Whether located in a city centre, in a suburb or out in the countryside, these all have one thing in common: space is at a premium from the moment a racks room has been built. TV-Bay readers will know more than most people why this is. The broadcast industry is in a state of continuous expansion, trying to accommodate new channels or augment existing output with extra services such as high definition, IP-based catch up, additional languages or second screen.
Pressure on space is just one of several reasons why broadcast systems integrators worldwide are adopting channel-in-a-box (CiaB) solutions. Founded by experienced broadcasters who recognised the advancing capabilities of IT-based processors and platforms, PlayBox Technology pioneered the CiaB approach. This has now reached the point where an entire standard-definition or high-definition channel can be accommodated in just one rack unit including graphics, character generation and branding.
It is normal procedure in broadcasting to run primary and secondary systems with automatic switchover as a safeguard against on-air failure. On that basis, CiaB with full redundancy becomes synonymous with 2 rack units per channel. A single backup can of course be implemented across several channels.
Reliability is another key advantage CiaB solutions have compared with systems based on devices from multiple vendors. PlayBox Technology has developed its CiaB product range as a single entity over many years, guided by a highly experienced team with full control over every aspect of the design. This approach differs from the bespoke systems where each customer received a combination of hardware and software from many companies. Each link of a multi-vendor system had to be tested to ensure full compatibility between its various elements before they could be trusted to perform efficiently under all operating conditions. Hardware and software integration is an inherent part of CiaB system design rather than a challenge which emerges in the closing stages of a project.
A modern CiaB system should incorporate practically everything required for a channel to function locally, remotely or if necessary completely unattended. That includes all the hardware and software required to allow ingest, scheduling, playout, graphics, logging, subtitling and billing. Plus the system control GUIs, multiple terabytes of fast-access hard-disc storage. In a typical installation, almost the only third-party device we have to provide is a router.
Our CiaB systems run on carefully tested but otherwise standard off-the-shelf IT hardware. They are all based on commercial off-the-shelf hardware meaning that spare parts are easy to obtain and very low in cost. PlayBox Technology software is Windows-based and can be supported quickly and easily via the Internet. All systems are essentially identical in configuration and structure.
Thousands of PlayBox Technology systems are currently being used remotely ataround the world. All of these are scheduled and monitored either from a separate control room within the same building as the CiaB server or over a long-distance IP-based link. Each CIAB installation is designed to run in accordance with an operatordefined schedule while retaining the option of manual over-ride at any time to handle a live insert.
CiaB is the ultra-compact future of broadcast systems design.