NAB 2016: Tightrope Cablecast Adds Software Upgrade, Next-Gen Flex Video Servers

Tightrope Media Systems unveiled version 6.1 of its Cablecast broadcast-automation platform and launched Cablecast Flex, a new generation of multiformat video servers in the Cablecast broadcast automation family.

Intended to enhance the way Community TV broadcasters manage and present live and on-demand content to online viewers, the software upgrade adds features that address evolving audience-viewing habits across smartphones and tablets, along with open APIs that maximize frontend presentation flexibility for web developers.

tightropeAccording to the company, version 6.0’s VOD publishing has emerged as a popular feature with Community TV viewers, and the new VOD Chaptering capabilities in version 6.1 expand the VOD experience. New functions provided by VOD Chaptering allow users to insert chapter markers at important points in the content, along with searchable descriptions of the marked events. Viewers watching the VOD version of a program can jump directly to a section of interest, such as a council-meeting agenda item or a scoring play in a sports event.

“Today’s busy viewers want to not only watch programs on their own schedules but also skip directly to the particular sections they’re interested in,” says Steve Israelsky, VP, broadcast solutions, Tightrope. “The new VOD Chaptering feature lets viewers jump to what they want to see in one easy click, without having to scrub through the stream to find it.”

Extending the modernized website redesign introduced in Cablecast 6.0, Tightrope further improves content presentation while simplifying program discovery for viewers. VOD programming and live streams are accessible to audiences through the new Cablecast Public Site, which provides a frontend layout of a TV station’s schedule, live streams, VOD content, and programming highlights. Category names are customizable and galleries can be updated dynamically based on customer-defined search criteria, increasing the flexibility and freshness of how programming is presented without ongoing manual effort.

For customers with multiple channels, the site now allows viewers to switch between channels — for example, from public access to education — providing faster access to targeted live and VOD content. Behind the scenes, the Cablecast Reflect cloud-based service continues to offer customers the ability to deliver Cablecast’s adaptive-bitrate, H.264 streams to a virtually unlimited number of viewers while conserving station network bandwidth.

Each Cablecast system comes standard with the Cablecast Public Site, a ready-to-use website that stations can serve as a standalone web portal or integrate into existing websites. Since all Cablecast 6.1 functionality is now built on open-source APIs, web developers have unlimited freedom to incorporate Cablecast web display features and custom applications into their own websites.

Further easing operational management, Cablecast 6.1 features an overhauled reporting engine, including an updated user interface and new functionality. A new “First Run” report lists all content that ran for the first time during a specified period for one or more channels, helping stations comply with franchise-authority reporting requirements.

Cablecast Flex Servers
Debuting at the show, Cablecast Flex servers combine the reliability and rich feature set of the Cablecast SX series with higher channel density, flexible configurability, and increased performance. The platform also provides a foundation for future Cablecast automation software enhancements.

Two models are available: the Cablecast Flex 4 and the Cablecast Flex Lite. With the Cablecast Flex 4 server, four channels can be flexibly configured as either inputs or outputs. Targeting customers with multiple channels – such as PEG operators with public, education, and government-access offerings — the increased channel density reduces equipment requirements, lowering both initial and operational costs. The Cablecast Flex Lite features one input channel and one output channel.

“It is very common for PEG stations, digital subchannel broadcasters, and educational campuses to operate three or more channels,” Israelsky explains. “With Cablecast Flex 4, these customers will be able to use a single server to do what previously required two. This not only lowers their equipment purchase costs but also enables ongoing savings in space, power, cooling, and systems maintenance.”

Users can change input/output configuration through software controls, future-proofing the servers as customer needs and channel line-ups evolve. The configuration flexibility also extends to the servers’ built-in storage, enabling customers to match internal capacity to their needs. Cablecast Flex 4 servers will be available with 16 TB or 32 TB of usable content storage configured as RAID5 for performance and fault tolerance. An additional model without an internal drive array will be offered soon for customers who prefer to connect an external storage system through a Fibre Channel or iSCSI interface.

Cablecast Flex servers include the features and benefits of the Cablecast SX series, delivering network-class reliability and comprehensive functionality in an affordable package. Multiformat playout enables media files encoded in MPEG-2, H.264, DVCPro, ProRes, and other formats to be played directly to air, with no transcoding required. Integrated live input encoding, channel branding, and HD/SD up/downconversion can be controlled easily via software while minimizing the need for costly and cumbersome external equipment.

Cablecast Flex servers are driven by Cablecast broadcast-automation software, providing a simple graphical, web-based user interface for automated playout scheduling, bulletin-board promotion, reporting, and online publishing. The Cablecast software can efficiently manage multiple Cablecast Flex (playout and recording), Cablecast Pro VOD (video-on-demand publishing), and Cablecast Live (live-streaming) servers or can be used standalone to control third-party video decks and routing switchers.

Cablecast Flex servers will start shipping on May 16.

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