The BEMC (Broadcast Educational Media Commission), based in Columbus, Ohio, in coordination with Ohio’s eight state-wide PBS member station licensees and The Ohio Channel, have embarked on a major technical and operations digital broadcast transition. As a result of an extensive BEMC RFP process conducted among a dozen technical vendors in early 2015, BEMC has engaged HA Design Group of Springfield, Virginia, to design, acquire, build and implement a 42-channel integrated DTV origination system in concert with the Ohio PBS member stations. BEMC’s RFP and project activities were assisted by SMPTE Fellow and broadcast consultant, John Luff.
By definition BEMC’s centralized channel playout upgrade will be integrated technically and functionally with its statewide broadcast partners and will also provide on-air support for its PBS member stations and The Ohio Channel on a 24/7 basis out of BEMC’s Columbus, Ohio, network operation center (NOC).
A comprehensive the design process commenced immediately in Q2 2015 that proceeded through the assessment and development of alternative ideas, technical strategies, and approaches. The design methodology culminated in drawings and review cycles that reflected input and analysis from numerous Ohio stakeholders and groups.
An inclusive collaboration was needed to develop a successful design and project solution for BEMC, which is why they engaged multiple organizations into a project communications process that would cut across numerous PBS stations’ staff and technology stakeholders including:
BEMC technical group staff
BEMC operations group staff
Individual and PBS station group GMs
Individual PBS station technical staff and operations staff
Individual PBS station traffic department staff.
Ohio’s Oarnet® (statewide fiber network) technical staff
The design collaboration progressed through a full functional layout and definition process for all systems and functions that were called for in the BEMC NOC Modernization Project. An approved system design last fall advanced the project to the acquisition of BEMC-approved equipment and materials within an off-site rack preparation and testing phase during the fall with direct BEMC oversight and involvement.
The BEMC 42-channel centralized playout system is comprised of numerous integrated software components that run on Windows 2012 R2-based Hewlett Packard servers that will utilize the Ohio state-wide network known as Oarnet® to deliver, communicate, and transfer files, IP television, and control signals around the state to each station’s network location. The BEMC-approved design will utilize IP signals to move files and signals within their new playout system with centralized monitoring and quality control staffed from its Columbus, Ohio, location on the 24/7 basis.
This full-featured cost-effective system solution is based on broadcast software modules from Cinegy that is also used for the PBS Network’s back-up NOC location in Lincoln Nebraska. Each of the eight stations and the Ohio Channel are upgrading their existing Myers traffic system into the Protrack® BXF system.
Each of their individual broadcast channels begins with a Protrack® traffic-generated playlist, customized and branded, that is then fed into the integrated Cinegy system for playout on BEMC’s Air Pro servers. The Cinegy integrated software modules support the gathering and exchange of all program files and signals managed by its MAM (media asset manager known as Cinegy Archive M). Each channel’s branding and secondary events are processed and incorporated in real time to produce the playout of channels. The broadcast software system will also convert file formats when needed, based on set rules, and includes a full monitoring function with configurable alarming for all outgoing channels as well as display of Oarnet®-enabled return confidence feeds from the stations back to the BEMC NOC.
The BEMC NOC modernization requirements involve each channel of customized PBS programming to be broadcast from the Columbus NOC through to each station’s location for subsequent playout delivery to existing local RF and headend distribution points. Onsite preparations started during January in Columbus, Ohio, and have progressed past the initial installation of equipment with software application and network integration activities well underway. Each PBS member station is also being integrated into BEMC’s centralized playout system with local monitoring facilities for its BEMC-generated channels and duplex connections into stations’ OTA RF antennas. The project timeline has an expected completion time frame during May 2016.