Lifetime Goes Bi-Coastal With Signiant

Creates file-based delivery system between N.Y. and L.A.

Cable programmer Lifetime Networks is now using a file-based distribution system from Burlington, Mass.-based Signiant to deliver promos and graphics between its New York technical hub and its post-production team in Century City, Calif.

Signiant makes software that manages and optimizes the delivery of digital media over wide-area networks; the software is already used by large media concerns such as NBC Universal, NFL Films and the National Hockey League.

Lifetime is using Signiant's Digital Media Distribution Management suite to control the delivery of both high-definition and standard-definition content over a dedicated 1 gigabit-per-second IP link that Lifetime maintains between its file-based New York program-and-distribution facility and the brand-new post-production facility it completed this summer in Century City.

The Signiant system allows Lifetime to keep delivery in the file-based domain, is significantly cheaper than using a real-time video circuit and is faster than shipping physical media such as tape, says Peter Sgro, VP and general manager of engineering and operations for Lifetime. It was first installed earlier this year to enable graphics packages to be quickly transferred from L.A. to New York, and is now being used to deliver promos under a tight deadline.

Lifetime has reserved 100 megabits of its 1 gigabit link, which is also used by the company's IT department for general-purpose data transmission, for the Signiant system. Long-form content is encoded in New York and sent to Century City for cutting on Avid nonlinear editors.

The finished packages, which are compressed in the 50 megabit-per-second (Mbps) Sony IMX format for standard-def and Avid's 145 Mbps DNxHD format for hi-def, are then transferred back as files to New York, sometimes within 24 hours of air. On average, Lifetime sends dozens of promos a day and more than 100 a week.

Signiant is not the only player in the accelerated file-delivery space. For example, Lifetime also uses a software-based file-transfer system from Emeryville, Calif.-based Aspera to distribute its content to Apple's iTunes service, and server vendor Omneon has gotten into the market with its ProCast system. What made Signiant a good fit for Lifetime's post-production workflow, Sgro says, was its automation capabilities, and more important, the company's high level of integration with Avid editing systems.

Lifetime already has a significant investment in Avid, with five Symphony Nitris systems in New York connected to a 64-terabyte (TB) ISIS storage system, and five more in Century City connected to a 32-TB ISIS. Signiant, which was founded in 2000 by former Avid executives, has been working closely with Avid to ensure interoperability between the two companies' technology, and that has paid off for Lifetime's application.

“That integration is really twofold,” Sgro says. “We have the ability to exchange sequences, and it really virtualizes the production workflow. It makes it look like Century City is in the room next door.”