Golf Channel Drives Ahead With Mira Servers From Abekas
When the Golf Channel recently upgraded its facilities to a completely HD operation, it turned to Abekas for server solutions.
“We needed a playback server for doing effects transitions in HD,” explains Golf Channel Senior Engineering Manager Robert Majors. “When Abekas came in with the Mira — cost-wise, channel-wise, and just the functionality of the machine — it gave us the flexibility we wanted.” He adds that the Mira servers can also be controlled by VDCP with the Golf Channel’s new Sony HD switchers.
“Functionality was the key here,” says Senior Director of Engineering Ken Botelho, “and the efficiency. We can actually do file transfers from anything our creative services or graphics department puts in a new loop. We just do file transfer over for ingest.”
Majors adds, “You’ll see a full 1080i transition or effect on-air.
“The ability of having four channels in the box and being able to change that at any time to either be four full video [channels] or one video, one key, two full video, or two video and two key channels,” he adds, is important to the applications at the channel.
Mira provides playback of animated switcher transitions with video, key, and audio. It can also be employed for loop play to feed on-set screens. Even vertically mounted screens can be fed using the servers’ optional “Flipper” feature, which can operate on a channel-by-channel basis.
The servers can also be used for live sports instant replay, handling up to six live HD cameras and supporting two channels of slow-motion instant replay , complete with dissolves and wipes between the two output channels.
Mira servers are deployed worldwide at television stations, networks, production facilities, schools, and sports venues, but the Golf Channel is currently the largest user. The channel began by acquiring eight four-channel servers and then upgrading one to an eight-channel box. “Right now, we have four four-channel [servers] that we use for transitions,” explains Majors. The other four servers (three four-channel and one eight-channel) are used to feed animated-graphics loops into on-set monitors in the studios.
Says Abekas President Junaid Sheikh, “The Golf Channel was very thorough in their evaluation and put the Mira server through its paces. We had to meet certain cost, scalability, and functionality metrics.”
Abekas offers two versions of the Mira server. The eight-channel server offers eight independent SD-SDI/HD-SDI digital video I/O channels, which can instantly switch between record and play. The four-channel version offers the same independent channel configuration.
Both server models provide J2K 10-bit digital video from 25 Mbps to 200 Mbps for HD and J2K 10-bit digital video from 15 Mbps to 140 Mbps for SD. They offer eight tracks of uncompressed audio (48-kHz/24-bit embedded digital audio per channel) or 16 tracks with 3-Gbps 3DTV.
The eight-channel version of the Mira server offers 42 or 84 hours of storage at 100 Mbps with even longer times possible at lower bitrates. RS-422 serial ports communicate with Louth VDCP, Odetics, and Sony protocols.
At the Golf Channel, Botelho says, “the visual clarity along with the ease of operations for our TDs and other technical personnel make the Abekas Mira a very wise choice for us.” The winning combination is “scalability; functionality with that scalability, and, perhaps the most important issue, reliability.
“With the Abekas name throughout the years,” he adds, “the name has always had reliability behind it.”