SWR moved to a software-defined Pixel Power system to replace its end-of-life playout hardware, integrating live graphics and content, and allowing it to adapt and scale over time.

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Regional broadcaster Südwestrundfunk (SWR) is part of the German federated ARD consortium and operates the primary playout facilities not only for its own channels but for other southern German broadcasters as well, including Saarländischer Rundfunk (SR), Hessischer Rundfunk (HR) and Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR).   

As its existing playout infrastructure was reaching end-of-life, SWR decided to move to a modern, software-defined system. Central to its strategy was the integration of graphics and branding as part of the new system, as well as a system that would adapt and scale over time. SWR’s operational requirements include not only the ability to manage live events and schedule interventions but also the agility to add live graphics when required, from lottery results to severe weather warnings.

After a period of benchmarking, SWR selected Pixel Power, a Rohde & Schwarz company, as the preferred system to meet its requirements. Pixel Power Gallium automation and StreamMaster signal processing are software-defined and can be configured to precisely meet the requirements of each user. Pixel Power’s history as a company recognised for high-quality graphics was also a critical deciding factor.

Adaptable, Agile Linear Channels

“In our search for a modern playout solution, we wanted a solution that is truly future-proof, flexible and highly scalable,” said Udo Fettig, Project Manager at SWR. “Gallium and StreamMaster are our chosen systems, as they place all necessary information in one graphical user interface, without restrictions. We could lay the system out to suit all our operational workflows.”

Live content is essential to linear channels,” said James Gilbert, CEO of Pixel Power and Director of Product Management for Rohde & Schwarz media solutions. “Thematic channels will ultimately be replaced by VoD – linear broadcasters must have the ability not only to integrate live events but also to react to changing situations.” The new system at SWR also supports text-to-speech functionality to allow access to emergency alerts for visually impaired viewers.

Pixel power swr playout graphics

Gallium and StreamMaster are software applications running on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, which can be configured to create the workflows required. The systems’ tools can operate on premises, in the cloud or as a hybrid. It also inherently supports remote access. SWR has already been able to run its output with the channel controller from a home office location, while retaining the flexibility and interactivity needed for live interventions and unscheduled events.

The StreamMaster and Gallium combination is modular – from across the whole suite of software tools, each of SWR’s teams can put together the precise set of features they need.

Gallium Automation

Gallium includes a Workflow Orchestration platform for managing content workflows and automating multi-platform live and file-based content delivery. It handles tasks in either traditional playout automation chains or in linear, OTT or on demand channel workflows, automating linear channel playout or the addition and removal of graphics, branding or logos. Content can be packaged or localised according to business demands.

Reactive and scalable, Gallium PLAYOUT scheduling, asset management and automation software includes the intelligence needed to build out a variety of playout set-ups for single or multi-channel installations. It is built on modern client/server architecture with redundancy and reliable failover features, and supports multi-format distribution requirements. Considering their interest in future-proofing, this means SWR will be able to manage simultaneous delivery of traditional broadcast, web, mobile, IPTV and file-based content formats, as needed.

On the graphics side are Gallium FACTORY and Gallium PROMOTE. Gallium FACTORY automates file-based content production by adding graphics to non-live content. It can automatically generate clips such as promos, trailers and marketing content, using intelligent graphics templates, information entered by the producer, and direct access to the asset management system. Furthermore, all clip versions are produced, avoiding repetitive manual work, and finished sequences are rendered and delivered for transmission or back to asset management.

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Gallium PROMOTE is similar but is reactive, automatically creating and delivering dynamic promos and branding for live or thematic channels. It reads the traffic system and real-time schedule, then populates graphics templates for slates, bugs, promos and line-ups, meanwhile removing the repetitive task of creating cross-promotion, sponsorship and other in-programme graphics.

StreamMaster Signal Processing

StreamMaster PRODUCE is Pixel Power’s software defined graphics creation and playout engine, supporting multiple channels and multiple operators. Its codec, resolution and frame agnostic nature will help SWR to adapt via software updates as new codecs and standards are implemented.

The StreamMaster DELIVER integrated playout engine is designed for 24/7 production of simple or complex linear TV channels. Running on COTS hardware, it uses a single workflow to create dedicated content for multi-platform delivery, covering media playback, real-time master control of live feeds, real-time graphics and DVE over SDI and/or IP streams.

“We are happy that the system is expandable and can scale up to meet our evolving requirements. Playout needs can arise very quickly, and the system lets us be even quicker,” said Andreas Mungenast, Head of Playout and Media Operations Center SWR. www.pixelpower.com