Masood Shabnam Parwez
Assistant Manager – Broadcast Technical,
Dish TV.

Channel-In-A-Box Technology – Integrated Playout

In broadcasting there are various types of playout automations that exist in the media industry. Traditional playout automation has many slave devices like playout server, router, channel branding for logo, graphics machine, audio companders, bypass router subtitle servers, and clients to access the system with NAS storage and RAIDS as the central storage system.

Although the traditional automation is stable, we face the system down issue. It is too expensive and takes more rack space and requires heavy infrastructure to install in the CAR room. Lots of cabling work is required to set up a playout channel. It is good for big broadcasters but not economic for small broadcasters.

Channel-in-a-box playout technology integrates all the elements needed to keep a channel on-air by combining scheduling, ingest, playout, CG, subtitling, loudness control, and interactive graphics within a single box. It does not require routers as live signals can be connected directly to these servers for any outside content for on-air. This type of system is suitable for the kind of playout channel where frequent changes on playlists are not required like movie channels and music channels.

The channel-in-a-box playout system does not require more rack space, power, and requires less cabling. It is robust, low-maintenance, and high-quality due to its integration. In traditional automation we need to maintain all the large systems including servers and routers. It uses file-based implementation via IP networking for the ingest.

All the servers are connected to the database server. The solution uses centralized asset management, and a distributed playout architecture that can make use of existing infrastructures. It is cost saving and requires a smaller infrastructure. News and sports channels can be run through these servers but last moment changes are sometimes not allowed by the system. These systems are Linux-based and have a software-centric high-availability architecture for 24×7 playout applications.

The output can be SDI and IP streaming which is suitable for applications like broadcast TV, internet TV, and cable TV. It is available in SD and HD playout. Multiple outputs are available for on-air and monitoring as well.

Two servers are required for a single TV playout channel as primary and standby. A standby server runs parallel in sync with the primary server. In case of primary server failure, the standby server can be automatically switched on-air via a changeover switch without any video loss.

HD/SD file content and live signal both can be scheduled on a playlist and played via a channel-in-a-box server. This type of technology is a very good option for a single TV playout channel in a very less cost as compared to traditional playout automation. Format conversion of PAL to NTSC option is also available in this server. Any graphics can be played, complex 2D/3D graphics branding, static, animated, or any other bug can be scheduled. This server supports Dolby 5.1 encoding and decoding, multilanguage multi user and multichannel subtitle preparation, and insertion of open caption, close captioning, and streaming of DVB subtitles are available as add-on options on purchase of license. Cue tone trigger generation option is available for spot replacement as per the requirement.

It also supports upscaling and downscaling with the aspect ratio selection option. The channel-in-a-box was introduced in 1999 and now has 13,200 playout and branding systems installed worldwide. Although the box playout solution is gaining popularity in the market, many vendors are offering the playout solution but the customers are going for the stable system with multi-functional and optimal systems. The main function of the system is that it provides IP streaming which can be viewed as per the customer’s convenience via OTT. This can be downloaded anywhere on your system through high-speed internet.

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