September 1, 2010
By Contributed by Aaron Shaw
Since using OmniBus iTX in 2009, Ascent Media Singapore has brought new channels to air faster and more competitively than ever before. In this past year, Ascent’s business has grown at an unprecedented rate, with fifteen new channels and eight new customers. iTX is a next-generation, softwarebased production and transmission solution built on standard IT hardware and advanced software technology. Offering a radical new approach to transmission, iTX allows broadcasters to launch both multi-channel operations and new low-cost channels or to establish backup systems that reproduce the entire transmission chain, complete with automation, ingest, editing and content management. iTX replaces the complexity of a wide range of hardware and software systems such as video server, master control, graphics device and logo inserter with a single software application. Ascent Media is the largest broadcast outsource facility in Asia, and this recent rapid rate of growth reflects the benefits of the iTX-based services the company now offers, which add up to a very solid package for the customer. iTX brings together the functionality of an entire automation system and origination chain into one integrated software suite running on standard IT servers, and greatly reduces the complexity, cost and time required for installation of a channel’s infrastructure. As a result, Ascent offers its customers shorter times to air, lower set-up and operating costs, and gives the customer the ability to scale up quickly to accommodate new services when they are required. The first iTX-based launch – in August 2009 – was of Li TV, Asia Pacific’s first regional HD lifestyle channel. The iTX system delivered the full range of functionality for the channels, including master control effects, CG, logos, control of screen subtitling, ancillary data for DPIs, and in-built Dolby audio encoding. After LiTV, Ascent Media quickly launched two US-based HD channels in November 2009, then in December they launched Food Network Asia on behalf of US operator Scripps: this is also an HD service primarily to Taiwan, and is broadcast in 1080i60, taking advantage of iTX’s multi format capability. Ascent Media Singapore also runs channels in SD PAL, HD at 50Hz and 60Hz, as well as IPTV services – all from the iTX infrastructure. The Xinya Chinese-language channel launched into Taiwan as an SD PAL service, followed by four more SD channels for BBC Worldwide: BBC Entertainment, BBC Lifestyle, BBC Knowledge and BBC Cbeebies. From August we’ll be originating MIO Stadium, a new HD football service by IMG Sports Media for MIO TV, the SingTel-owned IPTV platform in Singapore. It’s a 24×7 HD service, and our fi rst foray into sports origination in the Asia region. We also operate two more channels for same customer in SD. All the live action and interstitial content is handled by the iTX system. In total, Ascent Media Singapore has added fifteen channels and eight new customers within a year, offering customers HD channels at little more than the cost of SD, and getting channels on air in four weeks instead of four months. As a traditional broadcast engineer with 25+ years of traditional experience building transmission chains, I started working with iTX because I knew it would allow us to create new business opportunities and be more competitive. In hindsight, I would say that the technical capabilities and performance alone justify the choice. I’ve not found anything it can’t do. The system is reliable, is comparable and on a par with any traditional broadcast system, but has the advantages of being quicker and easier to upgrade and scale up for new capacity. So even if I were sitting in a TV station and not so driven by cost factors, I would still be saying ‘iTX is the best way to go – why would we want to make things more difficult and more costly by doing it with conventional technology?’ Aaron Shaw is the vice president of technology and engineering at Ascent Media.