By Vijaya Cherian
Newly-launched TV channel, i2TV, claims to be the first TV station to have put together a completely tapeless facility in the Middle East. Digital Studio reports.
Itsalat International Company, a major mobile phone distributor in the Middle East and Africa, has recently launched i2TV, a free-to-air television channel dedicated to mobile phones and related accessories. The channel, which is operating out of an office in Dubai Media City, claims to be the first TV station to have put together a completely tapeless facility in the Middle East region.
The TV station has invested in two Panasonic P2 cameras and two Ikegami cameras that run on a hard disc. Programmes are primarily shot on either of these two cameras.
“The benefits of using the P2 or a card system are huge,” says Izzat Kittaneh, managing director of i2 TV. “The bottleneck in any workflow is at the acquisition. Tapes congest workflows as ingesting the raw material from it takes anything from an hour to much longer depending on how much content you have. P2 is designed for fast acquisitions and the camera quality is great. Although the P2 card is expensive, it downloads content at five times the speed of traditional technology. Ikegami also uses a hard disc technology. That’s why we went with it. It’s a bit slower than P2 technology but it serves the same purpose.”
Additionally, Kittaneh says, a P2 or hard disk can be plugged into any laptop to discuss new angles or existing footage with the producer or other members of the crew. “You don’t need to buy a $40,000 VTR to show it to anyone,” he explains.
One P2 camera accommodates five cards of 8GB each. The channel has an additional two cards for redundancy.
Content can be acquired through an FTP connection or through removable media.
This is then edited on Apple Final Cut Pro non-linear editing workstations and automatically referenced by DaletPlus Media Library. A low bit-rate proxy is generated and associated metadata is tagged by media librarians. Programmes and schedules are prepared using DaletPlus workstations and played out on an Omneon Spectrum Media Server. i2TV also uses a Vikinx router from Network Electronics.
“We wanted to build the first tapeless TV station in the Middle East that was driven by a media asset management platform,” says Izzat Kittaneh, managing director of i2 TV. Investing in a solid media asset management for i2TV is crucial as it has plans to eventually distribute its content through other channels as well. For instance, it has plans to stream its content on the Web and re-purpose content for mobile handset devices. The solutions it has currently chosen will enable it to distribute its content through multiple channels effectively.
“DaletPlus Media Library is the umbrella that controls all our digital assets. Previously, if one had tapes and all the assets were stored on tape, one needed a bar code reader and printer and the traditional cart machines. But now, since it is tapeless, the key is media asset management. We need a MAM solution to properly index and catalogue our content. This solution provides us with much more than an automation platform: it drives our content aggregation business,” explains Kittaneh.
i2TV has also invested in two terabytes of storage. However, instead of using the traditional storage brands in the market, the channel, on the advise of local systems integrator, Soft E.D.I.T has deployed a clustered storage system called Isilon IQ from Isilon Systems, a US-based company. The storage vendor recently partnered with Dubai-based Secureway distribution and demonstrated its clustered storage technology at GITEX 2006.
“This is now taking the world by storm because it is clustered storage,” says Naiem Ayied, managing director of Soft E.D.I.T. “Clustered storage is a perfect fit for efficiently storing and managing the unstructured data of TV broadcast and other related multimedia markets, especially as new digital distribution channels prompt broadcasters to move away from traditional tape and look to all digital production and distribution methods. We have worked with SAN and NAS for many years, and in comparison, Isilon’s clustered storage is effectively plug-and-play with better scalability and a higher level of reliability.”
i2TV is the first company to deploy Isilon in the region although clustered storage systems are used by international broadcasters such as NBC, says Ayied. “This is the core of the tapeless workflow of i2. This is replacing the traditional library that every TV station has because there are so many tape libraries and it takes too much space.”
To people who are sceptical about the amount of storage and cost required to store data in a tapeless environment, Kittaneh’s response is that ‘storage is the only thing in the industry that is becoming cheaper by the month’. “Your hard drive two years ago was two GB while today, 100 GB is standard at the same price,” says Kittaneh.
Being a tapeless channel gives i2TV several advantages. For one, it saves a lot of time; it is more efficient and everyone on the network can access data at the same time. “The whole process of digitising material is tedious given that everything else in the workflow is digital. If the acquisition is digital, the rest of the workflow will be much smoother,” explains Kittaneh.
The company currently operates out of a temporary facility in Dubai Media City but plans to move to a bigger and better equipped facility when Dubai Studio City is ready.