Five steps to creating your own channel with Cloud Playout

Five steps to creating your own channel with Cloud Playout

Do you have content you want to share? Do you have a market or a community you want to engage? Or do you just have an idea for a new channel?

If you tick one of these boxes but have no experience or technical know-how in broadcast technology, the good news is that the whole process is now simplified, thanks to powerful solutions like Cosmos Cloud Playout from PlayBox Technology.

Today it is perfectly possible to set up your own virtual television channel. Just like a broadcast channel, you can package and deliver a seamless stream of content: programmes, commercials, trailers and information. But rather than the complexities and expense of traditional broadcast hardware, you can now run virtual channels, based entirely in software running on dedicated computers, in a corporate data centre or in the cloud.

From start to finish, the process can be broken down into five simple steps.

Step 1 – define your channel

Broadcasters regard television channels as marketing concepts. The channel is a brand, and you have to create brand recognition in your target audience.

So who is your audience? You might be a broadcaster, looking to add new channels. Or a house of worship, looking to provide a broader outreach to your congregation. Or a government body seeking to engage citizens with ready access to the democratic processes. Or a sports body wanting to engage fans. There are so many use cases you can imagine.

Define who you want to reach, and how you are going to serve them. Will your channel only include recorded programmes or will you want to broadcast live?

Even if you have access to broadcast services, you will definitely want to stream your channel. This is one of those areas where jargon rapidly threatens to overwhelm you. People will want to talk about MPEG transport streams, RTMP and HLS (and many more acronyms).

The good news is that PlayBox not only has close to 20 years’ experience in playout automation, it is an expert in integrated, standards-compliant transport streams. Cosmos contains all the tools you need to spin up OTT and traditional channels, without the need to get bogged down in the details.

Step 2 – collect the content

Once you have defined your brand, you will have a good idea where your content is coming from. Are you going to make it yourself? Are you getting it from other production companies? Will you be airing advertising?

Again, there is another smorgasbord of standards in the way that video will be delivered to you: resolutions, codecs and wrappers. And again, Cosmos is ahead of you on this. It takes care of all the transcoding internally. Whatever you give it – provided it complies with a recognised standard – it will happily store, manage and add to the playlist.

That goes for live content too. Even if you are making it yourself, you have to connect the output of your studio or production system to the input of Cosmos. That probably means using a live streaming standard like SRT or a broadcast protocol like SMPTE ST 2110. Again, Cosmos handles the signal formats and generates a smooth and seamless output.

Step 3 – develop a schedule

The key characteristic of a television channel is that you know when it is going to show programmes. They are transmitted according to a schedule.

The broad timings of the schedule are then refined into a playlist, which adds in promos, trailers and other material (including commercials) to create a seamless stream with no jagged joins or black screens.

Cosmos has a very simple user interface which allows you to drag and drop items from your stock of content (broadcasters would call it the asset management system) into a schedule. It then handles all the necessary file movements to be able to transmit the playlist.

If you already have a means of creating playlists then you can import them into Cosmos, using JSON for JavaScript systems. Media players commonly use the .pls file format, and this, too, can be imported.

Step 4 – make it look good

You want your potential audience to return to your channel regularly, so they need to be able to recognise it. That means imposing a consistent look and feel.

You know that major broadcasters create station idents which emphasise the logo and other brand values. Cosmos includes HTML5 graphics that allow you to create your own idents and promos, underlining your brand.

You can create graphics templates, so that each time you want to show something on screen it will be simple to make something within your brand identity, and do it quickly and cheaply. Great for text overlays as well as full-screen graphics.

You can also use the tools to put a bug – a small copy of your log – into the corner of the screen.

Step 5 – go to air

You’ve built the schedule, you’ve defined your graphical identity, you’ve collected the content, you’ve connected to your live inserts. It’s time to go live.

From your schedule, Cosmos will automatically define and run the playlist. Completely unattended it will deliver the content you have selected, at the times you have determined. Where you want video transitions between items – mixes, wipes, dynamic visual effects – it does them.

It does the necessary technical stuff, too. Audio levels are normalised according to the international standards like ITU-R BS 1770. Closed captions are synchronised. SCTE triggers are added for remote advertising insertion. If you are delivering to multiple platforms, Cosmos handles the different signal formats required.

In short, you can very quickly set up your own channel without any special expertise other than how you want to reach your audience. Cosmos provides all the functionality you need.

For most, Cosmos will run in the cloud, under the control of a standard computer via a firewall-protected secure internet connection. That gives you the level of interaction you want, including very responsive switching into and out of live events.

It is an open and virtualised system, which allows you to build the features of an automated content and playout automation system you need. Because it is cloud-hosted, you have no heavy capital investment, and you pay for what you use on a software-as-a-service basis.

Cosmos is forward-thinking and constantly evolving, yet stays simple and intuitive to use. With it, anyone can run a television channel.