What's in the box?

PlayBox - leader in channel in a box and channel branding tech?
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PlayBox claims to have established itself as the world’s leading provider of channel in a box and channel branding technologies. Digital Studio take a look at what they have to offer.

Last month, Digital Studio reported on PlayBox Technologies reaching the milestone of 100 units of its channel in a box and master control in a box products. To celebrate, this month we take a closer look at the manufacturer, which with 15 offices in 10 countries, and a reseller network spanning over 100 different countries is, according to sales director Don Ash, the biggest company of its kind in the world.

He adds: “Since 1999 we have become a global operation with 15 sales and support centres in 10 countries and our success is due to many people all working together but, ultimately, the confidence and trust in us by our clients. Our many thousands of clients have continuously pushed us to produce the perfect ‘box’ and to reduce the overall costs to enhance their operations.”

Globally, PlayBox’s customers range from internationally renowned broadcast brands like Sky News, Fox, RTL and Al Jazeera while the company has made its mark in this region too.

According to Kaveh Farnham, CEO of PlayBox’s official Gulf distribution partner Advanced Media, the company’s technology forms the backbone of the region’s satellite sector, with over 200 of Nilesat’s channels using PlayBox’s playout technology, as well as over half of the channels broadcasting on Arabsat’s platform. Some of the PlayBox’s well-known Middle Eastern customers include Abu Dhabi TV, Orbit and ART TV in Dubai.

Farnham adds: “By using PlayBox’s products, broadcasters can save significant amounts on licences and red tape. Broadcasting here in Dubai, for example can be an expensive job, as well as needing a lot of form filling and permissions.

By investing in PlayBox, however, a broadcaster can uplink to another PlayBox server in Egypt, Kuwait or even Europe where the process is much cheaper and less time consuming. They can then run the whole broadcast from their office here in Dubai, while transmitting from the uplinked PlayBox elsewhere.

“It’s a great option for smaller or start up channels, and has also proved a popular route with Iranian channels, who officially aren’t allowed to broadcast via uplink, but of course it isn’t unheard of. For as little as $5,000 we can supply you with a full channel in a box solution that will enable you to be a functioning TV channel.

Of course this is a fairly basic system, and for a typical professional customer we’d recommend a system in the region of around $70,000. For that you’ll basically get a fully functioning TV station that will carry out all the activities and functions a broadcaster is likely to need. Of course you can spend more, and for the big channels who need a full broadcast and playout centre this may be necessary, but for a typical regional channel we think $70,000 is quite adequate.

“Our own research estimates that factoring in the higher costs of licenses and transmission, a typical channel can save as much as $300,000 a year by investing in PlayBox.”

Farnham’s colleague Edwin Hartounian, technical manager at Advanced Media, warms to the theme: “The basic server you see here in Advanced Media’s office costs $12,950, and we’re able to operate our own TV channel with it.

From my control centre here I can add all the graphics, channel branding and so on I need, in real time, as the stream is played out, then the PlayBox transfers the broadcast to its uplinked partner in Egypt and the transmission takes place.

It’s incredibly simple, and as you can see, all the live editing and graphics are smooth, easy to use and go straight on the screen receiving the broadcast in real time as I apply them.”

Krasimir Dachev, CTO, PlayBox Technology, continues: “In 1999 people rarely talked about ‘file-based’ and ‘broadcast’ in the same breath. Now our experience, with thousands of TV channels running on commodity IT platforms over 12 years, means our customers have both proven stable server technology as well as playout platforms that can directly plug into their existing IT or TV infrastructure.”

Internet TV is also playing its part in pushing the boundaries of file-based workflows, as Pavlin Rahnev, director, solution sales notes: “Television broadcast is going digital and many to HD. This is now happening fast, for example there were over 300 new channels established among the EU member states last year alone. Also a growing number channels are delivered by the internet and we have picked up a good share of this new business too.”

With its channel branding and playout systems now operating in 120 countries, PlayBox shipped its 10,000th product on Midsummer’s Day (Advanced Media, incidentally, had sold its latest PlayBox product the day before we visited their HQ, so things seem to be ticking over in the wake of the longest day too!) Its products operate in varied sizes and configurations from single channel-in-a-box servers to multichannel broadcast centres.

Vassil Lefterov, CEO, PlayBox, concludes: “The longest day of the year seemed very short as we celebrated a fantastic achievement with thanks to all PlayBox Technology staff, partners, dealers and integrators, both past and present that have contributed to this extraordinary achievement.”

Playbox's product line
AirBox Playout Server with Automation
PlayBox Technology broadcast automation systems support all existing I/O interfaces, all video and audio standards, graphics and compression formats. PlayBox Technology systems can be personalised to fulfil a wide range of extraordinary workflow requirements.

Unlike traditional automation solutions, PlayBox Technology embraces its own automation routines built into the dedicated software of each server or workstation.

Thus there is no need for an external control system and maintenance is limited to simple software upgrades. The automation system has a scalable and modular architecture that enables broadcasters to configure their systems with dynamic interfaces, as well as intelligent and customisable ‘rules’ that meet precise workflow requirements and eliminate repetitive and labour-intensive functions.

TitleBox Interactive CG, Graphics and Channel Branding
PlayBox Technology developed TitleBox, an interactive character generator and graphics system that can create, display and control fascinating multi-zone screens with rolls, crawls, animations, clocks, station logos and more.

TitleBox was designed for all types of broadcasters and has a low price point that also makes it suitable for digital signage, internal information channels for hotels, schools, corporations, retail businesses, shopping malls, churches, airports, holiday resorts, theme parks, etc.

Its unprecedented level of interactive control over the on-air CG objects turns TitleBox into a powerful tool, ideally suited for channel branding, music channels, live entertainment programmes, presentations and sports events titling.

TraficBox Traffic Management
Targeted at broadcasters who need TV business management solutions, TrafficBox includes all the features for programme planning, advertising sales operations and long-term playlists scheduling.

It also provides for the preparation of the physical material that is presented on-air: the video, audio, text, graphics and subtitles. The Traffic Management system within TrafficBox is a client / server database.

This allows a virtually unlimited number of users to access the management server where all relevant data can be entered, saved and modified. Used together with PlayBox Technology automation systems it allows both new and existing broadcasters to achieve more efficient workflows.

PlayBox MAM - Media Asset Management
The PlayBox MAM media asset management system can be the heart of a small TV station or a large broadcast centre. It organizes and manages the assets of single or multi-channel operations, as well as other supported content for the business operations of many diverse organisations.

PlayBox MAM is available as a stand-alone solution or working with PlayBox Technology ingest, playout and branding systems for all applications from production and post through to TV broadcasters and multi-channel playout centres.

NewsAir News Room
NewsAir unites all types of media that make up today’s fast moving news programmes. Combined with AirBox and TitleBox the system can handle media and play it to air. NewsAir provides and systematises live and recorded news content including text, video, images, live agency feeds, phone calls, CGs, etc. Within NewsAir people with different rights (administrators, reporters, directors, editors, etc.) can upload or edit content, make graphics, write news, prompter text, create a news bulletin, then the data for the final rundown is automatically sent to AirBox, TitleBox and prompters for on-air playout.

SubtitleBox and SubtitlePlus Subtitling Solutions
SubtitlePlus and SubtitleBox are universal multilingual subtitling systems that support a variety of import and export formats, as well as many hardware transport, timecode, video input and output devices. Fully Integrated with the AirBox SD/HD and DVB Automation System SubtitlePlus and SubtitleBox are great ways to incorporate subtitling in your broadcasts.

PlayBox Technology DVB Products
The DVB product line of PlayBox Technology comes as a natural expansion of the highly successful PlayBox TV product line into the world of IP streaming and satellite broadcasting.

PlayBox Technology core DVB technologies bypass the need for the expensive external MPEG2 transport stream encoders and multiplexers, by providing the users with a set of flexible and powerful software tools to achieve the same results.

This is of great importance to those involved with multi channel playout, ASI commercial insertion, various streaming applications and transporting of video over traditional computer networks.

All these applications allow for logo and graphics insertion in the ASI/IP stream. The simplification and reduced cost of the processes which the PlayBox Technology DVB product line introduces, will excite many progressive broadcasters and the telecommunications industry.

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