It's Not Just a Place for Your Stuff

Outdoor Channel’s new archive system offers workflow and cost benefits

Why This Matters

Prepared for The Worst

Like a savvy backpacker who knows the importance of always being prepared for any emergency before venturing into the great outdoors, the deployment of a new archive system at the Outdoor Channel has had the added benefit of significantly improving disaster recovery systems.

The XenData X1500 LTO-5 Digital Archive System automatically backs up shows onto LTO-5 tapes that are sent to Iron Mountain’s secure disaster recovery facility in Arizona. The backups are extremely fast, allowing them to copy more than 50 hours of material overnight.

“It is a major improvement, because it would allow us to very quickly start broadcasting accurate and up-to-date material to air,” says Paul Weaver, VP of operations at Outdoor Channel.

Looking forward, the operation is also planning to upgrade the XenData archive system with a media asset management system from Apace next year, notes Dennis Bress, president and CEO of IEEI and IEEI Broadcast, which worked closely with Outdoor Channel on the archive solution.

Apace currently provides the channel’s central server system, and the installation of the vendor’s new postMAM 3 “would give us more capabilities from a media asset management standpoint,” says Weaver.

It would also save space, time and money by allowing Outdoor to index any content, add metadata to it and then move terabytes’ worth of raw footage into the archive system, Weaver adds. —GW

Archiving solutions are commonly seen as a way to preserve older content that had a limited shelf-life on tape, or as a way to free up limited storage space in server systems used for news, ongoing productions or playout. But a growing number of stations and networks are finding that new archive systems can offer a wide variety of other benefits that help justify the price tag.

In its recent deployment of a new archive system, Outdoor Channel found that systems from XenData are also helping them streamline workflows, reduce operating costs, simplify the delivery of content to multiple platforms, support their growing international channels and provide a backup disaster recovery system that would help them get back on the air if their regular facilities were ever damaged or destroyed.

Like many advances, necessity was the mother of invention for Outdoor Channel’s archiving solution installation. “We began pushing up against the limits of our NAS [network attached storage] capacity about four or five months ago,” says Paul Weaver, VP of operations at Outdoor Channel.

Working with integrator IEEI, Outdoor selected XenData’s SX-300 Archive Server, which manages a Qualstar LTO table library system, and XenData’s X1500 LTO-5 Digital Archive System.

The system went live in April for master control, promotional and international operations, and the network is working on expanding its use to additional departments.

“When we first started talking about the LTO archive system, some people were skeptical because of the tape aspect,” says Mike Kozdrey, manager of engineering at Outdoor Channel. “But when they got to see how easy it was to use—because you are just dragging and dropping files—the user response has been great.”

While the system has overcome Outdoor’s immediate capacity crunch with 80 terabytes of storage (and has room to be significantly expanded in the future with another 90 terabytes), Weaver also stresses that it has reduced costs and streamlined workflows.

“You can store a single show on an HDCAM tape that costs about $60, but you can put 95 to 100 shows on one LTO-5 tape for about the same or less cost,” Weaver says. “Your return on investment is very rapid.”

The system also reduces the time the network spends converting program files to other formats and greatly streamlines workflows for supplying content to international channel partners in Europe and Asia.

“It has allowed us to be able to restructure and repurpose our NAS storage in a way that makes it possible to simplify and improve workflows,” notes Robert Southward, director of media operations and facilities for the programmer.

“This has allowed us to make an international version of our media, and archive it for the future,” adds Kozdrey, who also says that this simplifies Outdoor’s transcoding for broadband delivery. “We can archive the fullres original files as well as the multiple versions of transcoded media.”

E-mail comments to gpwin@oregoncoast.com and follow him on Twitter: @GeorgeWinslow