FOX International Channels (FIC) UK based in Shepherds Bush re-versions National Geographic and Fox material, creates ads and promos, and prepares programmes for transmission and on-demand viewing for Sky and Virgin in the UK, with a further four channels for Africa. Although tape still plays a reduced role in the acquisition and delivery of material for broadcast, the internal post-production process at FIC is exclusively file-based. Consequently the two networks at FIC’s Shepherds Bush facility; the office management and post-production systems, face increasing demands by users to access file-based content.
Simon Brett, Director of Operations and Technical Facilities, takes up the story. “The need for increased file-based access presented a challenge. We wanted our traffic team to be able to use the post-production system which would have required an additional high spec PC loaded with the necessary fibre and network cards, but we simply didn’t have the desk space for that and the associated monitoring. We approached re-seller and file-based workflow experts root6 with the challenge and they introduced us to Amulet Hotkey which they had already successfully deployed in a number of facilities. Initially it looks like a conventional KVM extension that enables the CPU to be removed from the suite and located elsewhere, but in reality it’s a great deal more than just a point-to-point solution.”
Phil Crawley, Head of Systems Integration at root6, maintains that Amulet is one of the most significant technologies that the company has engaged with in recent years. “Originally the system was widely adopted by the financial community,” explains Crawley. “It enables users to access multiple systems from a single interface over a network connection without operators and, more importantly, the OS/application, being aware it is being used from afar. When we first saw it, the advantages for our market were immediately apparent.”
As the FIC facility was already Cat 5 enabled it was a relatively simple task to install the Amulet network for shared resources. The user sees a list of all connected devices – Avid Media Composer or ContentAgent automated file-based management, for example – and can switch between them, taking control with a single keyboard and monitoring system.
“Amulet allows us to grow our technical resources and gives operators much greater flexibility without sacrificing valuable desk space,” said Brett. “It’s proved very reliable and we have now extended the network to seven machines, moving our graphics team out of a re-vamped MCR. Operators can now spot check files, organise file traffic and instigate transcodes in addition to day to day editing and graphics operations; it’s cost-effective and saves time and effort.”
Amulet incorporates a highly innovative protocol licensed by Teradici – PCoIP, to transfer high quality content within the constraints imposed by the available bandwidth. Three features are particularly important. The system is not application or version dependant – only pixels are transmitted and consequently bandwidth and latency limitations are overcome. Intelligent image decomposition and analysis enables a range of codecs to be deployed according to the material on screen, whether it be titles, text or moving images. Dynamic Network Adaption uses the UPD protocol as employed by IPTV, to maximise available bandwidth still further.
To date, the Amulet network at FIC is internal but, as the organisation looks to utilise offsite storage and processing in the future, the network is fully capable of facilitating that transition. “Today I can check, update and control any networked machine from my desk,” affirms Brett. “While that in itself helps streamline operations, the idea that remote users could access any tool in a central resource over the Internet is a very exciting prospect.”
About FOX International Channels
FOX International Channels is News Corporation’s international multi-media business. FIC develops, produces and distributes 300 wholly- and majority-owned pay-TV channels across Latin America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, in 44 languages.