Following a European Invitation to tender, the European Central Bank selected BCE for handling the webcasting of live and on-demand monetary policy decisions press conferences.
The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank of the 19 European Union countries which have adopted the euro. The ECB was looking for a video partner to ensure the coverage of the Governing Council press conferences and other event webcasts.
BCE was selected for its advanced webcasting platform allowing content reception, transcoding, packaging and worldwide distribution.
This project benefits from the recent acquisition of Freecaster, combining expertise and know-how of both companies to perfectly answer the needs of the ECB.
Connected to RTL City, its headquarters, via dark fibre, the teleport of BCE will ensure the downlink of the ECB production feeds. With its advanced IP-based infrastructure, BCE can transcode the live content and repackage the streams. BCE’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) will then ensure the worldwide stream distribution.
“For this project, BCE will rely on three pillars, its teleport, allowing content reception from anywhere in the world, its 1000 square meters datacenter with IP connectivity and transcoding platforms and its CDN with a worldwide connectivity,” explains Baptiste Fosséprez, Products & Services Development Director at BCE. “The software technology layer will be a mix between BCE’s existing streaming solutions and Freecaster advanced solutions.”
The live streaming expertise of Freecaster grants access to new solutions such as an advanced video player. Besides the stability of the player and its classical features such as adaptive streaming and multiplatform compatibility, the system will be completely customized to ECB’s needs and will integrate a video teaser with a countdown before broadcasting and multilingual selection during the live stream.
The videos will be distributed as live stream and as Video on Demand (VoD) on the ECB website as well as on social networks including Periscope, Twitter and YouTube. The live stream workflow will be monitored from BCE’s Network Operations Centre (NOC) during each production and the ECB will have access to advanced statistics tools to both measure the audience and monitor the quality of service.
“Acquiring Freecaster was part of BCE strategy to develop its Total Video offer. The ECB project reflects perfectly the new dual expertise of BCE (linear and non-linear), with the combination of live broadcast and a VoD portal.” Concludes Frederic Lemaire, CEO at BCE.
While « Over IP » is the new trend on the media technology market, the number of companies adopting this technology evolves sluggishly. Following the latest IBC, the technology is clearly there, but there is a lack of knowledge on the system integrator side to provide both IT and Broadcast expertise in environments with are evolving towards the perfect blend of both technologies.
Two years ago, Broadcasting Center Europe set the ball rolling, with the first over IP headquarters including the broadcast centre, the production and postproduction platforms as well as the ingest and news workflows.
IP-based platforms allow us to rapidly setup new channels,” comments Costas Colombus, Technology Projects & Support Director at BCE. “Whereas it is for continuous or ephemeral channels, we are able to give a fast answer and start broadcasting the content worldwide.”
“We recognized a strong consumer demand for pristine content but need to also provide for that demand in the most cost-effective and efficient manner,” said Julian Ankiah, Head of Technology Engineering at MultiChoice Support Services. “We needed to take advantage of the benefits of IP signal reticulation, while ensuring tight integration with our existing platforms, and particularly our business services.”
Multichoice moved to an IP playout platform thanks to Imagine Communications, Megahertz started to work with major US broadcasters for the implementation and tests of IP, CCTV renovated its platforms with NDT and RadioFr and La Télé, both swiss private broadcasters, upgraded to an all IP broadcast centre with SLG Broadcast AG.
“MEDIAParc is the first all-IP mediahouse in Switzerland, and as such it represents the successful realisation of an ambitious vision encompassing cross-media workflows,” said Marc Straehl, CEO of SLG Broadcast AG. “RadioFr wanted all-IP infrastructure for both radio and TV sides of the house. They wanted to virtualise the production environment, so that editorial PCs could contribute programming directly via the network.”
What about audiovisual education and high schools? It is paramount to make the roots evolve as soon as possible, in order to have qualified employees in our next generation media companies. Of course, it is part of our job to train the actual staff to meet the new technology, but it would be much more effective to change the student curriculum and include immediately over IP knowledge.
Recently the BTS Audiovisual Henri Martin, in the City of Saint-Quentin in France, decided to upgrade to IP SMPTE-2110 its infrastructure. The school decided to keep both SDI and IP technologies, in order to be sure that their students will be well prepared for any type of infrastructure. The choice is quite smart, since there is still a lot of media players that are not equipped with this technology, but it will be an undeniable asset for the companies to have employees which can evolve easily with future upgrades.
Jacques Tabary, the headmaster of Henri Martin High School told us that they were looking forward to evolving to IP for a long time but that they did not know themselves how to start such a transition. To do so they were helped by Boite à Outils Broadcast which helped them draft a specification and publish a tender. Broadcasting Center Europe (BCE) was selected and worked hand in hand with the teachers and the students to answer all their needs in technology and training.
“We have fifteen teachers on the technical part at the BTS. You must rely on teachers who have been able to take this type of training, but also on professionals – for example we have a chief editor who comes from Canal+. As part of this project, we had not sized the importance of training on the hardware and related new technologies such as IP. BCE has trained our teachers so that they can acquire the skills necessary to use the equipment,” comments Jacques Tabary.
A few weeks ago, we heard that Orange Business Services, a network operator and a digital services integrator teamed up with BCE for the Radio France project. The massive French radio group has announced that it will transform the media infrastructure of its headquarters, Maison de la Radio, to next generation, full IP technology.
“The combined expertise of Orange Business Services and BCE, complemented by the professionalism of Maison de la Radio’s project teams, will allow us to innovate and facilitate the production and broadcast of programs while meeting the highest standards required by the media sector,” comments Patrick Fasso, Technical and Information Systems Director at Radio France.
Tomorrowland, the world’s biggest electronic dance music festival, has joined forces with Freecaster to deliver high-quality, real-time video of each event, to be enjoyed by a global live audience online. We promise customisation, hands-on support and for our clients to reach unlimited audience worldwide. Since 2017, Tomorrowland enriched the online experience using Freecaster’s multi-channel video player to allow viewers to choose between different stages streamed simultaneously in the same video-responsive multi-bitrate video player.
Freecaster enjoys working for clients such as Tomorrowland who continuously raise the bar. In 2019, Freecaster worked intensively alongside Flowplayer and Fastly to provide a seamless 72-hour, non-stop live streaming service.
“The target for our customer was to expand the festival experience to the electronic community, with the opportunity to follow the main action of the festival live and experience the thrill of Tomorrowland.” Ray Dulieu, CEO and founder at Freecaster.
Seamless multi-channel streaming
Tomorrowland is a massive event, a world of different experiences with multiple acts performing live at the same time. It was essential for Freecaster to convey this experience and choice online by offering multi-channel live streaming. We received four video feeds onsite at the festival, as well as a dynamic DJ line up allowing viewers on web and mobile a seamless switch between the different live stages within the same HTML5 video player. Freecaster’s Online Video Platform streamed live on Tomorrowland’s website, app and on partner networks. We also delivered five radio feeds for selected internet radio networks.
The platform was supervised throughout the two weekends of the festival using Freecaster’s monitoring dashboard fed by data from Fastly, Mux and Touchstream. The interface gives a precise overview for the monitoring engineers, shows traffic stats (impressions, unique visitors, countries, and more) and can be accessed by Freecaster remotely anywhere in the world. This close monitoring and flexibility ensures the platform is stable and any issues can be promptly addressed, resulting in a seamless customer experience.
“The new version of our video player, with the multi-stream features, allows live streaming, live switch from one stage to the other and gives a clear view of what is coming next.” Ray Dulieu, CEO and founder at Freecaster.
Advanced live video player
Freecaster selected Flowplayer to provide a unique experience for Tomorrowland’s live streaming audience. Flowplayer worked using FP8 – Native, its award-winning HTML5 player. Building the player completely from scratch, Flowplayer has succeeded in adapting to the HTML5 world of today’s web. The player size is reduced to a minimum, significantly enhancing stability. The small codebase results in faster load-time and fewer possibilities of errors.
Flowplayer worked in close collaboration with the developer unit at Freecaster, implementing FP8 together with the Freecaster platform. Deep shared understanding provided the basis for a joint roadmap to meet the high standards of Tomorrowland festival and deliver the best possible performance and user experience. Together we reached more than 10 million music fans, live streaming worldwide.
CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) helps Freecaster multiply traffic for live streaming events. Freecaster joined forces with Fastly to deliver global live streaming of Tomorrowland 2019, and used Fastly’s edge cloud platform to live stream 3PB with 250 Gbps average transfer rate (reported by Freecaster, as of September 2019). Fastly’s fast and globally distributed network ensured all video streams played instantly, without buffering or interference, while independent, real-time functionality meant that Freecaster had control over configurations.
In the build-up to the event, the Fastly and Freecaster technical teams collaborated over a dedicated Slack channel and numerous scoping calls. During the event, Fastly’s Network Operations Centre provided Freecaster with Live Event Monitoring, daily reporting and dedicated on-site support.
“Fastly’s network speed and self-service features helped to considerably improve the performance of our live streams for the largest dance festival in the world. Fastly also provided a dedicated team of network engineers to monitor the event from their Network Operations Centre, ensuring any issue that could arise would be addressed quickly. Offering more than peace of mind, it allowed our teams to focus on other areas of the delivery workflow during the event.” Ray Dulieu, CEO and founder at Freecaster
As the technical provider of RTL TVI, BCE is responsible for broadcasting RTL TVI, CLUB RTL and PLUG TV channels from Luxembourg. Providing many services for the company, BCE was looking for a solution to automate the production process of the customer’s trailers.
BCE turned to the Automate-IT solution developed by the publisher Embrace, which went into production in early summer 2019.
Automate-IT automates the process of packaging, generating and delivering trailers by aggregating data and media. As a result, the users can avoid any non-creative tasks, produce more for broadcast or social networks and always in perfect compliance with the graphical chart of their company.
“With an increasing volume of trailers, it was critical for BCE to find an intuitive solution, allowing the automation of the production workflow. The Automate-IT solution perfectly meets this need and integrates particularly well into our private cloud hosted in Luxembourg” explains Frédéric Fievez, Projects Development Director at BCE.
The Automate-IT platform is focused on three features:
A simple creative process for the production and validation of trailers through HTML panels accessible from any PC at BCE, including for the most sophisticated channel branding.
API-controlled Adobe® After Effects and Media Encoder solutions that are used daily by the on-air promo team.
A workflow engine that integrates and adapts easily to BCE’s editorial and technical contexts. In addition, the platform allows a secured connection with the business information and management systems.
These points fostered the integration of the solution into BCE’s production workflow and its adoption by the operational teams. At the launch of the service, BCE automatically produces more than 200 trailers per week for RTL TVI and about 25 per week for PLUG TV already.
“We are particularly proud to have had the opportunity to participate in a project with BCE whose DNA, for almost a century, has been marked by technological innovation and operational excellence”. Concludes Julien Gachot, CEO at Embrace.
For more information on the Automate-IT solution and the project with RTL TVI, meet us at the IBC on BCE booth (Hall 7, Stand 7.C37) and Embrace booth (Hall 6, Stand 6.C26).
Discover BCE’s online video solutions for both live and on-demand high-quality content serving customers such as TV and radio broadcasters, brands, event organizers and sport and cultural events.
Live streaming massive events such as Tomorrowland and the fashion weeks, BCE has acquired a leading position on the market with a solid player, multiple features and global delivery.
Thanks to BCE’s Online Video Platform (OVP) and services, the customer can create video platforms (VoD, Replay, PayTV, etc.), manage and distribute its content, monitor and analyze its audience.
Produce and broadcast with StudioTalk
StudioTalk is an all-in-one solution to produce shows, manage content, add special effects, control sets and broadcast your programs on any existing platform. Experience live production and 360° distribution through an easy touch interface and powerful system.
Thanks to an intuitive Graphic User Interface and a touchscreen, the customers are able to control cameras, feeds and studio sets.
An automated mode can let StudioTalk work on its own to ensure seamless production and broadcast.
An advanced Content Management System is built-in and can easily be connected to your workflow.
Encrypt the content with BCE DRM.
Itstored, BCE’s cloud backup and storage solution
With S3 (Simple Storage Service) protocol being a worldwide standard, BCE ensures the protection of the files as well as its immediate availability as itstored is directly connected to the customer workflow.
The customer can perform unlimited actions on your content with a single, flat rate
Thanks to BCE’s bandwidth, The customer can access your content at any time
With more than 22 PB, the customer can backup all its content
The content can be stored on two redundant datacenters
Discover as well BCE’s recent system integration projects for Groupe M6, BNJ, RTS and Antenne Reunion, the remastering of Baywatch for Fremantle, BCE’s DRM services and our 4K Broadcast services of Altice and Luxe.tv.
The Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS) is a public service audiovisual company, owned by the media group SSR (Swiss Broadcasting and Television Corporation), which offers programmes on four radio channels, two TV channels and numerous digital platforms.
“The RTS project uses all the strengths of StudioTalk, whether in production, channel branding, monitoring or distribution. Working hand in hand, we were able to make our solution evolve to meet their needs,” comments Olivier Waty, Workflows and Media Solutions Director at BCE.
StudioTalk, a solution developed by Broadcasting Centre Europe (BCE), is a complete solution for live and non-live video production with the management of the editorial content of the shows, the channel branding and the sets as well as the broadcasting of the programmes on any platform.
“We needed to take a new step with “Forum”, and we were looking for a solution that could offer us all the tools we needed to make television from the same interface. StudioTalk was the answer.” Explains Stéphan Mahrer, Responsable mise en image des productions radio at RTS.
In order to enrich the user experience on the Internet and on social networks, it was important for RTS to shoot its most important radio programmes, namely “La matinale” and “Forum”. Using StudioTalk, RTS creates real talkshows, broadcast these on their website, on social networks and especially on television.
“For StudioTalk users, it’s very easy to find all the tools they need to do their production, whether it’s Picture in Picture, enrichment or the management of the screens on the set. The user also has the option to switch to the automatic production mode to perform another task during a broadcast and then regain control in due course,” adds Stéphan Mahrer.
More than an advanced production solution, StudioTalk also allows the RTS to monitor its equipment via a real-time monitoring interface of all the elements of their workflow.
“In StudioTalk, we have access to a technical supervision that usually appears on more expensive systems. This allows us to have an overview of the services and monitor the operations. This will allow a person to perform complex support tasks even for a Level 1 intervention support, restarting one or another system to ensure its availability during live production.” Explains Philippe Staehlin, Chef Secteur Systèmes Broadcast at RTS.
BCE has also supported the RTS teams in the integration of their new studio. The solution has been customized to meet the customer’s expectations. Working hand in hand, RTS and BCE made the solution evolve and to allow any employee, with a technical background or not, to use the solution easily.
“In this project, what was really important for us was the relationship with BCE, we found a real partner with whom we made our show and our tool evolve at the same time.” Concludes Stéphan Mahrer.
Flashback on the first IP-based broadcast centre with state-of-the-art platforms and numerous innovative production and distribution applications to answer the needs of today and tomorrow media players.
The 36,000 square meter IP-based facility supports 24/7 broadcasting of more than 35 channels, among those RTL Télé Lëtzebuerg, Chamber TV, Luxe.TV (Luxembourg), RTL TVI, Club RTL, Plug TV (Belgium), RTL4, RTL5, RTL7, RTL8, RTL Z, RTL Crime, RTL Telekids, RTL Lounge (Netherlands), RTL9 and AB Groupe movie channels and Altice Group channels (France), RTL Hungary (Hungary) and Love Nature, Love Nature 4K, Blue Ant Extreme, Blue Ant Entertainment (Singapore).
The broadcast centre was three years in the making and features an end-to-end IP infrastructure and well-conceived data IT network that manage mostly HD (and some 4K) content and channels.
“IP-based platforms allow us to rapidly setup new channels,” comments Costas Colombus, Technology Projects & Support Director at BCE. “Whereas it is for continuous or ephemeral channels, we are able to give a fast answer and start broadcasting the content worldwide.”
The new broadcast centre is located in in the centre of Europe. All the radio and television production facilities and playout centre operations employ the latest IP-enabled equipment from technology suppliers like Arista, Grass Valley (GV), Isilon, Juniper, Lawo, Harmonic.
Advanced research and systems integration
All of the equipment and systems were installed and tested by BCE. When plotting out goals for the new building, BCE engineers wanted the new infrastructure to be both future-proof and able to adapt to new workflow challenges as needed.
When it first began to consider replacing its traditional SDI systems in 2014, the available IP technology wasn’t suitable for real-world deployments or mission-critical broadcast use, and most solutions were proprietary. The process resumed in 2015 with six months of intensive interoperable testing. For BCE it was critical that the IP solution had the same quality of service and reliability achieved in the SDI world, but with an increased level of scalability, stability, propagation delays and synchronization.
Working with engineers at The Institut für Rundfunktechnik GmbH (IRT) research centre, BCE began looking at the SMPTE 2022-6 IP spec as a way to connect all of the disparate systems and have them communicate as a fully networked system. This would streamline the production of content and get it to the right TV, radio, and web platform for its own purposes, as well as support the numerous playout and other services it provides for major U.S. content distributors like CBS, NBC Universal, Warner Brothers Television and others.
Laurent Seve, Marketing Manager at BCE, said that when their team began researching different ways of implementing IP technology, they recognized that what was needed was a facility that was significantly different to what had been done in the past.
“The new facility is flexible enough to handle all types of content creation and distribution projects,” Laurent Seve said. “The collaboration between the IT and broadcast teams led to new types of workflow methods and allowed to get the most out of the systems.”
Technology provider Grass Valley was brought in to help test a series of IP workflows. Fiber-optic cabling, which is bandwidth-friendly, supports the various systems and connects all floors of BCE. There’s also lot of Cat6 cable installed throughout the building for things like data networks, online access and a variety of control (KVM) functions.
“The IP-technology allowed the move to a fiber-based cabling infrastructure,” said Alain Prim, Technology Projects Manager at BCE. “All the areas of the building are connected through a reduced amount of cables which are able to transport a far higher number of services. The multiple changes in media services are now easier to manage without the need of modifications in the basic cable or hardware structure.”
Indeed, BCE is now responsible for the playout of over 35 regional and international channels, from its Luxembourg Network Operations Centre (NOC). This NOC also manages transmission sites, located on remote sites in Luxembourg and Germany. Online and available 24/7, the NOC team ensures the continuity of BCE’s and its customers activities by answering all queries and taking targeted actions.
Thanks to the IP solution implemented, the NOC can fully operate, and control BCE’s Teleport located miles away. All the antennas, uplinks and downlinks, receivers, etc. are remote controlled over IP by the NOC.
The core of the production activities features a 1,000 sqm datacentre with one-megawatt capacity and 366 floor-to-ceiling equipment racks that store and distribute the content (and metadata) internally and outside the building. In-row water-cooled airflows keep the systems at optimal temperatures.
“Numerous customers selected our datacentre for its flexibility, its advanced infrastructure and the access to numerous services,” comments Xavier Boschian IS&T Director at BCE. “As a result, we have already built a second datacentre and are looking to extend the platform to welcome more customers.”
System and content security
Securing the operations of its customers is BCE’s priority, the new IP workflow of RTL City facilitates connections setup to remote sites for disaster recovery (DR) platforms.
Data is handled with the utmost care and stored in BCE’s storage facility. Whereas it is administrative, financial or media content such as videos and audio, BCE holds several solutions including a 20 Petabytes nearline Digital Library, online and offline solutions as well as S3 cloud backup and storage (through its flagship solution: itstored).
There are also three diesel generators for backup power, with UPS technology everywhere for system resilience. In fact, every piece of equipment is connected to two independent electrical power supply paths—with intelligent sensing and monitoring that will automatically connect the device to a third backup supply if two live and active electrical supplies are not detected.
Linked via dark fibre to BCE’s headquarters, the DR site features emergency workstations, playout platforms for the premium channels, a digital library with several Petabytes and a datacentre.
Flexible production and remote control
Due to its IP backbone, several production studios can share control rooms if necessary, with one control room controlling various productions at once. There are also several audio mixing rooms, and advanced lighting grids in the production stages.
About 30 post-production suites support a number of radio and TV channels as well as other outside client needs. These are based around GV edit stations with networked Isilon storage.
All the radio studios have voice-activated broadcast cameras in them so that when a particular on-air talent is talking, the appropriate camera goes live. The system has proved to be very flexible for full spec broadcasting on a main channel as well as generating a web stream.
“We have always anticipated the merge between IT and Broadcast technologies and decided to stop talking about new solutions and change the complete workflow of our activities to IP,” said Andreas Fleuter, Technical Infrastructure & SLA Director at BCE.
IP backbone makes the difference
While the internal network can be expanded as needed, the initial deployment is based around the VSF TR-03 protocol for distributing video over IP, using SMPTE ST 2022-6/7 and AES67 redundant IP streams. This includes multi-level routing support of the VSF TR-03 protocol for audio breakaways.
The building’s architecture supports 10Gbe, 25Gbe and 40GbE connectivity. GV provided an end-to-end IP routing system to meet this, complete with full SMPTE ST 2022-7 redundant hitless operation and seamless recovery from interruption to one IP link. GV also supplied a massive routing matrix that can handle 1036×1584 2022-6 video flows and 1180×1728 AES67 (each x8 AES3) audio flows.
Other GV IP technology in use includes its Kahuna IP production switchers, IQ-Edge IP processing systems, IP routing control systems and multiviewers. These are fully networked to a Lawo Virtual Studio Manager (VSM) control layer that manages all of the IP signals and tells the routers where (and when) to send them. There’s also a GV monitoring system that collects data from the IP sub-system, along with a direct interface to a Skyline Communications DataMiner network management and monitoring layer.
Evolution and Revolution
With the new IP infrastructure in place, any room or machine in the building can be accessed and used by any other with just a few router settings. In addition, operators at RTL City can now launch a new channel in a few days, as opposed to the 4-5 months it took previously.
“Technology and innovation are in BCE’s roots,” comments Tun Van Rijswijck, COO at BCE. “This all-IP infrastructure was meant to break the barriers and open to new linear and non-linear developments. Our recent acquisitions and innovations strengthen our conviction that we are on the right track.”
As a matter of fact, since the opening of RTL City, several channels selected BCE as their technological partner: Altice launched a multiplayout control room broadcasting numerous channels over Europe including a Live sport channel in 4K over IP and Blue Ant Media (BAM) launched Love Nature in HD and 4K in multiple languages.
With the acquisition of Freecaster, BCE enriched its portfolio with new hybrid solutions directly connected to the Cloud. Freecaster’s platform was perfectly integrated in BCE’s IP workflow, granting access to live streaming solutions, reaching new horizons with social network but also delivering OTT solutions, VoD portals, replay platforms and more.
“Freecaster is a strong asset for BCE, on one hand it answers our customers’ expectations for new OTT solutions and extension of our content delivery network and on the other hand it opens new markets like sports, institutional, music and fashion related customers.” Adds Tun Van Rijswijck.
On the production side, BCE created a new solution (StudioTalk) facilitating the launch of new programs. StudioTalk is geared up with PTZ cameras, microphones, digital branding and a touchscreen interface to manage the content, the production and the delivery. The solution gives an affordable alternative to cover events that were not financially viable before.
The results are clear, radio goes visual, television shows production is easier, events are covered anywhere, ephemeral studios are installed everywhere… BCE is steering the market to video and screen multiplication.
“Innovation has always paved the way of BCE activities. The all-IP infrastructure leaded our company to hybrid and cloud while increasing the distribution of media content on a global scale. The acquisition of Freecaster and its integration in our workflow was a significant move to the non-linear market. Tomorrow, the engineering of new solutions will enhance the development of BCE in the digital media world.” Concludes Frederic Lemaire, CEO at BCE.