Once again, Provys attended the annual ABEX conference together with the great and good of the Czech and Slovak broadcasting industries, along with media colleagues from several other countries. Josef Vasica, CEO of Provys, gave a fascinating presentation on current developments in the Provys portfolio, including recently completed and ongoing projects at All Media Baltics, Ecuador TV, Viasat World, AMC Networks Iberia and SYN Iceland.
A rich programme was also offered by other colleagues, comprising both users‘ presentations together with manufacturers and suppliers‘ project experience, not forgetting the usual exposure to 100 of the best Moravian wines.
Martin Junek, Master of Ceremonies, performed his customary introduction, this year focusing on the wide range of Czech and Slovak broadcast sector developers who had presented their latest products and services at the recent NABSHOW in Las Vegas. Among these exhibitors, the following gave a brief presentation to the assembled Abex forum: Aveco, CamStreamer, ChyronHego (former AKI Sport), Octopus Newsroom, Provys, Stream Circle and Traco Systems.
Josef Vasica also brought a list of challenging questions he had faced on the stands in Las Vegas. Prominent amongst them were:
“How can you help us when we don’t want to compete with Netflix using their own weapons?”
“What cloud should we use if we don’t want to pay Amazon, our competitor?”
“What are we to do when we are convinced that the latest technologies are not yet fully developed and therefore, we are withholding upgrades of our current ones?”
“What kind of optimisation and automation can you offer if we want to return to growth?”
“Do your solutions use artificial intelligence?”
Josef then provided some possible directions regarding how to answer these questions and left them open for further discussion amongst the participants over a glass of wine.
Delegates, including all major national Czech and Slovak broadcasters, particularly appreciated Josef’s input and agreed that the conference had been extremely interesting and informative.
The Incas perfect understanding of Mother Nature’s delicate balancing act has allowed the development of San Francisco de Quito, now simply known as Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, sitting on the Equator but at an elevation of 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) above sea level. Originally, a major city of the Incas, it is now both the second-highest official capital city in the world (after La Paz, Bolivia), and the second highest location of a cluster of television broadcasters.
Among this cluster, Ecuador TV, the public service channel of Ecuador, was established in October 2007 to transmit content from independent national and international producers and documentaries and news programmes from different sources including Discovery, TVE, BBC, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America. Following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin (the Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador), and utilising all of the latest media technologies, Ecuador TV have now taken their next evolutionary leap and contracted with Hitachi Kokusai to upgrade their operations. This upgrade started in 2016 with the objective of expediting the process of migration of public broadcasting from analogue to digital television using the Japanese standard ISDB-T with a Brazilian modification which enables a degree of interactivity with the viewer. This standard is almost universal in the whole of South America. The project also includes an advanced playout automation system, supplied and installed by Aveco. Such state-of-the-art technology requires only the finest broadcast management system with the most modern programme scheduling, and it was therefore, natural that the Provys suite of software solutions was chosen to meet the quality demands of Ecuador TV.
“In the rare air of the high Andes, the rare talents of the Provys team were called upon to fill the bill”.
“The digitisation of South American broadcasting significantly challenges broadcasters and particularly, their workflow managers. Such rarefied demands require the absolute best systems whose functionalities need to integrate perfectly with the other parts of the whole broadcasting chain” says Vaclav Malek, Consultant, Provys, and continues: “It is a pleasure to work with the professionals in Quito, both the IT guys from Ecuador TV and the Hitachi Engineers. English language was originally specified for the new software systems, but it became fairly clear that, in the near future, Spanish versions would almost certainly be required, and we are ready, willing and able to facilitate this.”
The benefits of the new system, which replaced standard office software tools, include: massively improved sharing of information; elimination of human errors; automation of broadcasting workflows and vastly increased overall efficiency. All of these benefits can now be found in the offices of Ecuador TV, situated close the historic centre of Quito which has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centres in the Americas, now being on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site list. The modern city of Quito is actually founded on the ancient ruins of the original Incan city. The Incas, of course, rather preferred telepathy to television.
Back in the office, our thoughts still linger on the exciting times we experienced at the recent NABSHOW 2019 in Las Vegas. The PROVYS team were proud to present the latest developments to their renowned broadcast management solutions. Clients old and new, together with our global partners, were particularly fascinated by our latest proposal of PROVYS world-class scheduling system fully implemented and operational within only 5 weeks. This is a game-changer in the market and we expect many new broadcasters to install our scheduling system in the very near future. Highly experienced visitors were enthralled at this revolutionary prospect of having such a sophisticated software solution up and running within so short a timescale.
On the stand, visitors were mesmerised watching as PROVYS staff created a comprehensive broadcasting schedule within only 5 minutes, thereby illustrating the power of the scheduling module.
“Other ground-breaking developments on show in Las Vegas included content benchmarking…”
“Other ground-breaking developments on show in Las Vegas included: content benchmarking, a tool which enables broadcasters to compare in advance the potential profitability of a range of content; non-linear content publishing and segmentation, a major feature which allows broadcasters to painlessly expand into the world of “new media”; more powerful post-production workflow management; sophisticated EDL (Edit Decision List) usage for management of complex programme rights and metadata segments; split screen scheduling for more efficient usage of air-time and air-time ad sales now extended to web delivery” said Karel Votroubek, Commercial Director, PROVYS
To all those who have experience standing on the booth of a media management solution provider at one of the global broadcasting trade fairs (e.g. NAB or IBC), the following scenario will not be unfamiliar, namely: a prospective client or partner approaches the booth and asks politely if the offered solution is BXF-compatible. A psychologist would have great fun watching the face of the guy on the booth as s/he responds positively, knowing the answer is “yes” on account of the flexibility that BXF offers, but silently worrying in case this particular request may cost the company an arm and a leg to develop.
BXF (Broadcast Exchange Format) is an XML based standard for data exchange in the broadcasting industry formally defined by SMPTE. It was developed to supersede numerous archaic types of exchange for playlists, record lists and various other data in broadcasting. The first version was published in 2008. Unsurprisingly, only 150 SMPTE members were required to ensure the definition of the standard. Readers familiar with “Baby Snakes” by Frank Zappa will realise that he also was a dedicated fan of theirs.
Switching the mood now, SMPTE and BXF require some practical de-mystification. The second release (BXF 2.0) valid from 2012, was followed by the widespread adoption of this standard for interoperability between and among multiple media management systems. Serious collaboration on the BXF standard across the global broadcast industry today delivers structured XML information for traffic systems, automation solutions, MAMs and more, with clear and specific mapping instructions. BXF currently provides a robust yet flexible communication schema which efficiently addresses today’s complex array of delivery platforms together with targeted advertising, a critical element of modern media business.
“ We have been using BXF in numerous projects over the past ten years.”
“For us and other developers, BXF comprises a suite of documents standardising messaging protocols for information exchange. It does not limit the actual communication media for transmission and reception. For example, you can simply leave your BXF message in a defined folder where it is picked up, read, hopefully understood by the recipient. We have been using BXF in numerous projects over the past ten years. It has provided an excellent solution to the need for the exchanges of schedules/playlists, as-run logs, content metadata, and content transfer instructions between various systems including editors, scheduling, automation, sales, billing and even MAM equipment” says Petr Dolejsi, Senior MAM Consultant, Provys. “Since the launch of BXF, many improvements in the schema have become available to the users and it is important to note that the Provys schema perfectly matches that of BXF thereby guaranteeing the highest levels of interoperability” Petr added.
As the diagram illustrates, BXF facilitates multinational communication between broadcasting headquarters and their foreign subsidiaries. Metadata flow both out and in seamlessly, between various systems and differing national requirements. Developers confirm that the standard today is affordable, well-described and user-friendly although they would prefer to see more examples from SMPTE to learn from. The original concern that the “Private Section” sitting outside of the schema would be over-utilised as a “workaround” has been overtaken by the latest definitions of the BXF standard which exactly reflect the needs of the modern broadcasting industry.
Looking forward to seeing you in Las Vegas (April 8 – 11) where Provys, famous for workflow management solutions from planning to content delivery, will be showcasing the following new features:
· Content benchmarking , a tool which enables broadcasters to compare in advance the potential profitability of a range of content
· Non-linear content publishing and segmentation , a major feature which allows broadcasters to painlessly expand into the world of “new media”
· More powerful post-production workflow management
· Sophisticated EDL (Edit Decision List) usage for management of complex programme rights and metadata segments
· Split screen scheduling for more efficient usage of air-time
· Air-time ad sales now extended to web delivery
In addition to these media management aspects, the aware visitor will also be delighted to find inspirational guidance and friendly presentations at Booth N5215.
PROVYS is the largest division of DCIT Inc., based in the beautiful city of Prague, and is a major independent player in the development of software solutions for the broadcasting and media industries, together with specialised software and services for cyber security.
After more than 20 years of continual development, PROVYS is today a renowned global software for controlling processes and workflows in media organisations. The broadcasters’ experience aggregated by PROVYS over the years allows their consultants to offer the widest knowledge of the media industry to clients.
The seamlessly integrated software package consists of sophisticated modules for production and resource management, long term planning and scheduling, strategic programming tools for a multi-channel environment, highly effective automated self-promotion, invaluable contingency planning for flexible sport events, auto-replays and effective series planning as well as a programme guide and EPG data editing. PROVYS gathers and helps to evaluate transmission history. All of these broadcasting tools are further complemented with powerful management applications for rights, media assets, archiving and ad sales. PROVYS simply offers a peerless benefit-to-cost ratio.
Finally, DCIT Inc. is a popular, equal opportunities employer where talent is recognised and encouraged. We deem the relationships with our clients to be of the highest value as our mission is to provide “Efficiency with a human face”, through predictability, professionalism, and open communication.
“Dear Visitors, you are kindly requested to book your appointment in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org . A warm welcome is guaranteed.”
In any complex project management environment where a supplier is contracted to meet the requirements of a purchaser, it is a given that the project management teams on each side will have different objectives, expectations, standards and methodologies. Navigating the stormy waters between these two sides can be a hazardous experience which can cause delays, misunderstandings, errors and additional costs. By contrast, it should be pointed out that the waters between such parties may be calm and even too peaceful, reflecting a lack of objective input, which can also leave the project ship-wrecked. So where and how shall we find our bridge?
In the world of media, one of the top developers of broadcast management systems is Provys, who are regularly required to improve the operating procedures of mid-size to large multichannel broadcasters with their fully integrated workflow software solution. Despite trying to keep an unrelenting focus on final outcomes, Provys nevertheless realise that even with their famously strong project team, there are indisputable benefits to be derived from a broadcaster’s decision to employ third-party expert project managers to act in the capacity of consultants who will take an overview of the implementation, acting as a bridge over any potential issues. Petr Helebrant, Project Manager at Provys, explains:
“We have recently completed two substantial projects with Viasat World and All Media Baltics (AMB), utilising the overarching consultancy expertise of Posterity-Milestone and Ravensbeck respectively, both UK based consultancies whose services include project and programme management. Their contribution to the successful completion of these projects, on time and on budget, cannot be overemphasised, and I fully recommend this method of management for complex projects.”
A brief look at these two project management consultants will help us to better understand their philosophies and methodologies. Their projects have included multiple new channel launches globally for broadcast companies and content owners, ranging from a Video On Demand service to full channel launch, and fitting out green-field media site technology. Both have been responsible for end to end programme management, including scheduling, rights & media management, technology and process design, and successful launches into operations. Adapting their approach to the culture and structure of their clients, they ensure that project and programme management disciplines can work in any organisational environment. Their teams actually fill any internal gaps in the short term, whilst advising clients on vendor selection and the best way to address skills shortages or inappropriate resource levels.
The diagram, courtesy of Roman Barton, Head of Project Teams at Provys, illustrates the five main phases of a typical enterprise software implementation in a broadcasting operation, broken down further into the numerous activities required in each phase, all superimposed on a simplified Gantt Chart. The external project management consultants, mentioned above, are active in the Pre-project, Specification, Acceptance and Roll-out phases where the risk of delays and losses can occur, and where their value added contribution is extremely effective. Careful study of this self-explanatory diagram is highly recommended as it encapsulates many years of project management experience. For broadcasters, following this methodology / navigation chart is your sure-fire way of safely surviving the potentially troubled waters of project management.
Once again, NAB rolls off the calendar in Las Vegas from April 8 to 11 and diaries are rapidly filling up in this connection. For those unfamiliar with the layout of the NABSHOW in Vegas, the densest crowds are to be found in the South Halls, diminishing somewhat through the Central Hall, and finishing up with a most pleasing and comfortable ambience in the North Hall where both exhibitors and visitors can cool down and actually hear each other as they discuss the latest aspects of management systems for the media industry.
“Among these media management aspects, the aware visitor will also be delighted to find unexpected gems of technical wizardry, inspirational guidance, friendly presentations and even a secret source of Czech premium beers”.
Nesting among these gems (Booth N5215), the curious broadcaster will discover the latest technological developments from the world renowned Provys stables, famous for workflow management solutions from planning to content delivery. System integrators and project consultants are strongly recommended to visit the booth, alone or with their existing and potential clients, irrespective of their size, in order to introduce them to the latest money-making and money-saving software solutions specifically aimed at improving media organisational efficiency and effectiveness. Such new developments include a benchmarking tool which will enable broadcasters to compare in advance the potential profitability of a range of content, and from that select the optimum programmes for their channels.
Potential visitors are urged to book an appointment in advance at email@example.com (please note that complimentary beers will be served after 5 pm).
When D Media, a leading media entity in Egypt and the owner of DMC TV Network, were planning to build a completely new broadcast centre in Egyptian Media Production City, they selected a consortium of two well established Egyptian system integrators: Systems Design and Technology KAR to manage the whole project. The scope of the project was to launch several new TV channels broadcasting general entertainment programmes, news, sports, and drama. The consortium of systems integrators in turn allocated different aspects of the project to selected manufacturers and software houses, including: playout and studio automation to Aveco; the newsroom computer system to Octopus; long-term planning, scheduling and content management to Provys; production and playout servers to EVS and graphics to Vizrt. Perhaps Systems Design and Technology KAR got some ideas from previous articles about ABEX Society which highlighted the wealth of broadcasting expertise to be found within the members of the society in which the first three play a prominent role.
In contrast to many other local broadcasters’ habits, DMC specifically wanted to achieve maximum automation of all operational workflows. Scheduling is in pole position when it comes to workflows because all related activities are driven by the schedule. DMC is unique in that its scheduling contains long-term planning which subsequently triggers all downstream activities. A further special feature in DMC is the accurate scheduling of Salah times (Islamic prayer times) which occur five times per day at continually changing times, and which must be accurately programmed for years ahead. Such scheduling must also include appropriate and varied content for each prayer time. Out of interest, Salah times are calculated using a sophisticated mathematical formula using factors such as sunrise, sunset and shadows, typically in keeping with traditional Arabic expertise in the field of maths. These prayer slots are precisely defined within the system in order that subsequent operations cannot interfere with these prioritised intervals, thus avoiding any chance of human error.
“The whole scheduling and content management operation rests securely on an Oracle relational database platform, thereby facilitating co-terminus collaboration across the whole of the team. This is a vast improvement on previous standard office software systems which were not entirely dissimilar to the local archaeological monoliths”says Adam Krbusek, Senior Provys Consultant, Egypt.
One area where spreadsheets are still used is in the field of ad sales where commercial break time slots are defined and outsourced to ad agencies to fill appropriately. The completed spreadsheets are then imported back into Provys for subsequent playout. A further sophisticated element is the use of Arabic, reading from right to left, for all internal text communications whilst the menus are still presented in English in line with international standards and terminology.
On an interesting final point, Egyptian Media Production City is a concentrated hub of Egyptian media companies all working within a closed campus which is designed to protect the massive capital investments made by the various participants.