Comcast Media Center's Work at Playout

Advance playback room aims to improve quality while reducing costs
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For its new multichannel network origination operation that was deployed earlier this year, Comcast Media Center has developed a model for playout that it believes will improve the quality of its services while controlling costs.

The operation, which CMC calls its “advance playback room,” was designed for channels that have regularly scheduled programming, though it can handle live feeds. It gets its name from the fact that feeds are taken in three hours before airtime and cached on delay servers for replay at the appointed time.

That allows operators to easily check for errors and correct them before airtime, a process that is helped by an innovative software system developed in-house by CMC’s software engineering group. This system, which CMC calls its “Heads-Up Display,” greatly simplifies and improves the information operators see on the screen.

While that obviously improves efficiencies, Paul Catterson, CMC senior director of broadcast engineering, says: “I don’t want to imply it was purely a cost-cutting move, because that is not at all what it is about. We wanted to change the operational model to focus on the quality of the programming….The heads-up display allows them to de-clutter all the information [normally seen on a screen and] detect problems that can’t be detected in a purely automated monitoring environment, such as missing graphic elements.”

There are seven channels using the advance playback room, including Ovation SD, PixL HD and CoLoursTV. CMC engineers expect to use the same model for additional rooms as they need more capacity.

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