As the number of television channels continues to increase and it becomes easier to capture, produce and distribute digital video, broadcasters, cable operators and other companies are looking for effective and economical ways to monitor that video. The evolution of digital storage media and browser-based access to stored media over a network has enabled a new generation of monitoring solutions that combine robust desktop-based toolsets for managing media with higher-quality recording and more flexible use of recorded audio and video.
Because of their proactive capabilities, today's digital video monitoring systems are well worth the investment. The most desirable of them are server-based, including all hardware and software in a self-contained solution. Ideally, they monitor at multiple points across the network, always tracking what a viewer would see as it exists at the point of monitoring. In addition, the best systems work without altering or delaying the signal being monitored. It goes without saying that the system should be offered at a reasonable price with a reasonable payback period, and that solid training and support must be offered in the local ME region.
When looking to purchase such a system, the user also should consider scalability to accommodate future growth. The tools the monitoring system provides for access, analysis and sharing or distribution of media clips also are critical, as they dictate how easily recorded content can be leveraged by different parts of an organisation. Desktop controls make monitoring a simple undertaking, providing familiar functions for reviewing or searching for media.
One application in which video monitoring systems are increasingly being implemented is in monitoring and evaluating the content of television broadcasts. In multi-channel broadcasting involving hundreds of channels, one variety of monitoring system can be set to scan the entire channel lineup of a cable operator. Rather than sit a staff member in front of a monitor with a remote control, the operator can use a fast-scan system to ensure the presence of video and audio on each channel in rapid succession. Any problems detected in the picture trigger recording of the faulty channel and notification of technical staff.
Advanced monitoring systems can do more than reduce the burden on staff members in examining the on-air product. When dedicated, full-time, to one or more channels, they also improve the accuracy and depth of analysis, recording and making aired video available to any networked desktop and authorised user, who then can search, retrieve, view, analyse, annotate, share and export recorded video. Those monitoring systems equipped to handle closed-captioned information provide powerful search capability that enables users to identify and locate very particular pieces of content, whether for verification or for repurposing, as in publishing news to a website.
With these abilities, users can track the station's aired content - or even the on-air product of another station - and evaluate the success of different channels as it corresponds to specific content being aired.
Analysis of content aired on different channels and how different elements are presented can be tied to ratings information to give the broadcaster a clearer understanding of its target audience's preferences. Using this knowledge, a station or network group can refine its programming to boost viewership and, in turn, ad revenues.
A station may monitor and record its own on-air signal in order to verify for clients that advertising spots were aired according to contract. The same recorded material can be used to show compliance with industry standards and government regulations regarding, for example, decency and appropriateness of content during specified hours.
The ad sales and legal departments at a broadcast station can use the monitoring system to perform the equivalent of a commercial audit, ensuring playout of the ads that were sold and gathering evidence to show where in the program grid they were aired and why.
Engineering can use the monitoring system to observe any issues with the signals going to air. With scalable video storage, the broadcaster can save as much or as little of recorded on-air content as it needs. Through a visual history of broadcasts, engineers can identify and address any recurring issues with the on-air signal.
All of this functionality is valuable in the corporate world and realm of charitable organisations, as well, where each mention in the press can be leveraged to show shareholders or donors that their investments are paying off. A dedicated monitoring system provides always-on scrutiny of a channel and can even provide the user with alerts when particular keywords or phrases are used within the broadcast. An organisation thus can monitor local channels and national networks as desired to find any references to predefined topics such as the organization's name or areas of expertise.
The flexibility of monitoring systems enables their use in other applications including surveillance and customer service training. Digital video monitoring takes security operations to a new level, providing a much better grade of video quality and much more versatility in accessing, manipulating and sharing recorded content.
In the area of customer service training, the desktop monitoring system and several cameras can be used to capture the interaction of customer service staff with in-store customers. The company's quality assurance team can log daily recordings and search, retrieve, analyse and export video clips, locally or remotely, looking for coaching opportunities and for examples of how different situations should be handled. Likewise, the company can look back over archived recordings for documentation relating to any customer service claims.
As use of digital video continues to expand beyond the purview of the media industry, monitoring systems will enable an ever-growing range of companies to make the most of captured or recorded video in growing their business and adding to the bottom line.
The Observer RPM is Volicon's solution for MSOs, Independent Cable operators, IPTV, and Satellite providers to automatically evaluate the quality of their NOC/headend and remote hub site broadcasts from a central location. The Observer RPM scans hundreds of channels, automatically testing signal integrity 24/7 and issuing alerts (via email and SNMP) when scanned channels do not conform to prespecified limits. Monitoring includes detection of low audio levels and missing/frozen/black video, including notifications when the signal is restored. Supported transport stream analyzers may also be integrated.
Observer-HD is the broadcast industry's first product to provide high definition signal logging and monitoring capabilities, with support for Dolby 5.1 sound, for two or four channels recorded and stored for 30 days and longer. The Observer-HD accepts signals from HD-SDI interface with embedded audio and is optimized for the 16:9 aspect ratio of the HD signal. Similar to the standard Observer, the new Observer-HD will support large numbers of simultaneous users, with 24/7 access to live and archived HD content from their desktop using a Microsoft Internet Explorer-compatible interface.