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CBS is implementing
Telestream's FlipFactory transcoding software across its 29 owned stations as a
bridge between the new Pitch Blue syndicated delivery system and play-to-air
servers from various manufacturers.
Pitch Blue, which CBS
developed last year in partnership with Warner Bros. and Ascent Media, is a
delivery platform for high-definition syndicated fare; it transmits shows to
edge servers at some 800 hub locations supporting more than 1,350 stations.
Designed to eventually replace the standard-definition DG FastChannel/Pathfire system
long used by CBS and Warner Bros. syndication clients, the Pitch Blue box
records shows as MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 files at a data rate of 15 Mbps, and uses an
Internet connection to confirm receipt and fix data errors.
To replicate standard-def
syndicated workflow at the CBS stations, those MPEG-4 files need to be
converted to MPEG-2 and transferred to play-to-air servers from Omneon, Harris
and others. This process includes placing the files in the unique "wrappers"
used by various vendors. Metadata about the shows also needs to be extracted
and passed along to CBS's proprietary master-control automation software to
automatically populate the on-air schedule.
"Changing the MPEG to a
different wrapper or transcoding from MPEG-4 to MPEG-2 is only part of the
problem to make it useful for TV stations," says Bob Ross, CBS's senior VP of
East Coast operations. "If you can't do metadata, you can't automate it."
So, CBS contracted
Telestream, which it has used for years for its spot-ingest workflows, to
develop a solution based on its popular FlipFactory software. The Telestream
system quickly converts the HD H.264 source files into whatever MPEG-2 format
is required by each CBS station, decodes the Dolby E audio and preserves all
caption information. It also converts the metadata into a form that the CBS
automation system can use.
Telestream's Pitch Blue
integration is now being used by the CBS stations, and the Nevada City,
Calif.-based company is also marketing it to other stations with Pitch Blue
boxes. Overall, the Pitch Blue rollout is still in its early stages, though
hundreds of stations are already using it to receive syndicated material.
"There are daily file
transmissions from the Warner Bros./Ascent side, and this week we'll be
expanding our satellite time to the box," Ross says. "The main obstacle is we
have to work with stations to make sure all the affiliates are ready to take
As part of their spot-ingest
process, CBS stations have also adopted an optional new feature in Telestream's
TrafficManager product, which aims to solve commercial loudness problems.
TrafficManager's ITU Loudness Option automatically measures audio according to
the International Telecommunication Union's BS.1770 specification and conforms
it in the file-based domain to meet CBS's loudness target of -24 LKFS, the same
number formally recommended last fall by the Advanced Television Systems
Committee. (BS.1770-compliant devices measure loudness in the unit LKFS, which
is equivalent to a decibel, in numbers ranging from -1, or loudest, to -31, the
softest.) CBS has been adjusting loudness in the baseband mode on its spot
ingest since late 2007, but Ross says the new FlipFactory file-based approach
makes that process easier.
Fewer than 100 stations are
using the new loudness option, according to Telestream Director of Business
Development Anna Greco, but the company is seeing strong interest in both the U.S. and Europe.
Italian legislators recently passed a law on loudness control that is similar
to the CALM Act being considered by the U.S. Congress.
"We know all our customers
who use TrafficManager would want to eventually have that capability," Greco
says, "to control and adjust loudness in commercial spots all in the same
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