VGTRK’s new backup TV complex

Russia’s state-owned television and radio broadcaster, VGTRK, announced the launch of a new automated on-Air TV complex (Russian: RAEK) that was developed for the main TV channels backup. Supply of equipment and software, setting up and running of the complex were carried out by specialists of Vidau Systems integration company in partnership with BRAM Technologies, Russian leading developer of videoservers and broadcast automation software.

The key objective of the new complex is providing broadcasting of the VGTK’s most popular channels: Russia 1, Russia 2, Culture and Russia 24 during engineering works on the major broadcast platforms. On-Air TV complex ensures safe non-stop multichannel broadcasting 24/7/365, automatically and continuously “synchronizing” on current playlists and media data of the main complexes.

The heart of new TV complex is AutoPlay system, the most powerful playout automation software of BRAM Technologies. This is the second VGTRK’s complex working on AutoPlay. The first was launched in 2011 and continues to perform successfully by broadcasting 9 independent TV programs on 18 TV channels with standby.

Functional characteristics

New complex provides:

  • non-stop, independent generation of 10 television programs on 10 TV channels;
  • the possibility of forming up to 5 TV programs by combining two TV channels;
  • creating programs in automatic and manual modes;
  • programs playout process with minimal operator intervention;
  • 24 hours operation of the complex for each program;
  • automatic and manual control modes;
  • operating control under all processes of programs preparation and generation;
  • permanent steady indication of the TV programs creation process as well as the state of software system at all workplaces and hardware complex at engineer workplace;
  • automatic and/or manual emergency transition between channels if the hardware fails while forming the TV program (main, backup channels); 
  • working with various sources of video and audio materials (video tapes, video server, programs coming from external sources, logo generators, title generator).

Distribution of media files

Video materials for playback on the main broadcast site are recorded to Harmonic (Omneon) video servers that are under the operation of VGTRK. AutoPlay system within RAEK performs a constant automatic scanning of disk arrays of these servers. When new files appear in Omneon, A-MAM media asset management system within AutoPlay is activated that provides automatic distribution of files to RAEK. Omneon files are transferred to the BRAM Technologies servers without recompression and are played back by the Azimuth video servers “like a native”.

AutoPlay system performs the possibility of recording the video in different modes: on schedule, from VTRs (RS422 control, LTC and VITC support), in the ring recording/playback mode (TimeDelay) or manually.

AutoPlay lets importing of the playlists generated with various traffic systems of media data preparation. To unify the production, playlists format, which AutoPlay automatically takes from the main broadcast site follows the format of the HARRIS automation system.

TV program operator has the ability to preview the recorded or imported file.

Program creation

The main sources of the programs generation are Azimuth video servers that are controlled by the AutoPlay system.

Programs creation is carried out on the basis of imported playlists and prepared media materials. Playlist can be loaded in manual or automatic modes. When loading of the playlist into the broadcast one, the system makes a preliminary analysis of conflict situations for absolute conformity to prepared playlist. Also, it analyzes the presence of recorded video materials to a video server informing about the missing elements.

There is a possibility to use some events taking place in “Live” for direct TV programs generation and recording them to a video server for later use in another TV program. Recording is available in both manual and automatic modes.

Managing the broadcast playlist

For the creation of broadcast TV program AutoPlay provides synchronized video playback on two TV channels that are managed from a single playlist. In addition to the server program, each TV channel includes logo generator, broadcast graphics systems, keyer, VTRs, general switcher. Video playback on the two channels agrees within a frame, the transition from one channel to another in case of emergency goes without picture jerkings and black frames on the Air.

AutoPlay allows a director to edit any on-Air playlist during its playback, including “on Air” event. Immediate switch to another event, in the pause or issue of the standby clip can be performed at any time of playlist playback.

Primary events in the executable playlist can be of different types: with precisely defined or uncertain timing, with the quit by a “button”, with the start in the queue, start by a “button” at the set time, with server or a tape recorder sources, direct «live» insertions, comments, etc.

Broadcast graphics

For each primary event, a secondary graphic event can be identified. For media going from the Azimuth video servers graphic capabilities of the video servers are used. For the events from the external lines there are two TitleStation graphic servers. Each of them can be dynamically included in any TV channels.

Broadcast control recording

In accordance with the Law of the Russian Federation, television programs are obliged to keep on-air recording. For this purpose, the RAEK complex has a built-in AirMonitor system for multichannel “police” recording. The system allows to ingest digital SD/HD SDI video materials with embedded audio.

Material is recorded in 25 frames/sec mode with a user defined bit rate. Recording schedule can be set individually for each channel: recording by time intervals or periodical by hours, days of the week, days. To save disk space AirMonitor system can record materials in loop (in the ring).

Monitoring and administration of the processes

In the RAEK complex is also included new development of BRAM Technologies – SystemMonitor control system, which produces continuous monitoring of each device of the hardware complex.

SystemMonitor regularly requests devices on various parameters and stores the recieving data into an electronic journal. The system allows to track, for example, the temperature within the servers units, available disk space, fans and power supplies parameters, the availability of network connections, processes and services activity, signals delivery on inputs and outputs of video servers, the presence of clock signals and other. For each parameter the critical value can be specified. When it comes to a threshold, the system will notify the engineer via email/SMS. Structure of the entire complex can be displayed as a scheme allowing to evaluate the status of all equipment at a glance.

Despite the large variety of competitive solutions for broadcast automation, VGTRK specialists opted for BRAM Technologies system products that proved to be the most optimal in terms of price and technical characteristics. The new complex is fitted with the latest technologies carried out by reliable software. Based on the most powerful AutoPlay automation system the complex meets modern requirements of the industry, which is very important to maintain the leading position of VGTRK in the Russian TV broadcasting market. Specialists of the BRAM Technologies Company successfully managed the realization of the turnkey project, once again confirming its professionalism and competence.