The Norwegian national broadcaster has enjoyed the benefits of automated file flows within and between its studio centres for some years. Programme Bank connects Oslo to 13 regional centres, moving content seamlessly. Now, it has added file-based connectivity to external sources from news to UGC.
“Two years ago, I was in Egypt at the time of the uprising,” says NRK solutions architect Rune Hagberg (pictured). “I know from that first hand experience how hard it was to get content back to Oslo. We had to complement Programme Bank to handle external content in the same seamless way.”
Having analysed the situation, it became clear that the challenge was extensive. Drama crews out on location would be more efficient if they could deliver rushes as files. As well as NRK’s own news crews there were contributions from agencies like Reuters and the EBU news exchange.
And, increasingly, there was user-generated content. “We had a lot of content coming in,” according to Hagberg, “and the situation was anarchy.”
The solution lay in a new system, known as TIPS, developed by local systems integrator Mediateket in conjunction with NRK. The core technology underlying TIPS comes from Signiant, including its Managers+Agents, Media Exchange and Media Shuttle modules. This software includes file-based workflow modelling, designed to orchestrate tasks including ingest, quality screening, virus scan, scheduling, transcoding and asset management and archiving.
TIPS uses rules-based intelligence, so as new content arrives at the point of ingest the appropriate workflows are triggered. The first processes occur at the point of arrival, and perform a security scan on the file as well as checking the content. Nothing is allowed through the firewall into the broadcaster’s system until these checks are complete.
Once accepted, the content is tagged, transcoded and sent to downstream destinations. The asset management element of NRK Programme Bank is based on the EBU Core metadata schema, so where necessary the metadata is translated to the house format. Then the Signiant workflow engine determines where the content needs to be, and talks to other systems to deliver wrapped essence and metadata as appropriate.
The architecture is designed to provide an automated secure ingest, whatever the content. So journalists can submit stories from their laptops in coffee shops. Sports outside broadcasts can feed background content in as files, even while broadcasting live. Indeed, the deadline for implementing TIPS was summer 2012, so it could be used for all the content generated by NRK teams on location at the London Olympics.
The workflows are designed to be as automated as possible: “manpower is expensive,” Hagberg says. They incorporate feedback and an audit trail, so if, for example, a transcode failed, that would be reported in TIPS and a supervisor could make the decision whether to investigate, try again or drop the content.
The system is under continuing development, and NRK is particularly interested in extending its scope using FIMS standards to integrate more tightly with other service-oriented elements. FIMS, the framework for interoperable media systems, is the joint initiative of AMWA and EBU, and NRK is strongly represented in the technical committees developing and extending the standards. Signiant is also a FIMS participant.
Having launched at the London Olympics last summer, the system is now widely used for incoming file-based content at NRK, and the scope is currently being extended to allow the Trondheim broadcast centre to ingest content as well as Oslo. “Signiant has helped us to avoid time-consuming repetitive tasks, expedite content movement and give our staff the tools to use the wealth of user-sourced content to create engaging news,” Hagberg concludes.
By Dick Hobbs