the operation Lita is prepared to discuss at length is the commitment to a completely file-based environment. “Right from inception, this has always been our intention. We had a requirement for an IT-based automation and playout system that could also offer realtime graphics capabilities. And when we provided a brief to potential suppliers of such systems we specified that it needed to provide a small footprint, 2 plus 1 channel playout with database and storage on one server.”
After investigating a number of systems, Lita opted for the iTX transmission platform from OmniBus. He reports that this package offered a software solution that reduced the number of units involved in the transmission chain. He also believes there is better integration when all the components came from a single company.
“Many companies produce video servers, but then you have to buy separate automation and other components from different vendors. However, the iTX system provides all the elements of the transmission chain in a single unit. These include transitions, logos, commercials, promos, crawls and active format descriptor (AFD) signalling – and they all come from within just one box.”
According to Lita this allows the creation from scratch of a complete high-quality multichannel transmission infrastructure – and, perhaps more significantly, for a price that is lower than a conventional automation system. He also cites the speed of installation and setup as a key factor. “We needed to be ready to cover the elections last December – and that effectively only gave us one month to commission the system and then have just one week’s on-air support. But we made it.”
To meet its specific needs, the iTX system used by Vox News includes automation, graphics, logos, video clip playout and live feeds. Dan Lita points out that the iTX provides an intuitive and flexible user interface with a plug-in architecture. This allows instant access to the various elements that are required in the live news environment, and enables the operator responsible for monitoring and controlling the channels to apply or modify character generations, logos and video transitions from the same screen.
The system also includes an integrated character generator and allows graphics --including both animations and effects -- to be previewed directly on the iTX Desktop. In addition, operators can either create these graphics from scratch or load and modify, if required, pre-built CGs from the system’s templates.
There is also the option to have one or more text crawls on screen – and these can either be scheduled in the playlist or activated manually. These crawls can be combined with animated Targa sequences for moving backgrounds and can receive their data from three different sources -- manually entered text, the traffic system via the schedule or an external text file.
An unlimited number of logos can be keyed over any primary video with varying key levels, audio effects and video transitions. “Vox News is also using the Live Event functionality available with the iTX system,” states Lita. “This enables us to play out live and studio feeds, adding CGs, crawls and logos as required.” To confirm playout, as-run logs detailing when events occurred, are generated by the iTX system.
Vox News has also opted for the Encore Router Control provided by OmniBus. This facility allows direct control of its 16x16 Leitch Xplus router from within iTX, and means that there is no need for manual or separate control of the router. This allows the schedule to route automatically the correct source to air. It also provides control of the Leitch router from the iTX desktop should the routing need to be overridden, for example where an item of late-breaking news needs to be played out directly from the studio.
For added reassurance, media management is an integral part of the solution at Vox News and the iTX system highlights any missing materials from items scheduled for playout, creating a work list for ingest. The iTX platform is fully redundant and the system at Vox News includes a backup channel that will provide full continuity service in the event of a failure of the main system for whatever reason.
Dan Lita maintains that by eliminating the need for third-party graphics devices, the OmniBus system has proved extremely cost effective. Although very satisfied with the operation, Dan Lita has made some suggestions regarding improvements for future such systems. “I would like to see a separated framework/database from storage, and a direct matrix control, rather than via an additional box. The system would also benefit from having the ability to capture live sources when they are on air via an output server for programme replay.”