Migration of Off the Air Recordings

Current system

The current system consists of eleven servers.  Seven of these are in Gateway House and four are in Kimberlin.  The current solution has two lots of storage, one at each site.  At the time when the system was created, the local network was not reliable enough to assume copying across it would work.  We created two stores, one in each building.  This allowed us to make sure we had a copy of a programme and that a copy would survive a disaster in either building.  Having two copies enabled us to split the load for streaming video, we have a streaming server running from each block of storage.

There are five machines used for the ingest of TV programmes.  The TV Control is responsible for the electronic programme guide, telling servers to record a programme and for starting the copy of the MPEG-TS programme to the storage servers.

The TV Control tells a TV node to record a programme.  The programme is copied to the local storage, the local copy is copied across to the remote store, both copies are checked before the copy on the TV node is deleted.  Finally, the TV Control updates the library website to say a programme is ready for transcoding.

The transcoders check for programmes to transcode, then run scripts which repair errors in the MPEG-TS video, converts to MPEG-PS and then transcodes the programme to two videos, one suitable for play out in lecture theatres/desktops and one suitable for desktops/mobile devices.

The initial proof of concept started recording programmes before 2008.  There are now 4,880 recordings over 24TB using this solution.  This storage encompasses the original recording as well as the resulting transcoded files.

Problems in the current system include running out of disk space occasionally, having to re-tune when channels in Freeview move and not being able to tie the EPG internal to the TV Control to the library website.

Good bits of the current system include being written to suit internal work flows, great quality play out to lecture theatres and being able to record East Midlands programmes.

Box of Broadcasts

Box of Broadcast has these extra features (we could have been a contender) as of January 2014:

  • the addition of all BBC TV and radio content dating from 2007 (800,000+ programmes)
  • over 10 foreign language channels, including French, German and Italian
  • an extended 30 day recording buffer – more time to record missed programmes
  • a new look website, improved navigation
  • Apple iOS compatibility – watch BoB on handheld devices
  • searchable transcripts
  • links to social media – share what you’re watching online
  • a one-click citation reference, allowing you to cite programmes in your work

All good stuff.

Migrating the university’s current archive and capture system

In some form the current service needs to be migrated to ITMS’s new infrastructure.  There are too many physical parts to it which need maintenance contracts to support them and they exist outside of what ITMS wants for its infrastructure.  The service has been recording since before 2008.  There are over 4,880 recordings with over 24TB over data.  Two thirds of this data are the original recordings.  They are useful to keep because of the shifting standards used in web browsers to display video.  We will soon need to look at converting video to h.265 and/or WebM/VP9.

Take a look a the diagram:

TV P2V and Project

Diagram showing the current solution and possible split into archive and project

Bob of Broadcasts ticks most of the boxes but does not support the need to record East Midlands programmes and might not fit other of the library’s needs.  The original system can be turned in to an archive or it can be turned in to an archive that can still accept recordings made locally.  It could be that we separate the two systems.  We could keep the archive and have a separate system that satisfies the need to record local TV.

In the migration of most of the service to the new infrastructure several parts and functions need to be re-factored.  The current service reflected the need for an offsite backup and the nature of the network at the time, while the new infrastructure takes care of this for us.  I would like to fixed the smaller video streams so that it plays on modern mobile devices.  The original was created to work on iPad first.  At some point iOS was updated and playback became difficult or impossible.  We could save a lot of enterprise (think money) grade disk space if we can conveniently store the original recordings on tape.  The migration on the face of it should be straight forward.

If we implement the project, that is the TV Recordings Update project, we might come up against a lot of unknowns because the service has been working with out an update for six years.  I am using the software outside of work and have satellite and terrestrial HD versions of the tuner card that accepts four inputs.  While the new version of the TV recording software will bring new features including an electronic programme guide API we don’t know what, in the other tools, will be broken by bringing the service up to date.

To recap then, we can :

  • migrate the archive only.  This should be straight forward
  • migrate the archive and have a separate, provisioned at the desktop, solution for East Midlands recordings
  • migrate the archive and attached an update of the recording system to the archive.

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