NAB 2010: CBS Taps Telestream for Pitch Blue Project
Stations use FlipFactory software to automate syndicated delivery
By Glen Dickson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/12/2010 12:00:00 AMNAB 2010: Complete Coverage From B&C
CBS is implementing Telestream's FlipFactory transcoding software across its 29 owned stations as a bridge between the new Pitch Blue syndicated delivery system and play-to-air servers from various manufacturers.
Pitch Blue, which CBS developed last year in partnership with Warner Bros. and Ascent Media, is a delivery platform for high-definition syndicated fare; it transmits shows to edge servers at some 800 hub locations supporting more than 1,350 stations. Designed to eventually replace the standard-definition DG FastChannel/Pathfire system long used by CBS and Warner Bros. syndication clients, the Pitch Blue box records shows as MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 files at a data rate of 15 Mbps, and uses an Internet connection to confirm receipt and fix data errors.
To replicate standard-def syndicated workflow at the CBS stations, those MPEG-4 files need to be converted to MPEG-2 and transferred to play-to-air servers from Omneon, Harris and others. This process includes placing the files in the unique "wrappers" used by various vendors. Metadata about the shows also needs to be extracted and passed along to CBS's proprietary master-control automation software to automatically populate the on-air schedule.
"Changing the MPEG to a different wrapper or transcoding from MPEG-4 to MPEG-2 is only part of the problem to make it useful for TV stations," says Bob Ross, CBS's senior VP of East Coast operations. "If you can't do metadata, you can't automate it."
So, CBS contracted Telestream, which it has used for years for its spot-ingest workflows, to develop a solution based on its popular FlipFactory software. The Telestream system quickly converts the HD H.264 source files into whatever MPEG-2 format is required by each CBS station, decodes the Dolby E audio and preserves all caption information. It also converts the metadata into a form that the CBS automation system can use.
Telestream's Pitch Blue integration is now being used by the CBS stations, and the Nevada City, Calif.-based company is also marketing it to other stations with Pitch Blue boxes. Overall, the Pitch Blue rollout is still in its early stages, though hundreds of stations are already using it to receive syndicated material.
"There are daily file transmissions from the Warner Bros./Ascent side, and this week we'll be expanding our satellite time to the box," Ross says. "The main obstacle is we have to work with stations to make sure all the affiliates are ready to take it."
As part of their spot-ingest process, CBS stations have also adopted an optional new feature in Telestream's TrafficManager product, which aims to solve commercial loudness problems. TrafficManager's ITU Loudness Option automatically measures audio according to the International Telecommunication Union's BS.1770 specification and conforms it in the file-based domain to meet CBS's loudness target of -24 LKFS, the same number formally recommended last fall by the Advanced Television Systems Committee. (BS.1770-compliant devices measure loudness in the unit LKFS, which is equivalent to a decibel, in numbers ranging from -1, or loudest, to -31, the softest.) CBS has been adjusting loudness in the baseband mode on its spot ingest since late 2007, but Ross says the new FlipFactory file-based approach makes that process easier.
Fewer than 100 stations are using the new loudness option, according to Telestream Director of Business Development Anna Greco, but the company is seeing strong interest in both the U.S. and Europe. Italian legislators recently passed a law on loudness control that is similar to the CALM Act being considered by the U.S. Congress.
"We know all our customers who use TrafficManager would want to eventually have that capability," Greco says, "to control and adjust loudness in commercial spots all in the same workflow."
This weekend in order to get(Pitch Blue) programs on the air, we had to copy the media from the Pitch Blue box, jump drives, copy them over to NLE’s, transcode them in real time, then and manually dub them down to tape in real time! This started Friday night. I had to bring an engineer in this weekend just to work around all the problems created by Pitch Blue.I know we aren’t the only station in the country having Pitch Blue trouble.
We did not have all of these issues with Pathfire. It was not perfect, but nothing like this.
If any potential savings realized by using Pitch Blue gets eaten up at the local TV station by expenses such as engineering or Master Control overtime or even worse, lost revenue because a syndicated program doesn't make it to air, that doesn't make a lot of financial sense...
I am preparing to send a bill for the 15 hours of overtime created this weekend by Pitch Blue
Rick Kemp - 8/29/2010 2:04:52 PM EDT
No related content found.
Most Popular Pages
No Top Articles