Public broadcaster Mauritius Broadcast Corporation (MBC) is staying ahead of the curve, heading toward the final phase of its digitisation initiative with the implementation of a R7-million Avid Unity ISIS media storage solution by Spescom Media IT.
The solution more than doubles MBC's production efficiencies and lays the groundwork for the possible launch of six more digital television channels toward the end of 2009.
Says Darma Caroopunnen, Engineer and Project Leader at MBC: "As a public broadcaster, MBC applies stringent assessment criteria to any solution it acquires. The solution must be cost effective; deliver tangible benefits to meet current and future business and operational needs; integrate with our existing solutions, and have a clear product and solution development roadmap that will allow us to timeously evolve the technological platform on which MBC must function.
"Our journey toward complete digitisation of our operations – from acquisition to transmission – started more then a decade ago. We selected Avid technology as it met our criteria, playing a significant role in our migration from analogue solutions. Spescom Media IT, the leading Avid business partner in the region, has become a trusted business partner in terms of advising us on appropriate solutions to meet our needs, as well as supplying, implementing and providing necessary integration expertise."
Notes Jene Palmer, CEO at Spescom Limited: "Spescom Media IT has a strong track record in the broadcast arena. Our in-depth knowledge of broadcast solutions and industry requirements enables us to add considerable value to our customers' businesses."
MBC has relied on Avid technology for more than a decade and has been following a deliberate upgrade path. Explains Caroopunnen from MBC: "As a public broadcaster we have to provide fair and relevant content, including timeous reporting on current events. The challenge was that our existing media storage solution, the Avid LANshare server, had reached capacity.
"With the Avid LANshare used primarily for programming, our post production news teams were using slow and inefficient processes. In addition, the editing suites which we were using presented format handling limitations which were a burden. We thus decided to completely digitise the newsroom."
Notes Sean du Toit, MD of Spescom Media IT: "MBC has a strong in-house technical and engineering team and was very clear on what they needed to achieve. Without doubt, the Avid Unity ISIS server v.2.0 was an ideal solution for the broadcaster. It provides numerous benefits, combining high performance, scalability and availability with powerful yet simple to use management tools and an open architecture.
"For MBC's live news environment where errors or failures can be disastrous and speed is of the essence, it offered a more stable, reliable system. Improved administration functionality would also let system administrators manage access and assign rights from anywhere, an important requirement as content stores grow and non-linear editing becomes the norm. And, importantly, new management capabilities streamline central storage management, a vital component of a fully digital broadcast operation."
The Avid Unity ISIS server v.2.0 was installed and commissioned with the assistance of Spescom Media IT, and the necessary support and training provided. Says Du Toit: "The Spescom Media IT team consulted closely with MBC to ensure the implementation did not disrupt operations and assisted to optimise workflow design. Operational and technical training was done as the solution was rolled out, ensuring maximum benefits were achieved from the new solution from the start."
The server provides guaranteed real-time performance to all connected clients. Each Avid storage blade contains two 500GB drives for a total of 16 TB per chasis. With the implementation of the new 1TB drives and the ability to interconnect up to 12 chassis together, it can provide a storage capacity of 384 TB per Avid Unity ISIS system.
Adds Du Toit: "The Avid Unity ISIS is based on a highly scalable, self-balancing, distributed architecture. Each storage blade includes its own processor, so when you add capacity, you also add intelligent processing power.
"Unlike common storage area networks (SANs) the advanced Avid Unity ISIS architecture distributes data and metadata so that each intelligent storage element can make instant decisions that collectively optimize the performance, capacity, and health of the entire system. Complementary redundancy across all components provides an unprecedented seven layers of protection for uninterrupted availability and absolute reliability in high-pressure broadcast, post, or film production environments."
With the ISIS system up and running, MBC could move ahead with its strategy to create a completely tapeless and paperless environment. It thus acquired high definition digital Sony EX3 cameras to replace its Betacam and DVcam equipment, so further decreasing news production time. Meanwhile, a database server for text, which allowed text produced by news editors to be read directly in editing rooms and on-air transmission, was set up on the LAN platform to create a paperless system.
MBC now heads towards the last phase of its digitisation initiative which it aims to complete by March 2010. This final phase will see the introduction of a play-out broadcast server that will bridge the gap in editing, providing a totally tapeless solution from acquisition to transmission.
Says Caroopunnen: "MBC currently has 12 digital and three analogue channels. With our imminent move to new premises, we are considering launching six more digital channels. We believe the Avid Unity ISIS storage solution will more than cater for our growing operations.
"As remote as we are geographically, it's important that we have a well informed technical team. Spescom Media IT team provided excellent support and training, getting our staff up to speed on new functionality and turning mystery into mastery."
Notes Du Toit: "The Avid technology is rated among the top three in the world and is used by leading broadcasters. The advantages it offers are not only its leading edge capabilities, but the fact that is provides a modularised, integrated end-to-end solution, from ingest to playout. MBC has positioned itself well for future growth with its selection of Avid technology as a central pillar in its infrastructure."
Spescom Media IT operates in sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritius and the Seychelles.