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Tuesday 10 July 2018

The media technology team were joined today by senior engineer Mark Daniel from Sky. Following a donation of some Omneon video servers for our broadcast laboratory, Mark came to help us configure the equipment and gave us some pointers on what would be beneficial for the students to learn. Sky have a large number of the Omneon systems, which they use for ingest and playout, and were kind enough to pass some units onto us when they upgraded one of their facilities. With so much of the equipment in use, they’ve built up an excellent knowledge base and we were grateful for their support in getting them up and running.

The playout equipment recently donated

In total we received four playout systems, each with 36 outputs including redundancy at various levels. The system we put together today comprises three MediaStores for storage, four MediaPorts for playout, three MediaDirectors for control as well as a management PC for configuration. The three physical hard drive crates contain a couple of terabytes of storage across 48 drives in six chasees with RAID controllers; these are connected to three media controllers by a fibre optic ring to offer load balancing and redundancy; finally the controllers connect to the playout ports using IEEE 1394 to produce SDI video. The equipment is monitored and configured over IP. Today we proved the configuration and now need to decide where the equipment is going to be housed and tidy up the cabling!

The test rig successfully playing video and demonstrating how not to cable a system!

For a number of years we’ve been using a smaller Omneon system to produce video feeds in our broadcast lab but this new system has more redundancy and capacity. The donation from Sky means we will be able to network a number of systems and offer a dedicated system for the students to configure and modify. Mark was keen to stress the importance of ingest systems and was able to provide some useful guidance on what skills our graduates need to get from their laboratory sessions. Spare equipment means the students can build a system from scratch including creating RAID arrays, configuring the file system and getting the devices to communicate correctly. This provides an excellent understanding of the workflow and protocols in operation. We’ve also been lucky to receive support and insight from Harmonic, who now own Omneon.

We’ll continue to develop the systems and hope to add some HD ingest ports shortly. This will mean that students will be able to ingest video from live feeds as well as via FTP file transfer. We also have a scheduling server, which will allow the students to schedule content to playout form the various ports in the system.