Broadcast Channel Branding with AirBox Neo and CloudAir
by Don Ash
The transition from analogue to digital broadcasting plus the widespread introduction of satellite-based direct-to-home transmission greatly increased the number of channels available to television viewers. It also increased the importance of broadcast channel branding as a means of encouraging regular viewing habits in an increasingly competitive media world.
The simplest form of channel branding is a simple static logo or ‘bug’, positioned sufficiently off centre that it does not intrude into actual programme content. In the early days of branding, each bug was generated offline as a JPEG or GIF image, imported into a vision mixer and positioned as a graphics layer. An animated GIF can be used if considered appropriate though the visual distraction of a fixed bug twitching throughout a programme can be as irritating on a television screen as it is on a website. At worst an animated bug encourages many viewers to switch away rather than remain loyal to a channel. Animation has its place in channel branding when it actually serves a purpose, such as in the design of title sequences, ‘latest news’ text crawlers or upcoming programme promotions. Here the technical requirements go beyond the capabilities of a vision mixer.
PlayBox Technology has long experience of developing and supplying broadcast playout systems based on the AirBox and AirBox Neo platforms. Running on enterprise-class servers, AirBox consists of a family of modules which can be combined to match any desired workflow. Over 17,000 playout and channel branding systems have been delivered to date, making this one of the most successful solutions of its kind ever brought to market. The recently introduced Neo version is a major upgrade which brings additional features plus the ability to integrate easily into 4K UHD environments.
TitleBox Neo is an interactive graphics manager which closely integrates with AirBox Neo to form a seamless user interface. TitleBox Neo provides all the channel branding facilities required by channel management creatives. It can be used to create, display and control multi-zone screens containing graphic elements such as rolls, crawls, animations, clocks, station logos and 3D objects. The applications of TitleBox Neo extend beyond broadcast and cable television channel branding. Other applications include digital signage, hotel hospitality channels, education, corporate television corporations, retail businesses, shopping malls, churches, airports, holiday resorts and theme parks. TitleBox Neo delivers on-air graphics which can be controlled interactively. Multi-layered simultaneous crawls, rolls, animated logos, clocks and text templates can be activated by a mouse click. TitleBox Neo provides total control during on-air session, including text selection, running speed and transitions. Unlimited layering can be performed. All running objects are mixed and blended to each other in real time, including animations. The more CPU power that is available, the more objects can be layered simultaneously. This ensures an unlimited amount of object combinations and unprecedented visual variety.
Total on-air control of character generation is possible. Each and every CG object can be edited during the on-air session. Manual or automated changes of text contents, animation/rolling speed, position and properties can be done on-the-fly. Roll/crawl speed can follow a predefined speed curve. On-air changes can either be made directly to the onscreen running objects or on a dedicated preview output and then applied to the master output.
Multiple graphics objects can be programmed to run simultaneously or sequentially on a single or multiple layers with just a few mouse clicks. Easy slide and layer management is provided by an intuitive integral slide sequencer. Multiplex TitleBox Neo channels on different workstations can be controlled externally by scheduling dedicated events in the AirBox Neo playlist. All kinds of object control are available. Dynamic text data coming from text, rich text, csv text, XML, RSS feeds, weather channels or ODBC-compliant databases can be linked to any text object and updated on-screen in realtime. Graphics files can also be linked to graphics objects on-screen for instant changes. TitleBox Neo can run in the background, without its front-end interface, while all objects and slide actions are triggered by third party OEM software which sends its script commands to TitleBox Neo locally or through the LAN. A newly enhanced scripting engine allows complete control over objects’ properties, sequencing and execution.The resultant graphics can be used for SD/HD SDI internal keying or output as fill and key to third-part devices such as a BlackMagic Decklink, NewTek TriCasterover- IP or in NewTek NDI protocol.
Channel branding with CloudAir
CloudAir carries the virtual playout concept further and simplifies the entire business of putting a new television channel on air. It is a universal television playout and streaming system capable of continuous unattended operation. CloudAir provides similar facilities to AirBox Neo but within a software-as-a-service structure. When specified correctly, CloudAir allows cloud-based playout, channel branding, backup and disaster recovery to be achieved all-in-one via the cloud.
A key advantage of CloudAir over the traditional AirBox Neo solution is setup speed. An efficient broadcast playout service-provider using CloudAir can make a 24/7 channel live in far less time than is needed for traditional server-plus-software or dedicated hardware systems. The actual time to put a new channel on air is reduced from months or weeks to a matter of hours. Once a broadcaster is settled into this mode of operation, a new channel can be activated within minutes.