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Philip Stevens visits the Moscow facility of Russia’s oldest channel to investigate its recent upgrades

It started life as the First Programme of the Central State Television. In 1991, it became the Ostankino State TV and Radio, only to be replaced four years later by Public Russian Television (better known as ORT). On 2 September 2002, ORT was rebranded to Channel One Russia – by which the national broadcaster is currently known.

From its headquarters in the Ostankino Technical Centre in Moscow, the station covers around 99 per cent of the country stretching across 11 different time zones. In 2003, Channel One International Network (COIN) was launched to provide a worldwide audience for the station.

More recently, Channel One embarked on a wide-reaching upgrade programme which has been overseen by Systems Integrator, OKNO-TV.

“Our brief was not just to provide a studio upgrade from SD to HD, but also to bring in a new graphics system and the implementation of tapeless production workflows,” reports Mikhail Kalanchekaev, Deputy Technical Director of OKNO-TV. “Alongside those operations we needed to upgrade the ingest and MCR facilities. The broadcaster has set the date of January 2014 to be fully HD in its operations.”

Three studios were involved in this aspect of the channel upgrade. In order to maintain the broadcaster’s schedule, one studio was tackled at a time – nevertheless, the whole operation had to be completed within nine months.

Combining functions

Sixteen ingest rooms equipped with Grass Valley K2 Summit 3G Solo SD/HD media servers are now available to take feeds from the studios and external feeds. According to Kalanchekaev, the ingest operations is used by playout as well as other programme departments. “It made a great deal of sense to have a central ingest point rather than separating out the various operations.”

In reality, these rooms combine both the ingest operation with some editing facilities. “Although the main objective is to ingest feeds and make visual Quality Control checks, we have equipped the rooms with Grass Valley Edius in order to provide minor corrections for the materials. All Edius operations are edit-in-place thanks to the connection to GV K2 video server storage.”

Kalanchekaev continues, “These ingest facilities permit all metadata to be integrated with all the ingested material which allows producers and others involved in programme preparation to have all the relevant information readily available.”

Yamaha audio mixers are used, although the consoles inputs and outputs are not employed. “We bring in the signals using optics via a MADI connection that enables the audio to be shown on all channels.”

Two of the ingest suites have been fitted with a Lawo mixer for material that involves 5.1 audio. Kalanchekaev reports that there are currently not many transmissions in that format in Russia – the exceptions being special events such as the Olympics.

He says that discussions took place with operational staff concerning the layout of the ingest rooms. “As more and more computers are entering the production chain, it was important that the configuration of the facility suited the individual needs of the staff who had to use them. We feel that the job of a Systems Integrator is to consider such requirements at an early stage.”

Turning tapeless

In addition to the upgrade part of the project, OKNO-TV has also been involved in replacing the broadcaster’s VTRs with tapeless technology. “This will be quite a lengthy process. Channel One still has a number of external production companies that produce and deliver on VT – and it will be some time before they are brought into a mindset of tapeless technology.”

However, a process of archiving the more than 70,000 of hours of tape to files has began.

Central to that archiving process is a Dalet Media Life system. This core MAM platform at Channel One includes 100 Dalet web clients used for accessing the archive. The archive contains legacy content as well as newly produced content that will be saved into same central storage as files. Formats that are available include IMX50, XDCAM HD50, and there is a proxy resolution of 2.5 Mbps h.264.

The Dalet MAM system integrates with other systems such as Tektronix Cerify (QC), Harmonic transcoders, and the Grass Valley K2 servers mentioned earlier. 

It also combines with a Content Storage Management system powered up by DIVArchive from Front Porch Digital. DIVArchive is an open central hub for storing media in multiple formats with a redundancy designed to protect assets. This system assists workflow by providing integration with a range of video devices such as non-linear editing, MAM, newsroom, traffic and automation systems, and ingest/playout video servers.

The DIVArchive system comes with DIVAprotect, which is a constant monitor of the system, gathering detailed information on the movement of content through the file infrastructure, logging statistics, success and failures, and providing a method for proactive content and storage management.

Maintaining control

With its domestic output available across so many time zones, the Master Control Room (MCR) operation plays a crucial role in the broadcast chain. Here, transmission controllers for all the channels and time zones share the same room, with identical equipment for each outlet. Vision and audio switching is carried out using Grass Valley Maestro mixers, TVLogic monitors provide the pictures working alongside Evertz multiviewers.

Graphics for all the channels’ output comes from VizRT. Viz Engine is used for rendering every graphic pixel on air. In order to manage the needs of time zone rebroadcasting, Viz Multichannel has been deployed as a single client that handles the playlist elements of the multiple channels. Harris D Series automation provides the commands for the Viz Multichannel.

Commercials are assembled by the appropriate department and sent as clips to the automated playout equipment in the MCR.

Located in an area next to the MCR is an array of EVS machines. “These are used in live or near live events,” states Kalanchekaev. “For example, for occasions such as the Olympics, the channel may wish to replay a particular happening and this can be executed right here in the MCR area. It also enables the channel to place a short delay in replaying a transmission that is coming in from outside, if necessary.”

The EVS units in place at Channel One incorporate four recording inputs and eight playout ports.

Newsroom upgrade

Channel One’s newsroom is also a major user of EVS technology. Here, 30 Xedio CleanEdit stations provide timeline editing with no rendering required – enabling packagers to be put to air within seconds of the material being ready. These finished edits from Xedio CleanEdit can be used directly for playout or passed to Avid craft editors, if more sophisticated editing is needed.

As an interesting aside, this new tapeless technology in the newsroom went to air for the first time on the night of the Russian Presidential Election in 2008. Clearly, there was a great deal of confidence in the system and those who had installed it.

“That was an event when you wanted to be certain everything would work perfectly. But then, OKNO-TV is one of the biggest partners of EVS in Russia, and we were sure of the system” declares Kalanchekaev.

As the first stage of the upgrade project – studios, MCR, ingest - was drawing to a close, OKNO-TV was asked to carry out a similar operation for the news department.

The newsroom operation uses Viz Content Pilot template filler in association with the Dalet News Suite - the channel’s primary NRCS for  wire ingests, scripting and rundown management. The Dalet NRCS integrates via MOS with EVS Xedio Suite which is used for ingest, editing and playout. The Dalet system also integrates with video switchers and prompters.

Although the digitising of the main production tapes to archive will take some time to complete, the process involving news stories has already been fulfilled.

“One major part of the HD upgrade was to complete a file exchange program that would greatly improve the workflow at Channel One,” explains Kalanchekaev. “This means that shortly it will be possible for all the production islands – EVS, editing, producers and so on – to have access to the archive and manage movement of materials in file format. And that will eliminate the need to search through hours of tape to find material that needs to be transmitted.”

Complex arrangements

“Channel One is a major broadcaster in Russia and its production and technical requirements are multifaceted to meet the number of live hours it produces, the span of time zones that are involved and the desire to achieve the highest possible standards. We looked briefly at a Channel in a Box solution, but decided that the complexity of the operation demanded something more. As a result, OKNO-TV brought together a number of equipment suppliers to meet some very specific needs,” states Igor Yadykin, Channel One representative.

Источник: TVB Europe Сентябрь 2013

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