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TRANSMISSION Signal distribution, test & measurement

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SoftCast – the Ideal Ecosystem EARLIER THIS YEAR, Ideal Systems Group, one of Asia’s largest broadcast systems integrators, dove into the developer pool with the launch of SoftCast Technologies, a suite of downloadable solutions for broadcast television operators. Since the launch, global digital media company Brand New Media has selected SoftCast for multichannel automation, playout, and media asset management in its new playout facility in Singapore. The SoftCast range of products includes software modules for channel in a box; traditional automation; hybrid automation; content ingest; content playout in HD-SDI and IP; CG graphics; media asset management; newsroom computer system; live feed edit and censorship; broadcast schedule planning (traffic); and broadcast ad sales and contract management. The modules can be used as standalone solutions or natively connected to provide an end-to-end broadcast system. SoftCast modules can be delivered internationally over the Internet and are optimised to run on standard Dell computers that can be obtained locally in the user country. The ability to use standard equipment removes any difficult import regulations that many countries impose on broadcast equipment. SoftCast is already available in multiple languages including English, Thai, Japanese, and Chinese, and will be localised into more languages as required. According to Fintan McKiernan, CEO of Ideal Systems Singapore, “Softcast essentially came about to address a gap that we see in the broadcast market. Since we opened the Singapore office we have had a number of opportunities in countries like Indonesia, Myanmar and various countries where import duties and tax for broadcast equipment is actually quite opaque and, in some cases, we found it very difficult to accurately judge in advance what the landed cost of broadcast equipment is - which made it very difficult doing proposals into those countries.

working on it ‘just in time’, you get a very up to date machine that is using the latest processors and so on.”

“The other thing we noticed is that as the broadcast market moves into a lot more IT-centric space, there seems to be two tiers. There is kind of entry level equipment which is highly cost effective and potentially not as robust or not as feature rich, and then there is enterprise level equipment which tends to be predominantly North American or European and by the time it gets here it is very expensive and very expensive to support and difficult to support with the majority of support coming out of North America and Europe. So, forcing Asian operators here, especially the smaller ones who don’t have large technical teams, into maintenance calls at 4pm, 5pm, 8pm, 9pm at night and so on.

“But, all of the parts are native integrated,” says the Ideal Systems Singapore CEO. “So there is no integration cost, there is no integration overhead and there is no integration lead time when an operator starts to put building blocks together. Now, that again, is a major bonus for smaller broadcasters who don’t have integration budgets, who are in the base band world didn’t have the big integration requirements because it was an SDI based band workflow, but when these guys move into the software world where APIs, soap interfaces and so on require programmatic integration rather than base band cable integration, then they’ve got expense that maybe they haven’t budgeted for or maybe they find hard to scope.

“So, against the backdrop of those two factors as contributing factors, we realised that there was a real open space in terms of a mid-level broadcast ecosystem. That’s where the market requirement for Softcasts evolved as we saw it.”

“What we are doing is offering these smaller, maybe newer, broadcasters a quicker and more cost effective route to market because we are effectively removing integration costs, if they stick within the ecosystem, but also because it is fully modular we are not pushing or we are not mandating that they stick within the ecosystem.”

“Dell is represented in every market locally,” says McKiernan. “So, this immediately gives us the opportunity to give a specification for a Dell to an operator that they can pick up locally. “From an Asia perspective, people are buying boxes that are made from components that are made in Asia, that are shipped in a lot of cases to North America, then they are put in a factory in North America where software is installed on top of the Windows or Linux and then flown back to Asia again. “Before these things even start life here they have been around the world once or twice and have been in and out of various customs duties as well. So, before we even start with the function of any Softcast broadcast system, we are already into the fact that it’s cheaper, better supported, easier to obtain and, typically, because the Dell components are

While Softcast is a software ecosystem, McKiernan says users can take the ingest module on its own, the newsroom module on its own, scheduling and traffic, and so on.

While designed to meet the requirements of Asian broadcasters, McKiernan says because the Softcast platform is delivered via the Internet, broadcasters from other regions could also look at its adoption. “Our physical area of good support and coverage is where our points of presence are,” he says. “So, it is the 10 countries in Asia where we have offices, or the nearby countries. However, for example, if someone in Australia rang up and said they wanted a Softcast, we would probably look to a local partner in Australia for something like that, because its broadcast. File types are always variable, there is always some idiosyncrasy. There is always something special in every market. So my guess is that if this takes off outside of our target geographical market, and given that by the nature of its delivery mechanism over the internet, we don’t have geographic boundaries, we would look then to take in partners if you like to work with us on that.” Visit www.idealsys.com

TRANSMISSION

Aggregating a set of in-house technologies with that from “best of breed manufacturers”, Ideal pulled them together under a single brand to offer a “pre-integrated ecosystem” optimised to run on standard Dell PCs.

Fintan McKiernan, CEO of Ideal Systems Singapore.

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5/06/14 12:44 PM

Profile for Content+Technology

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Content and Technology Asia May June 2014  

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