Ensuring Program Quality With Triggered Recording
Visual and aural evidence of content quality close to the viewer gives broadcasters and other media companies a much better understanding of program quality and viewer experience. A new capability from Volicon, called triggered recording, allows an operator to identify and record an impairment when it occurs, as well as its potential impact on viewer satisfaction. Because typical analysis tools measure faults in the digital bit stream, they present a “sea of numbers” indicating only the possibility of a fault and displaying an alarm. It can take a great deal of time for engineers and other NOC personnel up the chain to confirm an issue and its source. With triggered recording capability, the digital analysis tools provide an actual recording of a program impairment for the operator’s review and escalation.
Triggered recording capability offers valuable functionality across a variety of applications when implemented across NOC/headend and remote hubsites. Program monitoring typically involves the monitoring of hundreds of channels around the clock, with automated testing of signal integrity and issuing alerts (via e-mail and SNMP) when channels do not conform to prespecified criteria. The addition of triggered recording — the automatic creation of an A/V clip from a specific service based on fault notification — facilitates both verification and proof of experience, yielding significant business benefits for the operator.
Visibility into the problem speeds troubleshooting by giving meaning to the barrage of alarms engineers see each day, and by helping front-line staff to be more efficient in responding or notifying appropriate technical staff. With the ability to see and hear content from a suspect channel, engineers can be more proactive in problem-solving both immediate and intermittent issues, and they are positioned to prioritize their troubleshooting efforts to ensure the best possible experience for viewers.
Visual confirmation of aired content does more than confirm the customer experience. As it narrows the focus of troubleshooting, it also validates the performance of equipment — a significant investment on the part of the operator — all along the broadcast chain. Triggered recording thus offers benefits both for users and their customers.
Proof of Experience
A large station group can use triggered recording to capture the video/audio issues that occur over-the-air on the network channels. The resulting recordings give the group the power to assess and maintain Quality of Experience (QOE) for its customers and clients.
Triggered recording enables operators to gather visual “proof of experience” related to MPEG impairments. It does so by leveraging SNMP alerts from an MPEG transport stream analyzer, server, or other monitoring device to identify stream faults, anomalies, or failures; dial the affected channel; record content for a prespecified period of time; and create an A/V clip highlighting the MPEG impairment. In this use case, triggered recording makes an operator’s existing analytical tools more powerful.
For many operators, the ability to record video/audio issues in a file format streamlines their monitoring processes. Sometimes the best approach is to see and experience the video/audio issue that has happened, and when this content is available for playback as a computer file, the operator’s internal staff, customers and clients can view and analyze video/audio issues.
With access to these automatically generated clips, engineers can evaluate the severity of an issue, determine if and to what degree it affected the viewer, and focus their troubleshooting efforts on the impairments that most influence the customer experience. In the cable environment, this capability aids in improving service levels and reducing technician dispatch costs.
Triggered recording capability also improves operators’ ability to verify proof-of-concept to advertisers and clients. If, for example, an advertiser/client did not see its advertising spot run during an important sporting event, it would not be willing to pay for that spot. With triggered recording capabilities, engineers and staff members can verify with certainty that the advertising spot in question was indeed played — and play back the video/audio for the advertiser or client as proof that it ran during the event. In addition to improving verification and troubleshooting processes, triggered recording offers a true window into how an advertisement will look to the customer.
Integration Into Broader Operations
The digital video monitoring and logging system typically operates post-set-top box (STB), providing a single system and location where video output can be accessed and monitored 24/7. The system continuously checks linear content for video or audio errors such as closed-captioning, audio levels, and static screen or black screen. The triggered recording of content may be performed as a complement to these regular scanning and/or monitoring activities. When a fault is noted, the system can shift to the appropriate channel and capture A/V content, returning to normal operation when finished.
Smooth integration of monitoring and logging systems, complete with triggered recording capability, is facilitated by dependence on open standards including MIBs, OIDs, and SNMP messages. As long as the system is built on an understanding of those values and how they are received by each piece of equipment, then the monitoring/logging system can be merged successfully into existing operations with minimal integration.
While its functionality is key, the scalability of triggered monitoring capabilities also is valuable. As the operator expands its services, the monitoring and recording solution must be able to keep pace without imposing a ceiling. If triggered recording is automated from end to end, the broadcaster can easily increase the number of channels or ads that may be monitored and logged.
Volicon offers all of this functionality and convenience with its Observer Remote Program Monitor (RPM), an advanced solution for MSOs, independent cable operators, and IPTV and satellite operators that need to automate evaluation of A/V quality for their linear, on-demand, and interactive content and advertising. Leading cable operators across the United States and around the world are deploying the Observer PRM and Volicon’s new triggered recording module to realize even more powerful monitoring capabilities throughout their operations.
Implementation by Fortune 500 Company and Top-Five U.S. Cable Operator
As part of its efforts to improve the efficacy and value of its monitoring solutions, a leading U.S. cable operator has installed the Observer digital video monitoring and logging system across its extensive operations. The company has built out its Observer system deployment over the past six years, first in order to monitor video/audio issues on its ad insertion networks and again later to facilitate overnight monitoring of networks. The need to record issues occurring over the air on network channels led the operator to begin testing and implementing the triggered recording module available for the Observer system.
The Observer’s recordings already are used to ensure quality of experience (QOE) both for the cable operator’s customers and its clients. Now, with the use of SNMP traps from the various servers that monitor video audio and identify any outages, the operator is able to create triggered recordings on its Volicon Observer system.
Triggered recording will improve the operator’s ability to demonstrate for its advertisers and clients that an ad spot ran during the contracted event or time slot. Using the triggered recording capability, engineers and staff members can verify with certainty that the advertising spot in question was played. By playing back aired content for the advertiser or client, the operator will be able to offer clear evidence of the ad run — quickly and easily extracted from the Observer log — and thus maintain both clients relationships and income streams.
Another advantage of triggered recording capability being embraced by the cable operator is that its utility as a proof-of-concept and troubleshooting tool will help engineers to detect potential issues with an advertising spot. Because the Observer system records video/audio issues as digital files, it will be easy for engineers, customers, and clients to review the content in question. Simple access to and visual review of recorded content also can facilitate unique insight into the nature of any issues, and the Observer makes this process easy and fast, in turn improving time-to-resolution for audio/video issues.
By extending the functionality of its deployed Observer fleet to include triggered recording, this leading cable operator will very quickly realize a host of benefits. In this case, the greatest benefit of using the triggered recording module is that it serves as a tool to improve QOE and proof of concept. It also gives the operator the ability to improve its verification processes and streamline troubleshooting processes. Finally, it gives users a true understanding of how the customer will experience the look of an advertisement.
Further information on the Observer RPM and other Observer systems is available online at www.volicon.com.