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Could I Run a TV Station on Linux?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the broadcast-by-penguin dept.

321

JesusQuintana asks: "I'm working with a low-power television station to update their playback system. Currently they're using tape and I've been tasked to move them to computerized playback (MPEG-2, etc.) There are proprietary solutions (very expensive) and there are companies that bundle software with Windows and standard x86 hardware. Overall, they are generally unimpressive and won't sell the software without bundling it with their own hardware. (They won't let us buy our own storage.) We have the expertise to build our own infrastructure (NAS, redundancy, etc.), but really just need the equivalent of iTunes for high quality video. There are lots of other pieces needed to complete the work-flow (such as encoding the media), which could be accomplished on Mac or Windows or even Linux. But what about playback? We need something that will play back these files at their scheduled times (perhaps scheduling cron jobs to change playlists) to broadcast quality hardware (SDI or YUV video). Could we run a TV station on Linux?"

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answer (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16325527)

yes

Re:answer (5, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325635)

But implimentation is left as an exercise for the student.

KFG

Re:answer (1)

melandy (803088) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326351)

But implimentation is left as an exercise for the student.

KFG... Trying to remember if you have the same initials as my old analog electronics prof.

-m

answer: NO (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16325655)

How could you??

Linux is not stable enough. Multithreading on Linux is a joke and the file system (EXT-3 and Raiser) fails all the time. Linux is stable only in environments with almost no workload, like on a box running in someone's closet. That would not be the case in a TV station.

Of course some may say that they've been running Linux without reboot for years, but that's lies. If only because there are critical kernel updates about every two weeks. You could broadcast the console recompiling the kernel instead of porn at 1am.

Re:answer: NO (1, Informative)

Yonder Way (603108) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325733)

Hmmm I have a number of Linux servers here that would disagree with you.

I see my ftp server has served up 14TB so far this month without a hiccup, and it's using ext3.

I don't blame you for posting anonymously. It's hard to post something like that in a way that people can hold your name accountable.

Re:answer: NO (1, Informative)

aonaran (15651) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326309)

Noone but Gentoo buffs loads a new kernel ever 2 weeks.
My webservers when I ran them for an ISP didn't get a reboot, let alone a new kernel install for 6-12 months at a time. ...and yes, those reboots were usually either kernels or hardware re-locations.

Of course you can (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16325551)

With Linux, all you have to do is concatenate 6 strings on the command line and edit 3 configuration files and you can accomplish anything!

Re:Of course you can (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16326027)

Ahahaha, broadcast TV scheduling with cron. Haha. Hoho.

Seriously, how much could the proprietary vendor's storage cost that you think it will be cheaper in the long run to string together dozens of programs not meant for the job so as to let you build your own IDE NAS. How much is the constant redevelopment going to cost when you find piece after piece not quite right for the task? How much is support and downtime going to cost?

If the options are rolling your own software system from scratch and buying a proprietary system that they can't afford, it's very likely they can't afford (in many ways) your homebrewed approach either. Stick with tape and what they know.

Program in APL (5, Funny)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326079)

You can even write the entire program to run the station itself in a mere 11 characters of APL code.

Re:Of course you can (2, Funny)

DittoBox (978894) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326365)

I'm sure their's also some obscure emacs function for it too, if you're brave.

HowTo (5, Funny)

Crazy Man on Fire (153457) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325555)

There some pretty good information about TV station automation here [imdb.com]

Re:HowTo (4, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325605)

This is why progress sucks. With everything on MPEG and no more tapes, what will the h4x0r3d robot claws fight over?

Re:HowTo (3, Funny)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325805)

I think this one [imdb.com] might have more information.

Re:HowTo (1)

arclyte (961404) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325817)

I thought you were going to send him here [imdb.com]

Just a thought... (0)

TheCabal (215908) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325559)

May or may not work (I'm just guessing), but couldn't you use MythTV for playback?

Re:Just a thought... (2, Informative)

Nos. (179609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325843)

NO, MythTV is way overkill for something like this. He just needs a video player, possibly with a dynamic playlist.

Re:Just a thought... (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326219)

NO, MythTV is way overkill for something like this. He just needs a video player, possibly with a dynamic playlist.
Okay, then, what about using a video player with a dynamic playlist?

modded xbox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16325565)

XBMC is a cheap alternative to a media center PC. If you're looking to playback a series of videos you can make a playlist... For broadcasting, I'm not sure this is the application of choice for your situation, but it is an option many people overlook for video playback (outside of the living room)

Mplayer (3, Informative)

chikanamakalaka (218733) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325573)

Mplayer should be able to do the job.

Re:Mplayer (1)

doti (966971) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326071)

I second that.
Mplayer is not only a fantastic player, but a nice encoder too.
It does it all, and is very simple. Being a cmdline program makes it perfect for a server.

Video Lan Project (4, Informative)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325593)

I think you are Looking for the Video Lan project, specifically the VLC player:

VLC [videolan.org]

Re:Video Lan Project (4, Informative)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325663)

Just realized I should give some more details about *why* you might want to use VLC.

VLC has the ability to be controlled from multiple different types of clients/interfaces. There is a command line client (perfect for cron jobs), GUI client, and several network interfaces that would allow you to control it over the network (so you could, for example, roll your own easy-to-use scheduling program, and have the scheduling program control VLC over the network).

However, I'm not entirely sure about VLC being able to playback to special broadcast hardware, but it wouldn't surprise me if there is a way to get it to work.

Re:Video Lan Project (4, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326023)

With the latest kernel, it shouldn't be too hard (more than 200 lines of code) to just write up a quick driver, assuming the specs on that hardware are available. Really, it is just a question of converting from one bit stream format to another -- and my hunch is that this is unnecessary, since there are standard formats that have probably been implemented already (PAL, NTSC, etc.). Analog TV, thankfully, hasn't become a mess of proprietary formats (the way digital movies and music have).

Re:Video Lan Project (4, Interesting)

aonaran (15651) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326405)

Speaking of VLC, I know a guy at the cable co where I used to work who uses VLC running on $800 Dell servers with capture cards to digitize analog channels to a format that the digital boxes can read. He saved the company $9000/channel for each of the channels they didn't have already piped to them in digital format (the lowest cost purpose built digitizer was $10,000)

vlc, mpeg4ip, etc. (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325595)

Look at VLC, MPEG4IP, etc. Lots of options out there....

Have you asked Weird Al? (1)

ToxikFetus (925966) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325603)

Blockbuster has some great instructional videos [imdb.com] on setting up a low-cost television station.

Yes (5, Informative)

Yonder Way (603108) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325623)

It wouldn't even be all that complex.

MySQL database that indexes all content.

Also have a table for the schedule.

Batch job queues up content. As one piece of content finishes, next piece is queued up and plays.

All of this can be made fairly redundant without too much effort. Setting up your schedule can be point & click.

The real work will be if you want to make it fancier to give the advertising department more direct control over what ads run when, as opposed to having the programming manager schedule all of that.

All of this can pretty easily give you a very detailed automated log of what content played when, when you gave your station ID's, what ads played, etc.

Pick one good well known scripting language, learn it well, and use it. I'm not going to enter the holy war of telling you which one to use.

MySQL can be replaced with PostgreSQL if you prefer. Doesn't matter which. You're not keeping your content in the database, just an index of where to find the content on the filesystem plus the broadcast schedule.

The REAL work in all of this is making it resilient so you don't hit dead air. Redundant systems with automated failover, etc. And the cost of entry may be high, but I can't recommend highly enough that your content be stored on a redundant SAN or NAS infrastructure. Most of my long nights repairing things have dealt with failed hard disks. A decent SAN or NAS will allow you to rest easily at night.

Additionally a system like this will allow you to have a much more intelligent content-rich web site.

And I'm also sure there are people at Google who would love to talk to you about your ad delivery system if you put something like this in place. You would like to increase your ad revenue, wouldn't you? Google is working on breaking into this space in a big way. It would be worth making a few calls.

Re:Yes (1)

500HP (1009671) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325747)

Waaaaaaaaay more than one table. This is actually a project unto itself. It looks easy but it ain't. Also, the Guide, as it were, is patented by the company that owns TV Guide. I think it might be Gemstar?

The other challenge (3, Insightful)

sterno (16320) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326001)

Making it redundant is important, but the other challenge is making sure that it's usable by programming people who don't have significant technical expertise (at least not of this sort). Intutive ways to queue up programs, ads, etc. You can have a system with all of the bells and whistles in terms of redundancy, storage, etc, but if nobody knows how to use it effectively, it doesn't matter.

Re:The other challenge (4, Funny)

chuck (477) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326171)


Intutive ways to queue up programs, ads, etc.


They can set it up in google calendar and the scripts can read the ical feed.

Re:Yes (3, Interesting)

Rohan427 (521859) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326211)

Just to backup what Yonder Way said, Yes. I worked on a project for a little while that was to provide scheduled playback for Internet audio and optional video streaming. It used a MySQL database for tracking artists, program schedules, playlists for the programs, supported e-Commerce, traked where the actual audio and video streams were, etc. For playback, there are many different applications (free) that can do the job depending upon the format you wish to provide. The hardest part (not including the time for development, which is not hard, just time consuming) is selecting the various components from all the choices available.

For the inventive and those that need a solution that doesn't exist, the various video formats and protocols are published and applications can be written to provide the solution needed (which is something I had to do in part for Akamai when I worked there).

As a final note, a Linux based solution would work far better and be far more reliable than a Windows based solution (it would also provide a far better ROI and a lower TCO).

PGA

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16326249)

have you even said anything not blatantly obvious with this post?

Batch job queues up content. As one piece of content finishes, next piece is queued up and plays.

like... duh.

Dear Slashdot (4, Funny)

brkello (642429) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325627)

Teach me how to do my job.

Thanks!

(I kid! I kid!)

dear brkello (1)

ranjix (892606) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326091)

from our point of view, you're doing your job VERY well.
keep up the good work.


signed, slashdot

Re:Dear Slashdot (0, Offtopic)

amcdiarmid (856796) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326389)

Actually, sometimes I'm completely flummoxed by what gets on Ask Slashdot. If you ask about a really specific problem that only applies to you, you might get on (TV Station on Linux, Audio Card for Poscasting, ...)

When I ask about a Smart Network Switch, I get rejected.
(Specifically, I wanted advice on a 24-port gigabit switch with some management features, including VLAN & CoS. I was thinking that LAN party people & people who use in SMB would know. This is where the world is going, and the $300 range is Linksys, DLink, and a company I don't like - I thought that a lot of people here might have the same issues, but noooooooo.) /vent-off

In for a penny, out for a pound. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16325631)

"There are proprietary solutions (very expensive) and there are companies that bundle software with Windows and standard x86 hardware. Overall, they are generally unimpressive and won't sell the software without bundling it with their own hardware. "

Is using Linux really going to save you that much money to justify all the work that your going to have to put in to make the whole thing come off effortlessly? Let alone the hardware your going to need regardless of software.

Re:In for a penny, out for a pound. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16325853)

By "very expensive", the author means incredibly expensive. The hardware is decent, but the software and the interfaces to modern broadcast automation is ugly -- still stuck back in the mentality of text-based programs at best (which makes any GUI app as hard, if not harder, to use). For non-traditional media, like a LPTV (Where frame-accurate automation is not required, where the content can controlled (minimal legacy support, a small number of possible inputs, etc), a full, commercial solution is also overkill. All you would need is a database, a machine (or 2) dedicated to output (for quality and redundancy more than anything), and a controller that queues schedules from the database and sends commands to the output servers as needed. So, yes, Linux will save you not only a bundle of money, as long as you have the ability to program some decent interfaces, but also some frustration.

Re:In for a penny, out for a pound. (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326109)

One thing I've learned - whenever someone starts off a project description with "all you would need" you should clear the next 2 years.

Re:In for a penny, out for a pound. (1)

btpier (587890) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326451)

Exactly. Go price out some Avid gear and you'll see what we mean. In my short experience with television, we used an Avid Airspace which runs unix but it was a turnkey solution.

Re:In for a penny, out for a pound. (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325977)

He said he was willing to look up Windows, Mac, AND Linux solutions in the body, even if the title makes it more pro-Linux than it is.

Re:In for a penny, out for a pound. (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326243)

I think it would be better to look at Linux as giving you more flexibility than something that will save you money. If you're smart and know what you are doing, Linux can probably save you a lot of money. But usually you just have to mess with it a bit and make a few failed attempts before it does what you want. (I'm just speaking in general here, not about any specific TV related application)

I've been wondering the same thing (1, Offtopic)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325633)

I have been wondering the same thing. I was expecting to be a little more elaborate, and generating the content in realtime. OTherwise, I would think that things like geekradio [sourceforge.net] might be modified to fit commercials, show snippets, station announcement, etc.

The real question in doing a TV station, is how to get a license for the LPTV station? THe FCC website talks about having to check the website for when the application window is active, and they only allow license applications when they think it is convenient for them.

Also, you need a place to put the antenna, nevermind the equipment costs. Can I stick an antenna on my house? Can I use this old dead tree? I haven't been able to find out that sort of thing just yet. FCC and the City of Pittsburgh obfuscate their rules and regulations, it is a bit hard to figure out some of these things.

Re:I've been wondering the same thing (1)

chuck (477) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326229)

I'm not sure what you're referring to. The station in question already exists.

gstreamer? (1)

aksokzan (979658) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325647)

I'd imagine something based on gstreamer may be able to do wonders. (caveat: I've only tinkered with audio for gstreamer.) Otherwise, I bet mplayer and vlc will be mentioned quite a bit.

run linux...? (2)

xiao_haozi (668360) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325649)

tv station!..yes...but does it run linux.... oh wait..that's the question.

Could we run a TV station on Linux? (-1, Offtopic)

mctk (840035) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325657)

Not in the country Jesus! That's illegal! Fucking, pederass.

Re:Could we run a TV station on Linux? (0, Offtopic)

mctk (840035) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325795)

Wow. That really didn't come out right. English is my first language.

Linux in the corporate environment (1)

amazon10x (737466) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325671)

Though I don't know how to accomplish the job, I thought I'd mention that--assuming you get it to work--it's nice to see linux being used to accomplish things like this in the corporate world. It shows other companies that it is indeed possible to run a business without proprietary software.

Please do let us a know what your final solution is.

Given that... (4, Insightful)

also-rr (980579) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325673)

The BBC runs a lot of their system (including the weather graphics [slashdot.org] ) on Linux I'd say that the answer is yes. The more important question is how hard is it for me to do it.

Well it is possible to run one on Windows. (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325693)

Or at least use windows as the source of video. A local [very small] Tv station was once broadcating the "Windows is shutting down" screen for days! [This station normally broadcast what was more or less a slideshow, and used a local radio station as thew audio source.]

Re:Well it is possible to run one on Windows. (1)

SScorpio (595836) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326053)

Blah, the windows is shutting down and errored Powerpoint screens had no class. Now the Amiga desktop. Those stations had class.

TV stations on Amiga. (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326159)

"Blah, the windows is shutting down and errored Powerpoint screens had no class. Now the Amiga desktop. Those stations had class."

I've seen a few of those. I also saw the TV Guide channel (when it was called Prevue) where the upper half was an Amiga guru screen error screen.

What beats all, though, is the channel I saw in another city that had the blue Commodore 64 "Ready" prompt screen on Channel 2 for days.

Re:Well it is possible to run one on Windows. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16326227)

I remember in the Day a local station that ran streaming text from a commadore 64 you know that text on the c64 blue(t) background!

Not an expert (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325701)

The closest thing to a video iTunes I can think of is MythTV
I did find this how to on TV output
http://ivtv.writeme.ch/tiki-index.php?page=TvOutHo wto [writeme.ch]

I have no idea if these cards are broadcast quality.
The good thing is you can try out a some solutions without spending a lot of money.
I could be wrong but isn't this going to be a little more complex than just running a play list?
How many playback systems would you use? What kind of switch? What about audio output?
You will also need to worry about the video and audio staying in sync?
What about captioning? I does Mpeg-2 keep line-21 of the VBI intact?

I would love to see a TV station running on FOSS/Linux.
Everything from OpenOffice, Sqlledger, to Asterisk for the phone system.
Has a lot of potential as a project but there is a lot of work ahead.
 

little software available for linux. (2, Informative)

flaming-opus (8186) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325731)

Most all of the compositing, editing, and formatting software is for windows. For some very limited sorts of things, you could probably roll your own, but it would take a lot of development time, and probably be hard to use.

However, you should check out Apple's final cut pro. I've seen it used for small-medium sized TV stations, and it's not too hard to use. I like it.
http://www.apple.com/finalcutstudio/ [apple.com]
http://www.apple.com/uk/pro/profiles/tourdefrance/ [apple.com]

Re:little software available for linux. (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325985)

Most all of the compositing, editing, and formatting software is for windows. For some very limited sorts of things, you could probably roll your own, but it would take a lot of development time, and probably be hard to use. However, you should check out Apple's final cut pro. I've seen it used for small-medium sized TV stations, and it's not too hard to use. I like it.
RTFQ:
"I've been tasked to move them to computerized playback"

Not compositing, editing, and formatting; failsafe, scheduled playback. Final Cut Pro has no facility for that.

Re:little software available for linux. (1)

metalligoth (672285) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326097)

Writing some custom code to provide playback functionality on OS X would be a snap. It could be done via REALbasic and AppleScript with very little effort.

Re:little software available for linux. (1)

che.kai-jei (686930) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326141)

actually all the autodeski flame/inferno/combustion stuff is all availble for linux which tv stations use.

SSTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16325741)

QSSTV is the name of the software, and you can run an ameture tv station atleast.

Do they really need it? (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325791)

Not to be a technology nay-sayer, but does this low-power TV station need all of this high-faluting stuff?

Sometimes I have visions of throwing a load of technology at a problem, and then leaving someone with a solution they can't run, maintain, or understand. And then they've leaped back even further in technology when it all becomes inoperative.

The thing you have to ask yourself, is do they really need it, and can they be updated to it without damaging them in the long run?

[ No, I'm not a complete luddite, I just wonder if this is a step they might actually be ready to take ]

Cheers

Re:Do they really need it? (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326233)

"Not to be a technology nay-sayer, but does this low-power TV station need all of this high-faluting stuff?"

Yeah, all you need is an old VCR and a stack of half-done sports tapes, worn-out public domain cartoons, and soap opera marathons that you can pick up for $3 a crate-of-tapes at any garage sale. Then you'll be on TV in no-time, and with a little word-of-mouth, your ratings should surpass those of the CW network by the end of your first broadcast month.

Re:Do they really need it? (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326391)

Then you'll be on TV in no-time, and with a little word-of-mouth, your ratings should surpass those of the CW network by the end of your first broadcast month.

Actually, I took the submission to indicate that a low-power TV station which was already broadcasting was trying to modernize their infrastructure, not build one from scratch.

I was just questioning if COTS components running Linux were what an already-running TV station actually needs. At a minimum, you need to guarantee they can go back to the old system of switching tapes manually. On the other end, you could leave them absolutely dead in the water if things go awry.

A TV station is presumably more complex than setting up a myth TV machine.

Cheers

Re:Do they really need it? (2, Interesting)

general scruff (938598) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326397)

I second that.

In working for a doctors office, I was all ready to set them up with a better switch (they are running netgear now) and a couple other high tech solutions... Until I thought about it a bit more, and realized that they are fine.

What might be a better idea is to leave them where they are, and pick away at a new solution that might involve MPEG and CRON and linux stuff, but only for the day that all of the stuff they are using now is broke.

Taking your time might also mean some other solutions present themselves while you wait (Like used equipment from a slightly higher powered station upgrading all its tech bits).

Heck! Why not have a show devoted to developing a new setup for the station. Get the fans of the station involved. Now thats using Open Source!

mplayer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16325799)

How about running mplayer using cron?

NTSC Signal (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325847)

Everyone seems to be forgetting the little part about translating the MPEG compressed video into a broadcast quality NTSC signal, preferrably without noticable artifacting and color problems. Depending on the equipment, a simple TV-OUT port could be used, but would that really give the results a television station needs?

Also, let's not forget that he needs to future-proof his solution for digital transmissions. While there's tons of NTSC equipment on the market, what does one use to broadcast in digital? Presumably, he'll need encoders that are well suited to broadcast technology and an advanced digital to analog signal coverter at a minimum. He'll also need to understand whether he will have to support SDTV broadcasts, HDTV broadcasts, or both. If it's both, does his software support anamorphic encoding? If not, what is the hit from multi-encoding?

I'm barely even scratching the surface of the problems he's going to have. Right now, Linux has media software intended for home use. Setting things up for a professional television station is a whole other ball of wax that probably hasn't been considered yet.

Re:NTSC Signal (2, Funny)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325997)

Depending on the equipment, a simple TV-OUT port could be used, but would that really give the results a television station needs?

He said "low-power tv station," so as long as he can either tell that the local used car dealer is still bald or make out the nipple on the feed from the camera he put in his hot neighbor's bookcase, he's probably good.

FOSS Signal (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16326051)

Agreed. That's why I asked if it using FOSS+Hardware+Labour was really going to be economically viable compared to proprietary solutions. I like FOSS as much as the next geek. But when talking about vertical applications like running a TV station (even an LPTV). FOSS comes up short. Maybe in the future, but not now.

Re:NTSC Signal (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326295)

Not that I've ever done anything with Broadcast TV but I would imagine for the best possible image you'd output your video through the VGA and use a standalone broadcast quality device to encode it to the necessary NTSC signal, AFAIK VGA is about as high quality as you can get for an analog signal (for all I know there is some OTHER standard used in the pro sector that I've never heard of) and it's certainly one of the best analog video signals you could get out of a PC. I would think that a VGA to whatever it is they need converter would be readily available, I wouldn't be surprised if they already had one.

I think my biggest concern with ANY computer based system would be reliability... judging by how often my own machine, or even the servers at my workplace (even the Linux ones) are down I would think that sort of thing would be unacceptable in the Broadcast TV space... If done right Linux can be a whole world better in that respect then the other available OSs but hardware is still a factor, things break, hard drives crash, network switches hiccup, video cards lock up, someone cuts a wire they shouldn't have, etc.. I suppose it's unavoidable no matter what you go with though.

Re:NTSC Signal (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326395)

You can't do that. Broadcast television is interlaced. VGA is progressive. Never the twain shall meet.

This comes back to the problems he's going to have. He needs his MPEG source to be interlaced as well, OR he can use a 30fps deinterlaced source that gets interlaced in real time. Neither option is very appealing, and most people don't even understand what that entails. If he creates the signal incorrectly, all you're going to get on the screen (presuming you get anything) is a blurry mush of interlacing artifacts created by far too many transcodings.

Re:NTSC Signal (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326347)


Also, let's not forget that he needs to future-proof his solution for digital transmissions. While there's tons of NTSC equipment on the market, what does one use to broadcast in digital?

I'm no expert in TV broadcasting, but my guess is this would be most easily accomplished by some black box that converts the NTSC broadcast signal into a digital one. Sure you'd only get 480p at best, but remember this is a LOW POWER station. Just getting a digital signal out is probbably more than anyone expects.

Converting to an all digital editing, producing, etc is likely expensive (at least from what I heard a few years ago). So the tape storage system is only really one component of that.

Internet TV!!! (3, Interesting)

KallosEsq (1009785) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325891)

Yes, this can be implemented on a linux box very easily.
Long story short I implemented this in 2002 at the University at Albany, SUNY [albany.edu] with a friend.
It requires a dedicated server and a dedicated encoder.
What will make the process easier is going all digital on your content development.

It currently has a barebones site: Albany Student Television [albany.edu]

You can use any number of devices to keep the content automated and going from cron to java scripts to shell scripts and what have you. The challenge is figuring out what you want to do and how you want it managed?
Since 2002 there is a lot more technology out there. Our solution at the time was to use windows explorer with embedded media playing. Two draw backs were an occasional refresh logo in the top, and IE's tendency to be unstable.

oss media players/encoders (1)

emil10001 (985596) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325905)

MPlayer & MEncoder http://www.mplayerhq.hu/ [mplayerhq.hu]

ffmpeg

x264 (library)

I use mplayer, mencoder, and ffmpeg with the x264 library to encode dvd's to the h.264 standard mp4. I use mplayer to playback dvd's and videos. You can get frontends for mplayer, but I like it because you can easily integrate it into bash scripts. If I have some time when I get home, I can post some of the scripts that I use, and perhaps try to explain some of the settings I'm using.

For scheduled playback, you can do a playlist with mplayer and use a script and a cron job for it. Another nice thing about mplayer is that you can tell it when to start and stop playback of a file, if for example you wanted to interrupt a program 5 minutes in for a commercial break you could tell it to start at 0 and elapse 5 minutes. Then you could tell it, after the commercials, to start at 5 minutes and elapse another 10 minutes. (I'd post the code now, but the firewall here is blocking the mplayer site).

VLC (1, Informative)

ExRex (47177) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325919)

Talk to the folks over at VideoLAN. [videolan.org] The software is very robust and runs on any OS. Check the fora [videolan.org] or get on the streaming mailing list. [videolan.org]

Re:VLC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16326209)

Robust? Last time I tried using VLC (about 4 month ago), it wouldn't play for more than 2-3 hours without crashing. Modifying scheduling usually reduced my average crash time to ~10 minutes. VLC is also the most CPU intensive player out there (once a stream starts playing).

If there was one term I would use to apply to VLC, robust would not be it.

The only advantage of VLC is that it comes with all its codecs. And, at that, it isn't the only player to do so. In all aspects, some other player is better. If you are a "true believer" in VLC, I strongly suggest you to try something else. You will most likely be pleasantly surprised.

Why not? (4, Informative)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 7 years ago | (#16325955)

I worked on a high-def digital cinema preshow playback system based on Linux. It is currently running in over 400 cinemas. Of course it would take work to find and glue them together. You would also need TV compatible video output with Linux drivers.

Easy as.. (1)

mynameis_1 (1005131) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326009)

Just type "tv-station" into the terminal and you are away.

Re:Easy as.. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16326263)

These are Linux commands, remember? To start the tv station program would be something like "tsain"

xmms + mplayer? (1)

brghntr (770027) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326037)

You can script control of xmms via cron, etc. That would give you an itunes like interface. Not sure how configurable the mplayer plugin for xmms is, but mplayer supports output to crazy video hardware, etc.

Get someone from an OSS video project (1)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326047)

One would be: Storage on Linux, Playback on OS X - if you can automate it.

Otherwise I recommend getting someone from an OSS video project (mplayer, VLC, whatever) to come and do some work on the gaps you have. Non-compression playback would be one I'd guess. Aside from that it's just about CPU speed and data throughput. Which todays PCs are sufficient for.

Windows or Mac OS X (1)

fredan (54788) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326059)

Look at Blackmagic Design [decklink.com] or AJA [aja.com] for there cards. The card itself appers as an video card to the os, so you can run VLC [videolan.org] or another player on that screen. This way you get an SDI signal out of it.

If you can accept an analog component signal then look into a nvidia card which has component output under linux from there drivers.

Certainly! Just write it yourself! (1)

Bitmanhome (254112) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326095)

You said you have the expertise, didn't you? Surely that's what you meant?

For the short term, throw together a couple DVD changers and a linux-based controller. (At least two changers so the 'next' program is ready to roll the instant the 'last' one finishes.)

That'll give you time to look into file-based playback options (Mplayer, VLC, dedicated MPEG2 card). Tivo/Media Center/MythTV might actually be useful here; they manage a library of programs for you plus have a playback engine; you just need a plugin that schedules continuous playback.

When you're done, post it to Sourceforge, you'll be a hero!

Based on What I See of BBC America... (4, Interesting)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326103)

...it appears to me that BBC America is probably run by two people and an automated system. My reasoning for this? The glitches I see from time to time. Sometimes the schedule on their web site will say they are showing a certain program, when they are showing something else. Sometimes I've even seen things like a program go to commercial break and when the break is over, you're in the middle of a different program. I suspect these are automation glitches. My second reason for saying this is that I have a series of BBC America station IDs I've edited out of the regular program streams and I have an automated playlist system that can simulate a live BBC America feed just with the programs I've recorded and commercials I've produced myself. So the answer is: yes you can. The real question is, how much of your time do you want to dedicate to doing it and are you up to the challenge. I did it purely for the fun of running a virtual TV station. Would I trust it to work for a low-power TV station? Sure. But I think you'd definitely want better hardware than what I've got. Just make sure it's supported in Linux, or else it's a show stopper. (No pun intended)

Re:Based on What I See of BBC America... (1)

chuck (477) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326289)

I have an automated playlist system that can simulate a live BBC America feed just with the programs I've recorded and commercials I've produced myself.


What the hell?

Re:Based on What I See of BBC America... (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326461)

Hey... it keeps me off the streets! In another life I used to be in radio and television. Being in IT is actually just something I lucked into.

The Video Keg! (1)

Meostro (788797) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326111)

You're looking for something similar to a video keg [blenke.com] , but probably with a bit more processing power and a more controlled interface.

Short answer: Yes. Long answer... (5, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326113)

Yes, but it will require a little tweaking. You'll definitely want hard real-time, or you'll skew the frame updates. Check to see what RTC clocks Linux supports and see if it would be viable to go in that direction. If not, the machine for playing must absolutely not run anything other than the player, then using the scheduler tools to set the program to run in the FIFO queue. (ie: make it totally non-interruptable).


If you're running off remote disks, then the NAS MUST be capable of greater output than is required to transmit, as you absolutely must allow for dropped packets and other glitches that force a retransmit. If there's not enough time to fix the problem, then you're going to transmit a picture with noise.


ALWAYS work ahead and cache pre-processed frames. There should be enough processed frames (encoded, digested and all ready to blast to the mast) that in the event of a failover (you DO have failover, don't you? :), you can be transmitting without interruption until the machine on standby is up and running. That way, you can almost (but not entirely) eliminate all possibility of downtime. Downtime is a VERY good thing to eliminate.


Your NAS should use a striped RAID array (although each stripe may also be mirrored). Striping is essential in keeping the data flowing fast, and your hardware should be geared to maximizing that throughput. Let the realtime handle the scheduling.


Don't bother using cron, or some other such userland service to start things. Exploit the FIFO queue. It won't run the next thing in the queue until the previous thing is finished. So long as you guarantee the stop time, you implicitly guarantee the next start time. You can then use cron to kill programs that overrun.

The correct answer was FreeJ (1)

djhack (515503) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326119)

how can no one else have suggested FreeJ ? http://freej.dyne.org/ [dyne.org]
it's perfect for the job ! it's a scriptable realtime video mixer

you add media (text, an image, a video, a video stream, a video capture card or a dvb card) each is a layer
you can position, resize, change tranaparence or any of the layers

it's the perfect video frontend for a video station !

Possible solution (1)

Rupan (723469) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326133)

Disclaimer: I've never worked with video-out hardware in any sort of broadcasting environment.

In playing around with various video sources, I've come across a couple of very good, high quality pieces of software that are able to transcode video from almost any source. If you do not need client-side playback and just want to pipe re-coded a/v streams to a tv-out device, consider using transcode:

http://www.transcoding.org/cgi-bin/transcode [transcoding.org]

I've never heard of SDI, but transcode's documentation states that it supports yuv4mpeg output. Transcode is really an excellent piece of software and should fill your need quite nicely.

You might also consider mplayer, as it explicitly supports yuv4mpeg output as well. You can use mencoder (a part of mplayer) to transcode video in the same way that you would use transcode.

http://www.mplayerhq.hu/design7/news.html [mplayerhq.hu]

As for the automatic scheduling of content to be played.. cron would do the job if your needs are simple. If, however, you need to insert content in the middle of a video during playback (read: a commercial) it will probably be insufficient. I'd suggest preprocessing the video for the next day each night. You'd need a list of timestamps where it is reasonable to stop playback of video content and then split out each video, writing yuv output to a (large) storage device.

You'd then be left with a day's worth of preprocessed video in yuv format that can be fed directly to your digital broadcast hardware in real-time. I'd imagine then that you could just feed the video directly into your output device using something like 'cat `cat video-sources.list` > /dev/video-out'.

Depends (5, Informative)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326165)

In a way you are asking two different questions here, due to the technical difficulties involved with a TV station playback. So, lets put it this way then:

Do you require Frame Accurate playback? The reason that the profesional solutions you briefly mentioned are expensive and require their own storage are that they Garuntee frame accurate playback, no droped frames and everything else needed to playback everything flawlessly. One thing to remember about that, though. So long as you only keep the current days video on the server, you can stick with a video server with under 1/4 terrabyte of storage space (12Mbps vid+aud=~128GB) and have a seperate NAS for the next days video that just gets moved onto the video server throughout the day as what has already been played gets deleted.

The main problem with most consumer video playback I have seen is that it is not frame accurate. Even on a decent computer, most video programs don't run at exactly the framerate of the video using consumer playback programs. Also, unlike the profesional hardware, the consumer programs don't pre-buffer the next file for playback so that there is a delay between the end of one file and the beginning of the next.

We're also going to need to know what kind of outputs you want. Analog? What kind? SDI? HD-SDI What does your video router handle? Theoretically you could use a VGA/DVI output to a VGA/DVI-SDI adapter, if that's what you use. You'd also need to run it through a frame sync, but that's pretty standard for most stations anyway. Most likely you will not want to use the video card ouput of a PC, VGA/DVI/S-Video due to the need for then having a consumer program play it out.

For proffesional level playout you're going to want a card with hardware playback. SkyMicro and ViewCast make some playback cards that will run under linux that it looks like you could use. I'm just listing them as an example that showed up after a quick googling. These capture/playback cards are essentially going to become the heart of your system if you want something resembling a cheap profesional system.

So, as I said. It depends on how high end a system you want. However, it looks like it is possible to get a decent one going. One thing to remember, and I state it as habit, trial test whatever cards you are looking at before buying. Some of these cards can run to $2000 a piece and you're probably going to want redundancy.

Newtek's Video Toaster (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16326217)

If you don't mind a Windows based solution, seriously consider Newtek's VideoToaster. It's up to version 4 and is a full broadcast tv station in a box. No HD yet though. It'll do everything you need.

Depends on your skill, and what you need to do (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326223)

Coding something to play off lists of scheduled video would be rather simple. If you're decent with perl/mysql, a database with a nice front-end to enter programming details, and a scriptlet that you can launch in the morning that would start up mplayer/whatever at proper times (based on the database), and "break" screens in between would work.

Commercials are a complication. Inserting them into the middle of a show would require that you either:

a) Have your scheduler aware of the "break" times in the show, tell the player to stop, insert the commercial, then start playback of the show back at the "resume" point
b) Encode the commercials into the video ahead of time (perhaps easier, but less flexible).

There's also the hardware to consider. You're going to want:

  • redundant power (either an on-site generator and/or some hefty UPS's), for both your broadcasting equipment and computers.
  • storage: A place to store your daily/weekly queue of shows. A storage rack or a server with a good RAID-5 array might do the trick. Hot-swappable drives would be a very good idea (tm), but in the end it's not that much different from other important files
  • playback: A unit with the software to read the schedule, and a TV/video-out card with appropriate resolution. Technically for lower-res, a GeForce might work, but you'll want to disable the video on TV-out during loading (bootup) etc to avoid embarrassing splash-screens. You could transfer files locally as played, or stream through the network
  • scheduling: You'll want a front-end for people to set programming schedules. A web interface may suffice. You'll also need the scripting for the playback machine to read
  • encoding: As mentioned, you could do this in windows/mac and upload the files in a compatible format, but it's not all that difficult to do this in 'nix with a good encoder-card (hauppauge)
  • backbone: probably a 1GB/s network to communicate between your storage and playback unit. Spare NICs, cables, and switches are usually a good idea if downtown is a big issue. Maybe a backup network you could switch on in a pinch
  • redundancy: Something to save your butt if your storage server, network equipment, or playback machine dies
  • hard-copy: Something to save hard-copies of your data, so that you can re-use them later and/or load/offload them to and from your storage machine. Good quality DVD's, external storage drives kept save from shock/magnetism, or perhaps some big tapes might work. A backup array might also work, but you'll want it offsite in case of local disasters
  • Testing: Somebody who can check that you don't run into weird encoding errors, hard-drive/media corruption, etc
Again, a lot of this depends on your skill level. With time, money, and effort it's something I'd probably feel confident about, but most of this depends on your own ability to configure the equipment and/or do the scripting/code (or hire somebody else to do it, want my resume?)

GOAT (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16326235)

though I ha7e never Sales and so on,

Isn't this a function of your hardware? (1)

Doctor Memory (6336) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326251)

Sounds to me like all you need is a scheduler (easy enough to write) that feeds an MPEG stream to whatever device you're using to drive the broadcast signal. How hard is that? How are you converting your MPEG stream to NTSC? I've done basically the same thing for these [vbrick.com] , although that won't help you as they're basically just streamers that work with a corresponding player on somebody's PC. But I did whip it up in just a couple of hours, so hopefully your solution won't take much longer.

Or is that your question, what kind of hardware should you be looking at? If so, sorry, the phrase "need the equivalent of iTunes for high-quality video" threw me off. I'm sure you can Google just as well (or in this case, probably better) than I can...

Real broadcast software for Linux (5, Informative)

Ziff (48647) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326265)

If you want to do it for real, take a look at the MLT project: http://mlt.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
That has support for for example the Bluefish444 SDI cards, and do playout of real broadcast formats, such as DVCPRO, but also regular MPEG formats.

It also provides ShotCut, a really competent Non-linear editor, that can send edited clips directly to playout.

I know it is in use in one of Indias largest broadcasters, and they transmit to millions of viewers. So it would definitely be good enough for a small station like the one you are talking about.

It depends .... (1)

slightlyspacey (799665) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326281)

It all depends on what your requirements are. They have been completely and unambiguously defined, right?
You should already have the following defined:
1) Playback/Recording video resolution required (Standard broadcast resolution, High Definition (720i, 1040i, ....)
2) Playback/Recording video quality required (What level of compression is considered acceptable?)
3) Audio playback/recording requirements (Number/quality of audio channels)
4) Archival requirements:
..... a) Maximum number of hours that needs to be available for instant playback
..... b) Maximum number of channels of simultaneous playback
..... c) Long term storage needs
5) Expandability requirements
6) Reliability/uptime requirements of both the hardware and software
7) Software development/Integration/Testing Costs and Schedule
8) Budget - Labor/Equipment
9) Need date

Once you answer those questions then you can easily answer whether it would be better/easier to spend the $50K for a COTS unit or the $100K in development costs for a homebrew solution.

simple station (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16326287)

I saw this ( http://www.direct2pod.com/ [direct2pod.com] )awhile back maybe it would work, it appears to be a video podcasting system. They imply that they have a way to encode and manage the data.

You've got this all wrong! (2, Funny)

giafly (926567) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326299)

You're stuck in the mindset of proprietary programming [groklaw.net] . Just publish a couple of videos under the GPL, then everyone who wants to can modify them into their own ideal TV Shows.

This station uses it... (1)

rfgenerator (1009819) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326363)

My local public access channel seems to use linux to feed much of their programming. Maybe you can contact them to see how their "real world" experience has been with it. http://sca.scatv.org/ [scatv.org]

Is this a real TV station (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16326377)

or a pirate station? If it's a pirate station you can do anything you want. If it's a real licensed station it's going to have to meet all sorts of FCC requirements as to signal quality. Pushing home theater solutions over the air isn't going to cut it with the feds. When was the last time you saw a guy with a home theater setup using a vectorscope and waveform monitor to set his pedestal, color burst or peak white level?

Go the nostalgic route (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#16326403)

SGI
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