Migrating large-scale IP infrastructures across the globe: IP in the News

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By Jon Flay, Managing Director – Megahertz

When a large American news-based broadcaster relocated its London offices and European HQ to Old Street in Central London, it presented a prime opportunity to migrate its operations to a fully IP-based system & workflow. UK Systems Integrator Megahertz was drafted in; called on for its expertise in implementation, building, testing and delivery of supporting IP workflows. The relocated Old Street HQ will handle the production, contribution, studio programmes, support of ENG/film crews, editing for its news channels and digital platform, as well as the organisation’s sponsored programming Megahertz won the tender for the consultation, design, configuration, delivery and installation of the system after a rigorous selection process that lasted from September to November 2018. Jon Flay, managing director, Megahertz tells the story:

We were chosen not only because of our expertise, but also because of our collaborative, flexible approach, having worked with this customer previously. At the outset of the project we established a project office at the broadcasters’ current HQ so we could work closely together as a single team to achieve the same goals. Our clients appreciate that we work as an extension of their existing team and we’re always considered a partner, not just a supplier.

Our key responsibilities are for the design and implementation of the end-to-end camera chain, edit workflows, logistics support and most importantly for the installation of the facility’s IP networking, with factory testing and system fabrication to be completed at our Ely-based headquarters before delivery.

We have delivered the resources to build on-site and integrate new broadcast and network technologies that form the infrastructure of the news centre’s new production hub. Megahertz is fully responsible for the broadcast infrastructure, including studio systems, control rooms, central apparatus room equipment, flash studios, networking, storage, inter area and equipment cabling, cable management, digital signage, documentation and training. Our team is also handling the broadcast fitout of the newsroom, including PCs, associated monitors, printers and phones.

Headshot of Jon Flay, managing director at Megahertz
Jon Flay, managing director, Megahertz

The architecture underpinning the facility is designed around an Evertz IP infrastructure and built on an array of new technologies from suppliers like Calrec, CatDV, IPE, Leyard, Object Matrix, OpenDrives, Sony, Vizrt and Ward-Beck.

We’re not only helping the broadcaster with the challenges of IP implementation, but also guiding and supporting the team’s commitment to the SMPTE 2110 roadmap.

Audio is to be delivered through a selection of ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions because of a desire for AES67/ST2110-30 over that of more established Dante solutions. Despite its infancy, SMPTE 2110-30 has been successfully implemented by a range of suppliers and the system was designed with this in mind.

Ward-Beck’s PreMo mic amplifier interfaces were chosen because they offer SMPTE 2110-30 and will work in collaboration with Calrec audio over an IP interface and the Evertz infrastructure.

This HQ relocation opened the way for this customer to trigger a complete technology refresh and their goal has been to create an end-to-end IP workflow, with remote production capabilities. This all-IP production facility will give them more flexibility and agility in the context of programme making and news reporting.

They are at the very cutting edge of broadcast technology right now when it comes to SMPTE ST 2110. Defining how they roll it out and use it is a challenge that we’re looking forward to helping with.

A Hub of Transition

The success of this project drew on Megahertz’s experience as an expert systems integrator in the IP space. Our team had recently facilitated a landmark migration to IP of a South East Asian pay-TV service provider by designing and implementing a media head-end at the organization’s new state-of-the-art hub, moving across its 280 channels whilst maintaining 24/7 operations – including the relocation of its MAM, traffic scheduling and playout systems.

Offering a full range of information, communications and entertainment services for both consumer and corporate markets, the South East Asian company provides an island wide Hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network that delivers multi-channel pay TV services (including HDTV, Internet TV and on-demand services), a mobile network that provides 4G, 3G and 2G services as well as ultra-high speed residential broadband services. It also operates an extensive fixed business network that provides a wide range of data, voice and wholesale services.

The broadcaster required a UHD-capable headend that would allow its operators to manage both its traditional SDI video and new IP systems on a single platform. In place of potentially two separate SDI and IP systems, The Megahertz team worked with NAGRA to make use of a single MCR platform built from an upgradable technology, to support future UHD channels and IP-enabled pay-TV services in line with the future demands of customers in the region.

This particular system was built around Grass Valley’s NV9000 routers, iControl monitoring and glue technology. A bespoke facility monitoring system correlates information from multiple signals and systems and uses sophisticated alarm management that enables operators to focus on the big jobs and not on the intricacies that underpin them, including whether a channel is baseband or IP.

Master control is delivered through Lawo’s VSM automation solution, while Harmonic servers and Imagine Communications’ automation software support playout and advertisement insertion. In addition, Evertz’s RF equipment is used by the broadcaster to translate L-band signals received from satellite.

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What to consider for your IP transition

But, taking the first steps into this new environment isn’t easy and there is much to consider. Monitoring is always of paramount importance. In the new IP environment, tracking the signal path requires more in depth and dynamic monitoring to keep up with the redundancy built into the network and systems. Software that runs on virtual machines, to specifically identify the hardware culprit that failed, could take vital seconds; So, a mix of open source and proprietary tools need to be presented in a simple, readable form, preferably on one display.

In the Singapore facility hub referenced above, Megahertz deployed an intelligent bespoke facility monitoring system that correlates information from multiple signals and systems and uses sophisticated alarm management to ensure that the hub’s operators can focus on the big jobs and not on the intricacies that underpin them, including whether a channel is SDI or IP.

Those embarking on a transition to IP should also be aware that existing broadcast solutions may not communicate well with new IT-based control systems and conversely there are IT systems that have no concept of broadcasting – so your systems integrator should be well-schooled on the possibilities that are presented in a hybrid SDI/IP infrastructure.

Then there are concerns surrounding security. Any network needs to be protected, but balancing that with the demands of live production, for example, and the ability to deliver immediate responses during mission critical operations, requires careful planning and design.

Considering all of the above, preparing an organisation to operate in this new environment can be a daunting task, so to avoid the pitfalls, it’s judicious to take advantage of the knowledge gained by the early adopters and their technology partners.

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