ITV’s Production Facility Picks Vidchecker integrated with ContentAgent for Workflow Orchestration

Automated frame rate conversion, file-based QC and AS-11 UK DPP deliverables streamline workflow and delivery

3sixtymedia, ITV’s production facility at MediaCityUK has standardised on ROOT6 Technology’s ContentAgent file-based management and automation system for its expanded transcoding farm. The facility now deploys two ContentAgents running on HP Z820 workstations with a further two JobAgents – affordable render nodes – utilising SuperMicro blade servers.

Following the completion of 3sixtymedia’s move to MediaCityUK by root6 at the end of 2013, the broadcaster’s production facility sought to increase the capacity of its transcode farm and workflow orchestration tools. It was at this point that Technical Manager Taig McNab became re-acquainted with ContentAgent, a system he’d previously worked with.

“It was on the list of the kit we needed to look at to achieve a number of objectives,” McNab explains. “In addition to increasing transcoding throughput that would see us into the foreseeable future, we were keen to automate some of our standard processes either side of the edit. We’ve also been doing a great deal of work on creating an efficient AS-11 UK DPP workflow for our broadcast deliverables. Overall we were looking for flexibility in the sense that future workflows could be integrated into our existing infrastructure with minimum fuss.”

Following initial investigation, 3sixtymedia drew up its list of requirements and designed a test matrix to evaluate the various solutions on offer.

“Obviously we were concerned with individual issues such as speed and range of codecs supported, “McNab continued. “In terms of speed we found the competing systems pretty evenly matched but ContentAgent scored when transcoding legacy but still much-used codecs like Avid JFIF.“

“Transcode aside, we were looking for the best way of orchestrating our workflow, as certain elements would need to be tailored to our individual requirements, including automated ingest and integration with our Avid Interplay environment. We also wanted a flexible workflow between visual effects and editing so the ability to get DPX files in and out of our Avid environment was an important feature.”

At the time 3sixtymedia were evaluating the optimum solution to its workflow automation, the proposed DPP delivery standard (which came into effect in October 2014), had still to be finally nailed down.

“It was extremely important for us to be working with a product and vendor that was committed to address the AS-11 deliverables solution, and one that was prepared to take our ideas on board,” said McNab. “A lot of products are designed with the general user in mind, but we, like many others, have highly specific requirements. For example, we wanted the ability for the production team to initiate metadata at the outset of the project, adding to it as it progressed, and having this metadata merged with the technical information supplied from editorial. This looked problematic at first but the ContentAgent development team took our ideas on board. We’ve now developed a unique solution in house using Google Docs and Google Apps Scripts to automatically generate an XML which is saved in a ContentAgent Watchfolder which picks up the metadata along with the master file exported from the edit system. ContentAgent then transcodes to an AVC-Intra MXF file and merges the metadata from the XML to create a certified AS-11 UK DPP file and subsequently initiates the automated file-based QC process.“

“Working closely with post facilities over the years, ROOT6 Technology has a good understanding of the demands of the real world and consequently we now have a workflow automation and delivery system that exactly meets our requirements.”

Integration with third party technologies has proved an advantage for many ContentAgent users and 3sixtymedia has opted for Vidchecker, a popular file-based QC toolset that can check for format integrity, video legalisation, R128 Loudness and PSE analysis with auto correction. 3sixtymedia also uses Signiant for secure and accelerated delivery. Tachyon, the highly acclaimed software from Cinnafilm, is a plug in for ContentAgent’s transcoding engine which provides motion compensated frame rate conversion as an alternative to expensive legacy hardware alternatives requiring clunky returns to baseband. 3sixtymedia uses this option for converting U.S. clip compilations sourced at 59.94i into 50i for inclusion in programming for UK broadcast.

“We’ve now been using ContentAgent for all our file delivery requirements since early 2014,” concludes McNab. “We’re delivering a large amount of AS-11 content to BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – from ‘Countdown’ to ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show.’ Overall, the system gives us the features and workflow flexibility we need and the responsive developer support from ROOT6 Technology means that feature requests are rapidly acknowledged.”

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