3zero2 moves to remote playout in response to COVID-19 emergency

3zero2 TV, part of the Italian operation of the international Euro Media Group, is the strategic reference partner for media producers, television publishers and brands interested in the design, creation and distribution of audiovisual products.

From its production centre on the outskirts of Milan, 3zero2 TV is capable of providing services that make up the entire audiovisual production chain. The team manages production, post production and delivery of multi-platform content for any broadcaster and media company.

Two of the areas in which it is particularly focused are remote production and the MCR that airs and manages a series of linear and OTT channels including Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Milan TV, Food Network, LaF, Eurosport1, Eurosport2, Juventus TV, Elevensports, Eurosport Player and DAZN.

These abilities proved to be invaluable with the arrival of the pandemic and above all when its playout centre underwent a heavy technical operational restyling — in just one week — so that transmission could be controlled entirely from a remote home location, in complete safety.

From the first signs of possible health problems and even before government decree started the lockdown, 3Zero2 had decided to adopt technologies and methods dedicated to prioritising the health and safety of employees and at the same time guaranteeing the contractual Service Level Agreements to clients.

Luca Bertoldi, 3zero2 TV, head of technical department

Since the first announcements of the pandemic, by using smart working and limiting the size of the crew on site, it would have been possible to go to ‘phase two’ of teleworking totally from home.

Then the technical, transmission and MCR teams immediately intertwined skills and knowledge to decide how to manage TX from home. The goal was to imitate the use of the structure as much as possible and to allow as many people as possible to work remotely.

Luca Bertoldi, head of technical department of 3Zero2 TV, told SVG Europe, “The first intervention, the easiest part to solve, was to enable the VPN for the personnel who perform administrative and management tasks. A laptop and a secure connection allowed remote access to shared folders and accounting management software.

“It was much more complicated to replicate this scheme for the to-air and MCR operating staff because the infrastructure has a certain degree of complexity and needs a real-time control monitor on everything that happens on air.

“The main task of the broadcasting operators is the 24-hour live monitoring of the channels on air, with a watchful eye on the entire main distribution and backup chains, from the signals that enter the video server to delivery to the main broadcasters. The first technical challenge was, therefore, how to achieve the remote vision of everything — the individual signals and the multiviewers that aggregate multiple signals.

“We managed to do this by inserting them into a TAG Video Systems multiviewer. This is a multiview that allows us to monitor compressed, uncompressed and HLS streams on an IP basis, and allows us to insert them on standard web pages.

“In other words, the signals of the main flows in SDI, managed in-house by different main matrices — given the high number of signals and the necessary redundancy — are embedded thanks to an SDI-IP converter on a web portal controlled by our engineering team and powered by the TAG system and other IP encoders.

“From home, the operator who controls emission has a laptop and external monitors. The first monitor checks processes and program schedules, checking that the material is present and the typical emission operations. The second monitor is used to control all the channels on air at the same time.

“Always operating from home it is obviously possible to remotely operate all the devices involved that manage the different workflows in the headquarters, dealing with interface to the MAM, loading materials, schedules, checking content, audio, and the playout made by Etere, Imagine Communcations and Skylark.

“All the monitors are entirely managed from home via this remote multiviewer, while the operation requires remote control software, which allows control of all the services. One of the main problems in opening such a remote access is the security that has been guaranteed by managing everything with an additional token, this being an authentication code that changes every minute.

“Through these interfaces it is possible to manage operations as if you were in the office and, for example, to switch to backup channels in case of problems and continue transmission in a way that the viewer does not notice. For safety and reliability reasons, we preferred to package this new system in-house.”

Everything under control, including security

From home, the emission operator triggers the suitable workflow once the transmission schedule of the next day has been prepared, thanks to remote access. Within the headquarters, the central MAM searches for the correct material and uploads it to the airing video servers, checking that adverts are loaded and correct, and managing any insertion of news bulletins, accessory graphics and more, while checking and viewing the channels broadcast via TAG.

The system is complex and in case of a problem, such as incorrect graphics, defective clips, malfunction of a fibre connection or other issue, switching to a backup is immediate. The operator always has everything under control; return of delivery of each channel to the broadcasters, and the exit of the video server and the whole chain, for any timely restoration interventions.

“All of this was implemented in a very short time, only one week. Today we operate remotely at 100%” – Luca Bertoldi

Luca Bertoldi said: “The flexibility of our infrastructure has once again proved to be an advantage, precisely in this moment of difficulty. Having an engineering and development team amongst us, we managed to organise everything internally and convert by ourselves a facility that was created for attended and local managing. All of this was implemented in a very short time, only one week. Today we operate remotely at 100%.”

New epoch in remotely controlled channel playout

Playout manager Enrica Busin added: “Customers have not experienced any problem, they have not perceived any change. For them the level of service is always excellent.

“We are guaranteeing the same service, the same coverage with the same number of operators, and we are, as always, very responsive to changes and requests. We manage the continuous updating of advertisements without a problem.

“Being able to operate from home and with simplicity, giving the same degree of accuracy on complicated devices that we have always guaranteed locally from the office — and also being able to make all the changes requested by the customer and in real time — is an game-changing development.

“Even the possible management of live broadcasts with contributions coming from various systems, while certainly more complex, are now a possible reality. Once back to normal, as in many other activities, the world of broadcasting will certainly redefine its workflows.”

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