Going Digital

IAA Bahrain Radio and BTV has commissioned Masstech
The longest phase of the digitisation job will be the ingest process, which will have to crunch through 55 years of Bahrain TV content.
The longest phase of the digitisation job will be the ingest process, which will have to crunch through 55 years of Bahrain TV content.

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The Information Affairs Authority’s (IAA) Bahrain Radio and Television division (BTV) has commissioned Masstech, in a first of a kind project in the Kingdom, to preserve 55 years worth of BTV broadcast content, while also upgrading all six of BTV’s channels to HD format.

The Information Affairs Authority (IAA) in the Kingdom of Bahrain operates Bahrain TV (BTV) - the country’s national broadcaster. The broadcaster transmits its signals from Manama, which is the capital, as well as the largest city in the country.

BTV presently airs six television channels which offer weekly programming comprising family and health magazine shows, as well as daily news segments from the Kingdom of Bahrain. BTV also broadcasts local and international news, current affairs, documentaries, educational programs as well as entertainment series and films.

The broadcaster is now embarking on a comprehensive upgrade that will see 55 years of its content digitsed. Bahrain TV is also upgrading all six of its channels to High Definition (HD) format and has selected Masstech as its partner of choice for the length of the project.

Masstech specalises in providing tools such as powerful media asset management, HQS high-speed transcoding and bridging workflows for the media and entertainment industry. The company says its products and solutions are innovative and cost-effective, which transform workflow processes and boost productivity for broadcasters, international television networks, news channels, cable, and production houses.

Given the sheer scale and importance of the task at hand Bahrain TV had to choose a suitable partner wisely. When asked about what tipped the project in Masstech’s favour, Brad Redwood, Vice President of International Sales and Marketing at Masstech explained,
“Bahrain TV required a cost-effective solution that would preserve and protect their critical media assets and have infinite archiving capacity to support their future expansions plans to invest in another 12 channels.

The scalable solution will leave plenty of room for Bahrain TV to expand their archive library. Our TOPAZ version 7.5 system is a complete workflow solution for scalable streamlined media asset management (MAM), digital archiving, ingest, QC and metadata management.”

Shaima Al Hamid, Director of Technical Affairs at the IAA also weighed in on the decision saying, “We chose Masstech because they have more built-in versatility to provide us with a complete solution for digital archiving, ingest, QC and metadata management.

The TOPAZ system will enhance production giving our staff instant access to archived video footage with the ability to search and view low resolution proxies at their desktop. It is very important for us to preserve and protect our media assets as we invest in more channels and generate more content.”

In terms of some of the technical benefits of opting for Masstech’s solution, Redwood comments, “BTV’s production department will benefit from enhanced productivity by creating automated workflows to manage content from ingest, to QC, to playout, to archive storage, bridging non-linear editing (NLE) and storage systems.

Its producers will have instant access to archived video footage with the ability to search and view low resolution proxies at their desktop, providing substantial operational efficiency and cost benefits.”

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Masstech and Bahrain TV have never previously worked together but despite this fact the two companies’ first collaboration is a milestone for the Kingdom of Bahrain, and some might argue, the Middle East.

“This first of a kind project for the Kingdom of Bahrain will involve building a comprehensive digital archive for 55 years of BTV’s broadcast content, with capacity for decades to come.

This is a greenfield project for the Middle East, where adoption of digital workflows is still fairly low and there are plenty of opportunities to help broadcasters migrate from video to digital archiving and accelerate content digitisation in this region,” explains Redwood.

While Bahrain TV and Masstech have not worked together in the past, the latter company has worked with other broadcasters in the region. “Last year we worked with Channel 2 in Israel to install our TOPAZ MAM v7.5 and companion product XT-Ingest to digitally preserve news content that was stored on aging videotapes, automate the ingest process and manage their archive library.

Channel 2 broadcasts up to 24 hours of news and educational content every day. The news station was running on a purely tape-based operation before deciding to digitise their news operations.

TOPAZ and XT-Ingest (TOPAZ +XT) preserves all the channel’s media content recorded on tapes, providing significant cost savings and efficient file based workflows,” explains Redwood.

Digitisation projects such as this are intensive and, depending on the amount of content (55 years worth in this case), time consuming. In this particular case both companies have agreed on a phased approach to tackle the project, starting with the installation of Masstech’s TOPAZ solution.

Redwood notes, “In phase one, TOPAZ will be installed at Bahrain TV over the next six weeks and should be complete by the end of May. However, the project will be rolled out over several phases and we expect it to be operation by the end of the year. The ingesting and cataloging of the media content will take the longest to complete.

Here 55 years of broadcast content will be ingested with 15 ingest stations. In the next phase of the project, BTV has a view to repurpose the content by implementing capabilities that will enable their operators to search and view the archived content on their mobile devices.”

The digitisation project is comprised of numerous elements beginning with Masstech’s TOPAZ system ingesting Bahrain TV’s vast Arabic content archives. Once complete metadata will have to be added and customised, damaged tapes will have to be restored and, of course, the newly digitised content will, lastly, have to pass through a stringent quality control (QC) process.

The TOPAZ system features ingest support for Standard Definition (SD) content, as well as High Definition (HD) content, which will allow Bahrain TV to upgrade all six of its channel to HD. The solution will also be used to upscale SD content to HD.

Once the new file-based workflow is in place, Bahrain TV will, in Redwood’s words, have “the state-of-the-art capability to archive, ingest, QC, preserve and search and browse their media content.”

Beyond this Masstech’s TOPAZ solution will perform the material handling to Harmonic’s Omneon playout servers under the control of Pebble Beach automation for precise HD file based workflows.

Redwood also says that TOPAZ’s inline high speed transcoding (HQS) technology will enable interoperability for bridging workflows between BTV’s content creation platforms – these include Avid Interplay, Apple FCP and Adobe Premier. Masstech will be on hand throughout the project’s various phases and will be providing comprehensive training to local BTV’s operators.

Once the project is completed Bahrain TV can look forward to a plethora of benefits. Redwood notes, “In today’s fast-paced broadcast industry, media companies are charged with assembling the most relevant media content as quickly as possible.

The speed of media asset management (MAM) along with high-quality speed (HQS) transcoding and bridging of digital workflows directly affects competitive edge in the marketplace for news, production and broadcast organisations that create and distribute rich content.

To boost productivity within their production chain, Bahrain TV’s production teams required an alternative to the manual process of hunting down video tapes in the archive library before previewing the content and then taking the tape to the editing system to dub or ingest it before editing.

Videotape-based archiving systems provide slower access to content resources, which can compromise productivity when putting programs together on tight deadlines. Now BTV’s production teams are able to rapidly preview, access and assemble program content straight from their desktop.

This also helps BTV overcome the challenge of controlling and managing their huge repository of 55 years of broadcast content. Digitising and archiving content in a file-based system with requisite storage capacity enables their production department to easily locate and reuse valuable media assets.”

Despite the scale of the project, Redwood predicts a trouble-free existence for Bahrain TV and its staff once the digisation and HD upgrades are completed.

The only challenges he reckons the broadcaster will face are more immediate, given the large volume of content that has to be ingested and the possibility that at least some of the content could be damaged due to the susceptibility of tape media to numerous external factors. This damaged content, Redwood explains will have to be, “cleaned, fixed and repaired”.

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