RTK Kosovo Case Study – A Bold Break With Tradition
“Our operators love it, and the way it
Arber Ibrahimi, RTK Technology Director
The last 25 years of broadcast technology innovation has seen analogue signals steadily switched off in many global regions, but for those still making the transition digital, and even further to IP-based infrastructures, there are choices to be made. So what are the options for a traditional broadcaster that has a non-traditional IT Department?
This was exactly the question Kosovo Radio Television (RTK) the Kosovar based public broadcaster, asked itself in 2013 because although it had known that the future of broadcasting lies in IT-based technology following the arrival of its first MCR playout server in 2004, it was still broadcasting in analogue SD.
At that time, the existing analogue system was functioning normally and for a variety of reasons there was a reluctance to invest in digital technology. However, it was also understood that there was no upgrade path from the existing system to the advantages of more bandwidth, HD, and the possibility of offering a wider selection of services. At some point, a change would have to be made, but when, how, and with whom?
Even though that since 2007 RTK’s IT Department had steadily developed software and designed systems to expand the use of IT-based software and processes for RTK’s newsroom, planning, and schedule systems, it had been stopped short of going fully digital. However, the issue came to a head in 2013 when the time came to add three new channels. Despite numerous improvements through the years, the existing analogue system could no longer meet the broadcaster’s needs and an all-new MCR was required, so it was finally time to go digital. RTK, however, had one big advantage that many don’t in such situations.
RTK was essentially a greenfield site and its IT Department, despite internal reluctance from its in-house broadcast technology which it reported, had the foresight to steadily invest in and develop an extensive IP-based IT infrastructure while its analogue system was still in operation. The rationale to run both systems in parallel was that when the time came to fully switch over, RTK’s IT Department wanted to have in place the most advanced IT technology available. By incrementally investing in the appropriate infrastructure over time, now RTK was confidently poised to go digital, and by 2014 had launched its first file-based production system, which integrated all aspects of production, planning, and news creation into single system designed by RTK’s IT Department.
RTK Technology Director Arber Ibrahimi said, “I’m the head of IT Department, not the Broadcast Technology Department. Most broadcasters have a technical department that has IT reporting to it. And that often doesn’t give the IT people much to do because the people they report to are often wary of new technology and reluctant to adopt it.”
Unusually when compared to many other broadcasters, public or private, RTK’s IT Department is separate from any other technical department.
Ibrahimi said, “Our IT Department is comprised of a young, very bright, highly creative team and we were given enough independence to apply for a development grant from the Japanese government, which we won, to make the transition to IP. We were therefore empowered to choose whatever technology – hardware and software – that we determined was right to achieve our goals. As we had already earned credibility internally by designing and building our own highly successful MAM system, it was entirely our decision to as to who to go with.”
“Cinegy was an easy choice. We chose Cinegy because approximately eight years earlier most of our IT team attended IBC and liked what we saw on Cinegy’s exhibition stand and technical marketing materials. What really captured our attention was Cinegy’s slogan at the time, ‘SDI Must Die’.”
“We wanted to kill SDI, too, so we euthanised most of the SDI that were still in place at RTK. In doing so, we also took over most of our broadcast technical department’s traditional responsibilities, which put us at odds with them and a few other departments at the time, but what we’ve done works very, very well and no one is complaining now.”
In fact, RTK was the first public broadcaster in Europe to introduce IT to a master control room, which was three to four years ahead of BBC, ARD, ORF, VRT, and any other public broadcasters in the region.
According to Ibrahimi, “We have been championing and implementing new technology for years and have steadily won over the sceptics. As a result, our new IP-based system is far more flexible and enables us to provide a much better service to our viewers, which is what everyone at RTK wants.”
At the start of the transition to IP, RTK wanted to adopt all of the available Cinegy’s products, but as a public broadcaster, the budget was very tight. So they instead initially opted for multiviewers; playout; playout server, playout, Cinegy router and live mixers. The only item they didn’t take initially were Cinegy capture devices, for which they used existing FFMPEG to capture the programme streams.
Ibrahimi said, “Because we created own MAM system, and with the help of Istanbul-based Orsatek, which provides consultancy and integration services based on years of experience in bringing media asset management, broadcast automation, and IT to broadcast operations, it was not difficult at all to integrate our MAM and Cinegy. And with a quarter-million video files to digitally archive, we needed a company that was used to handling large projects.”
“The bottom line is that Cinegy is very easy to integrate with any MAM system, even a MAM you have built yourself. “
However, Ibrahimi and his team took the opportunity to make an even bolder break with tradition.
“We no longer have a Master Control Room. We changed the name to ‘Master Control Lounge’. In keeping with our break from tradition, we designed it to be suitable for people, not technology. It looks and feels as comfortable to work in as a coffee shop rather than a traditional master control space.
“Our operators love it, and the way it performs with Cinegy.”
Find more information about RTK and their TV and radio programmes here: http://www.rtklive.com/