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.
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.
Also on show will be an enhanced version of the SystemTwo motorised height-adjustable edit-suite desk with greater lifting power.
“Originally developed for STV in Scotland, MediaWall has become one of our best-selling products with customers such as Al Sharqiya, Associated Press, Azerbaijan Parliamentary Television, BBC Scotland, BBC Studios & Post Production, BT Sport, ICS Media Production, Mediahouse, Radio-Television Slovenia, Radio Television Suisse, RT, RTL City, TBN and Telegraph Media,” comments Custom Consoles Managing Director Neil Reed. “The enhanced version incorporates redesigned lateral support beams which allow display panels to be attached more easily. Cable management is now via steel ducts rather than PVC. The new ducts are stronger and more attractively styled, which customers will appreciate in open-plan control rooms. The supporting legs are now a silver extrusion with a black cable management insert, to match the Module-R desk styles which we introduced at IBC 2018.”
“Our latest-generation Module-R desks also now come with a steel cable tray as standard rather than PVC, providing greater strength and eliminating the environmental issue of recycling plastic components.”
“Additionally on the show stand will be an example from our SystemTwo range of desks, now equipped as standard with heavier duty lifting pillars. Support capacity has been increased from 140 to 240 kg.”
Custom Consoles’ MediaWall allows flat-screen monitor displays of practically any width to be constructed from standard horizontal and vertical support elements. MediaWall can be used as a fully self-supporting structure or coupled directly to the studio wall. Individual screens can be positioned so that the edges meet exactly to form a continuous horizontal display limited only by the boundary of the monitor panel itself. All wiring is fully concealed and can enter or leave the structure at any desired point. MediaWall is available in any specified element widths.
A mix-and-matchable control room furniture range, Custom Consoles’ Module-R allows aesthetically attractive long-life desks to be configured to meet specific shapes and dimensions from a selection of high-quality pods, base sections, 19 inch rack housings, worktops, end-panel modules and legs. Coordinated desk pods are available as single-bay sections with up 10U chassis capacity. Module-R has been tested by FIRA to ensure compliance with current ISO standards. It is supplied with full cable management and internal 19 inch racking, accessible via removable front and rear cover panels. All rear surfaces and pods are completely interchangeable. A full length cable brush allows easy reconfiguration.
Designed for use in edit suites and graphics areas, SystemTwo comprises a rectangular desk and parallel monitor shelf, both being electrically height adjustable from 660 to 1200 mm. This gives operators the choice of working while seated or standing. Other elements in the SystemTwo series include an 11U equipment pedestal, underslung 3U equipment pod and 27U equipment bay.
Custom Consoles Ltd is an ISO 9001 certified manufacturer of project-specific and modular broadcast, process-control and security furniture. Its product range includes motorised, manually-adjustable and fixed-height units plus fan-cooled sound-insulated equipment housings. The company operates from a 1,200 square metre UK-based production facility equipped with 3D computer-aided-design facilities, computer-controlled cutting machinery and a thermoform press. These resources provide the dual benefits of precise quality control and prompt delivery times, typically 21 days from receipt of order. Custom Consoles’ clients include governmental and corporate organisations in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia.
Holding several hours of video archives of the numerous events taking place worldwide, the FEI was looking for a partner who would be able to digitise their content, manage their legacy and upcoming assets and facilitate their distribution among members.
“This project follows the strategy of our company by ensuring the perfect digitisation of their archives and at the same time enhancing content exchange thanks to a solid platform,” comments Frederic Fievez, Projects Development Manager at BCE.
To do so BCE (Broadcasting Center Europe) designed a platform as a service solution (PaaS) taking advantage of its numerous in-house services but also its strong partnerships with key technology providers such as EVS.
“It was paramount for us to make more of our content. BCE and EVS came up with a solution that allows us to save our video archives and to leverage this content through global distribution,” Ralph Straus, FEI Commercial Director.
Digitisation and content management
Located in the heart of RTL City in Luxembourg, BCE offers numerous state-of-the-art services for the media market. Managing digitisation projects for key media players (HBS, European Parliament, EBC, CNA, FFT, Qatar Olympic Committee, to name but a few), BCE is able to answer to mass digitisation projects.
“In order to answer the media digitisation challenge, we have created a dedicated digitisation site, connected to BCE headquarters via dark fibre. This site allows the provisory storage of the archives which are scheduled to be processed.” Explains Tun Van Rijswijck, COO at BCE.
The digitisation site is perfectly secured with 24×7 guards and monitoring, upon reception, the FEI archives are handled with the utmost care by BCE’s engineers and, after careful review of the lots, the archives are organized and scheduled for digitisation. In order to maximise the processing time and rendering quality, BCE uses two dedicated LMS and “Au2Ingest”, an in-house software solution which automates the digitisation processes.
“Using our own software solution give us the possibility to tailor-made the features of the solution to the needs of the project. Au2Ingest was then able to match FEI needs but also connect seamlessly with EVS solutions”, explains Olivier Waty, Technology and Project Director at BCE.
BCE’s Media Manager manages FEI content through EVS MediArchive Director. This solution offers a set of software tools to centrally manage archive digitization and content delivery platforms, including formats which allow intelligent media browsing based on metadata and logging.
FEI assets metadata is stored in the solution with the user information; the Media Manager is able to control the QC as well as the transcoding tasks. EVS MediArchive director is also connected to the online EVS storage for the latest clips and to BCE’s nearline library (Oracle) located in RTL City Datacentre for other material.
To ensure the seamless content delivery to FEI partners worldwide as well as the reception of IMG highlights for the federation, BCE has integrated in the PaaS its high speed file-based delivery system “Movie2Me”.
“Delivering and receiving content from the US majors as well as from RTL Group subsidiaries since 2007, “Movie2Me” is the most appropriate solution to distribute assets within a completely secured and encrypted environment. The Media Manager is able to trigger deliveries, give access to the FEI and its partners and manage in and out going content,” comments Xavier Thillen, head of Digital Media Operations at BCE.
Thanks to BCE’s cloud-based interface, the partners and the FEI are able to review the content online and receive the files via “Movie2Me”. More than delivering content, the FEI also needed to broadcast its events on the USA market.
Live over IP
Being pioneers of IP infrastructures, BCE holds a strong experience in “over IP” services and can therefore offer smart alternatives to its customers.
“Being integrators and operators, BCE is able to provide us with high quality live services. The complete workflow runs seamlessly from the coverage of our key events globally, to the delivery of full HD streams to our partners in the US,” comments Ralph Straus, FEI Commercial Director.
Numerous events are covered by the FEI. In order to make these productions available worldwide, FEI asked BCE to ensure the live broadcast of their content to the USA. To do so the live productions of the Federation are sent via satellite to BCE’s teleport in Luxembourg.
The live feeds are immediately transcoded in our Datacentre to a full HD IP Stream. The live IP stream are then sent to FEI’s partner in New York and broadcasted live among their network.
“Cost-effective and flexible enough to compete with other transmissions solution, Live over IP meets today standards of the broadcast industry and allow fast communication with FEI partners for worldwide broadcast. “ Costas Colombus, Technology Project and Support Director at BCE.
BCE and EVS have orchestrated the development of the FEI legacy and daily content. With this new streamless workflow, the FEI will be able to develop its footprint on a global scale and strengthen its relationships with its partners. The Federation can now focus on content creation with a future-proofed platform and strong media services.