Two large puzzle pieces being put together

At Imagine, we can trace our history back to the very beginnings of playout automation ― to the days of VTRs and cart robots ― and we have drawn on that heritage to develop today’s solutions. The fundamental principle has not changed: broadcasters want high quality and reliability ― keeping the channel on air is a mission-critical goal.

But at the same time, broadcasters want operational simplicity and efficiency. Today, they also want to deliver multiple channels to multiple platforms, with advanced options such as UHD, HDR or undiscovered ones still to come. Finally, there is the unstoppable shift in technology platforms ― from legacy bespoke devices to SMPTE ST 2110 connectivity, or between virtualized software appliances that can run as seamlessly in the cloud as in the machine room.

That represents a series of challenges and tensions. But Imagine has a set of responses.

First is Versio™, Imagine’s integrated playout platform, designed to support premium channels with tools like complex dynamic graphics and the ability to switch seamlessly between fully automated operation and live intervention, for example, for sports channels.

Versio helps to bridge the SDI and IP worlds, so it is an ideal transition platform. To migrate from SDI to uncompressed video over IP, you simply swap out the I/O board. Ingest workflows are widely covered with either Nexio+™ AMP for SDI or Versio Ingest for ST 2110 streams.

For greater interoperability in ST 2110 environments, Versio supports NMOS IS-04 and IS-05. These globally recognized specifications allow for IP devices to be discovered and managed across a network. Because they are open standards, it means, for example, that you can use  Imagine’s Magellan™ Control System to manage routing control, but equally, you can choose a network management layer from another vendor.

Alongside Versio is Imagine’s widely deployed ADC™ playout automation, which runs channels with multiple requirements across five continents. ADC can drive very large numbers of channels, controlling Versio engines or other broadcast devices. It supports multiple topologies and can run on dedicated device controller pairs. But it can also be implemented within Versio software for complete functionality in a single server ― ideal for smaller installations.

ADC provides what every broadcaster demands from a playout system: resiliency. They depend on having all their channels seamlessly on air no matter what happens. ADC is also feature-rich and scalable, designed for the complex requirements of on-premises master control environments and ideal for highly reactive channels.

A key factor in every automation environment is interoperability. External devices are controlled with frame accuracy. Open APIs allow external systems to exchange scheduled data or content data in real time. ADC also integrates with all major Traffic systems in the market — a prerequisite for generating complex playlists and different variants, for example, for regional stations or to quickly reconcile as-run logs for ad revenue recognition.

The entire playout solution benefits from a seamless connection to different content storage options ― local servers for immediate delivery, NAS shared storage, and nearline archives on-premises or in the cloud. The quickest turnaround between ingest and playback can be achieved using Imagine's IOX NAS storage, supporting critical workflows such as play-while-record or play-while-transfer. IOX provides elastic bandwidth, on-air scalability and, most importantly, guaranteed high availability: should there be a hardware failure, there will be no disruption to the channel output or to signals recorded.

Any automated playout architecture needs to manage content flows to ensure the right media is in the right place. In the file-based age, this also means transcoding where necessary. It also needs tools for media preparation such as segmenting for breaks and for ensuring that quality control checks are completed before transmission.

Redundancy and business continuity are essential to keeping a channel on air. With ADC and Versio you can choose 1+1 full channel redundancy for premium channels, or N+M for less critical services, with a shared pool of backup integrated playout engines primed to step in quickly. The inherent remote-control capabilities also extend to disaster recovery sites, which can be at another managed premises or in the cloud ― all capable of automatic setup and failover when required.

Most important, Imagine’s playout solutions are ideally suited to hybrid SDI/2110 environments and multiple vendor systems, providing continuity and confidence during any long-term transition.

December 1, 2022 - By Ignacio Revuelto Roselló
Product Marketing Manager
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