Case Study: MBC deploys Pixel Factory promo solution for its newly launched Bollywood channel
MBC deployed Pixel Factory, a promo solution for its newly launched Bollywood channel. Keith Dallison, Post Production Manager at MBC, sheds light on how the solution has improved workflows. Read the published BroadcastPro article
One of the keys to success for a big broadcaster like MBC is the need to be progressive and seize any opportunity to make an impact on its viewers. When we plan to launch new channels we need to go on air as soon as possible, not prolong the process for months and be beaten to the post by the competition.
And that puts pressure on many areas within the operation. So when MBC wanted to launch a new channel called MBC Bollywood, we wanted it to be on air as soon as possible. Ideally, a new channel needs to build an audience quickly; then it has to retain those viewers. So the content has to be marketed intensively, and one proven way to do that is through on-air promos and trailers. With good ideas that are well designed and produced, they give the channel a strong sense of identity as well as enticing audiences with the programmes and movies that are coming up. The problem is that the traditional route to produce all the different day and time versions, once the trailer has been cut, is labour- and hardware intensive for an editor in a suite compiling the mixed audio with the pre-cut visuals and finalising the deliverables with branded graphics. The time required for rendering and delivering the final items to transmission further burns more time from the resources. When it came to MBC Bollywood, our existing resources were already close to capacity and with a challenging budget in hand, an alternative solution had to be found to support the new channel. With the new channel starting to take shape in September 2013, we took the opportunity to research options at IBC. We spoke to the usual suspects in the post production and on-air graphics arena, and various workflow solutions were starting to match our objectives. One solution from Pixel Power had a different approach and proposal. It was this difference, plus the added attraction of the minimal effort it would take to integrate it into our operation with the time constraints we faced, that made us look at their solution more closely.
The product was called Pixel Factory. Essentially, what it does is automate the production process for versioning promos. It is built on their high quality graphics engines and standard IT servers, so it is easy to implement and meets our technical expectations. The way it works is that your experienced graphics designers create templates for all the different variations of promos you need. It is a one-off process, and designs can be as elaborate or as simple as required. The final templates are then loaded into Pixel Factory and are ready to be rendered with whatever content you give it. For the required versions, details are added via MS Excel, and then Pixel Factory creates them automatically. In practice, after creating the promo body, we mix the soundtrack versions, add them, and then the final deliverables are rendered and sent to a pre-selected network folder for QC (quality check) before transmission. The real advantage is that once the design for the channel branding has been imported into Pixel Factory we know that it will be preserved throughout every promo because that is what we have instructed the system to do. After that, a producer can commission a group of promos by filling in an Excel form, which can be done from any work station. This eliminates the need for booking and using post resources, as the creation of deliverables has now become a background task.
From MBC’s point of view, this automated production solution matched all of our objectives for this project. By deploying Pixel Factory on MBC Bollywood, we have shown considerable savings of time and editing resources, also reducing by half the actual delivery time. So, after this successful test run and proof of concept our next step was to roll the system out to other channels. The expectation is that we will inevitably see further reductions and savings within our resources, allowing us to streamline our operation more effectively. Our branding post production department is a very busy area, with eleven online suites and four audio mixing facilities, divided into sub divisions to handle the many differing post tasks and demands, seven days a week. Saving on time and resources means we can now focus more on creativity. So the benefits are seen on many levels. In the beginning, Pixel Power offered us two options for this system, and we opted to start with a product called Pixel OnDemand. This pay-as-you-go option – paying for each hour of output – appealed to us, as it meant we could very quickly set something up and be in production.
The cooperation and support from the people at Pixel Power was tremendous. From the time when the decision was made, and with the channel launch set for November 2013, we had just a few weeks from placing the order to going on air. In that time, Pixel Power delivered, installed and commissioned the system, they also provided an artist to train and work with our post and design team to ensure the templates were exact and to the high standards we demand. Pixel OnDemand is an operational expenditure business model, and with the success of its use in MBC Bollywood, when we started to add extra systems we switched to the capital expenditure model, Pixel Factory.
At MBC we seek solutions that are robust, innovative and come with a strong infrastructure for local support. Additionally, the companies offering these solutions must display an understanding of the high pressure and demands on the leading network broadcaster in the region. We now have more than six months of practical experience with Pixel Factory, and it has delivered real, quantifiable benefits in terms of taking the pressure off our busy post production department. The MBC Bollywood launch was hugely successful, and our experience with this technology contributed in no small measure to that success. I have no doubt that MBC will rely ever more on automated promo production for its future expansion of channels and projects.