Easing Archive Replacement and Media Management for EWTN

By David Brantley, Senior Director of Engineering, EWTN
Originally published in TV Technology magazine, December 2014

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Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) is the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to more than 230 million homes in 144 countries and territories on more than 4,800 cable, wireless, Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) and low power TV systems. EWTN Global Catholic Network airs family and religious programming from a Catholic point of view in English, Spanish, German, and French. Providing more than 80% original programming, EWTN offers inspiring talk shows, entertaining children’s animation, exclusive teaching series, live coverage of Church events, and thought-provoking documentaries.

With this rich array of content, we have built an extensive archive of important and often hard-to-replace media assets over the years. With the end-of-life and end-of-support of our Avalon broadcast archive system and StorageTek tape library with its proprietary tapes, we realized the need to replace these critical, aging components of our on-air content ingest, storage and playout system.

Our search for an archive management solution to facilitate this transition and provide seamless archive connectivity with our ingest, automation, and playout systems moving forward led us to the Masstech Topaz system (now known as Masstech for Enterprise). The Masstech solution was  exactly what EWTN required for rapidly moving our Avalon/StorageTek archive to a SpectraLogic T950 tape library with LTO drives, while transforming our Pinnacle-format video files to the MXF OP1a format used by our new Harmonic (Omneon) Spectrum video servers for playout.

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Swift, Smooth Success

The Masstech solution made our transition swift and smooth, while avoiding the lengthy migration time typically required by such changes. The Avalon databases were quickly switched to the Masstech system, while fully automated workflows were implemented to transcode the existing Pinnacle files for Harmonic Spectrum use. Leveraging Masstech’s ability to natively read the Avalon-written tapes, archived content requested by our existing Florical automation system that had not yet been converted from the Pinnacle format was automatically transcoded on-the-fly as it was restored. This occurred completely transparently to the automation system, with the Masstech software managing the format requirements behind-the-scenes.

Masstech’s direct interfaces with Florical and our Avid editing systems further streamlined the transition, minimizing disruption to our operations and training requirements. Masstech’s customer service team has been a pleasure to work with both on-site and on the phone, including providing solutions to challenges we faced with older storage technology in our legacy library.

The Masstech system has proven to be very user-friendly and easy to learn. In addition to providing an automated bridge between our various disparate systems and easy access to our assets, it serves as the hierarchical storage management (HSM) system for our ongoing playout of programming content and is also highly scalable, enabling us to easily implement other functions as they are needed. We see Masstech as the centerpiece of our future file-based workflows, transcoding content and moving it to the required areas of our operation as we extend beyond broadcast into on-demand, home video distribution and online streaming.