Storage for Broadcast Content Preparation

Deluxe Media Deploys Avere for Fast, Highest-quality Broadcast Content Preparation

33% Productivity Gain, 500% More Delivery Capacity

From the jet-engine roar and bold colors of a Formula 1 car to the below-stairs whispers and blackest-black mourning dresses of Downton Abbey, the sights and sounds of broadcast programming must be flawlessly discernible and authentic to viewing audiences. To ensure such consistent quality, major United Kingdom broadcasters rely on London-based Deluxe Media Acton to prepare program assets for transmission.

Gez Quinn, head of Technical Services at Deluxe Media Acton, says that program assets preparation demands high-performance, agile technology solutions. “Clients depend on us to deliver some 700 hours of broadcast material every week. Our IT infrastructure must be fluid enough to absorb the varied input from content providers and sufficiently powerful to handle the heavy workloads of transcoding, editing, and quality-control processes. Avere Systems storage gives us greater flexibility in accessing content, along with the performance and efficiencies we need to consistently deliver the highest-quality results at competitive prices.”

Challenge: Increase Throughput, Reduce Costs 

The Deluxe Media team works to demanding schedules and comprehensive SLAs. The company’s reputation for reliably meeting commitments has led to rapid growth and increased demand for services. In 2013, opportunities included an expanded agreement with a major broadcaster to deliver five times more weekly content than previously contracted. 

Waheed Aslam, head of Infrastructure and Security at Deluxe Media, says that increasing content throughput meant boosting I/O performance. “In the past, to add performance, we added more disk, even if that meant buying capacity we didn’t need. That option became increasingly cost-prohibitive as the business and infrastructure scaled. We also wanted to consolidate storage resources to simplify content access.”

Solution: Avere for Reliable Performance to Transcoders and Workstations

Today an Avere FXT 3800 Edge filer cluster front-ends all of Deluxe Media Acton’s production storage, including a Coraid ZFS core filer. The Avere cluster provides high-speed I/O to a transcode farm and non-linear editing (NLEs) workstations that collectively accommodate some 20 hours of daily editing. The Deluxe Media team performs a complex set of editing functions for content preparation, as well as subtitling and audio description services for UK clients like RTE and TV3. 



Applications include Adobe Creative Suite for editing, AmberFin for transcoding, Tektronix Cerify for automated quality control of video assets and regulatory compliance (including EBU R128 loudness standards), a proprietary metadata capture system for XML file delivery, and other supporting platforms.

Completed content is sent directly from the Avere cluster to broadcasters and two separate archives. File size averages 80GB for an hour of programming. For one major client, Deluxe Media delivers a file every five minutes, up to 140 files in a day. Files are transmitted from the Avere over a 10Gb/s WAN via a Layer3 Systems FTP Poller rules-based delivery system. 

Benefits: Quality Pictures, Cost Savings, Headroom

Increased Performance for Higher Quality. Global Namespace for 33% Higher Productivity

Tuned in to Coronation Street or glued to the screen for an Emmerdale wedding, television viewers experience first-hand the high-quality pictures that Deluxe Media delivers to broadcasters. “We go the extra mile to produce the best pictures possible, regardless of how the assets come into our processes,” Quinn comments. “We handle both commissioned programming—which tends to be closer to broadcast-ready—and acquired programs that can vary significantly in format and quality. The Avere solution ensures we have necessary I/O performance to accommodate any workflow mix. With traditional storage architectures, a change in workload can cause performance to drop off a cliff, be extremely difficult to diagnose, and negatively impact productivity. Avere totally eliminates I/O performance issues, so we can make all the corrections and adjustments required to keep soap opera whispers audible and little black dresses authentically black.”

Aslam adds, “Avere analytics also help us better monitor the environment to deliver reliable performance to compute and workstation clients. Another benefit comes from using Avere’s global namespace to consolidate assets into just two incoming and outgoing volumes. That simplifies administration, and we’ve been able to eliminate most of the file movement that used to take up to eight hours for a single program. We’re allocated just 24 hours to prepare commissioned programs, so that’s more than a third of the time that content wasn’t available to be worked on. Now the bulk of material can be edited in place. Avere has proven to be a holistic solution, eliminating many of the challenges we previously faced in manipulating files for access and performance.”

Cost Benefits

Quinn points to multi-dimensional cost benefits. “SLAs dictate turnaround of typically 24 hours for commissioned and seven days for acquired content. With the Avere cluster, we’re assured performance to consistently achieve SLAs. 

“Avere also lets us deliver higher quality within our existing pricing schedules. To achieve equivalent performance with traditional core filers, we’d have spent 25-40% more. Deploying Avere, we’ve been able to take advantage of new business opportunities, including increasing delivery capacity by 500% for one of our major broadcasters. Without the Avere solution, we could not have met the cost and delivery requirements of that contract.”

The Best for Business

“Clients come to us with an operational level of confidence that we can fulfill their requirements,” Aslam concludes. “To do that, we automate as many processes as possible and buy the best technology needed to meet—or exceed—their expectations for delivery and quality. In this case, that’s Avere FXT Edge filers. Avere addresses immediate needs for reliable transcode rates and responsiveness to editing workstations. For the future, Avere ensures nondisruptive performance scaling to handle larger workloads and fulfill new contracts.”

About Deluxe Media Action

Deluxe Media Acton, a Deluxe Media Europe site, handles content preparation and compliance workflows for major broadcasters in the UK. Deluxe Media Europe is one of the largest content management service companies offering film and video asset management services to the Media & Entertainment industry. The company is part of the Deluxe family that celebrates its centenary year in 2015.