Work the way your workflow demands with aQ Broadcast video-pipeline

aQ Broadcast’s video-pipeline can be implemented with different software modules in order to suit a host of modern broadcast workflows. (larger version of the diagram available here)

aQ Broadcast v-pipe example 190326_resized.jpg

Everyone should have the freedom to work how they wish to, and in a way that supports their broadcast workflows in the most efficient way possible. It seems like a fairly simple maxim, but in truth the solutions offered by some of the industry’s leading broadcast vendors aren’t always as flexible and (re)configurable as they might appear on first acquaintance.

Here at aQ Broadcast we have always been mindful of the fact that broadcasters’ requirements change – sometimes very significantly – over time. Take the implications of moving from SD to HD and now to 4K, or the incorporation of HDR into broadcast workflows. All these and other changes have obliged technical personnel to think carefully about, and budget for, substantial alterations to their production infrastructures.

As a vendor we have always felt that offering a modular approach wherever possible affords our customers the most effective – and cost-efficient – way of keeping pace with the times. Take the example of our aVS transmission server, which remains a popular choice for broadcasters around the world. Developed with a focus on flexibility, the server uses aQ Broadcast’s standard firmware and can be run in v-pipe (video-pipeline) mode, allowing it to be configured precisely to any given broadcaster’s specific station playout requirements.

To this end a v-pipe implementation comprises a wide range of flexible software modules/processors that can be assembled in any combination. Hence, a single v-pipe unit could operate variously as a simple video server, a simple transmission server, a dedicated monitoring server, a ‘studio in a box’, a ‘channel in a box’, a stream encoder and/or decoder, or a dedicated multi-viewer, amongst many other possible functions. Each configuration is determined by the broadcaster and the requirements they stipulate for their workflows – taking account of what they need today, and in many cases what they will require in a year or five years’ time.

Now it’s not true to say that all broadcasters want or require that level of flexibility – in some more straightforward operations, it can be perfectly sufficient to configure a system to comply with one set workflow and have it serve perfectly well for many years. But it’s much more common these days to find broadcasters who do need to regularly update their workflows, and to this end we have continued to develop video-pipeline modules – to the extent that there are now 30-plus available processors, covering everything from straightforward input to output processes, to powerful video and audio mixing functionality.

With broadcasters obliged to support an increasing number of video platforms and services, ease of (re)configuration is going to be highly prized. The ability to chop and change processing modules with aVS means it’s very much a solution for ‘the now’ and will doubtless ensure that its popularity with broadcasters worldwide continues to grow.

aQ Broadcast to focus on new customer development in lieu of IBC appearance


In order to devote more resources to the expansion of its existing customer base in the UK and elsewhere, aQ Broadcast has decided not to exhibit at this year’s IBC in Amsterdam.

The resultant saving in time will also allow the company to concentrate more fully on its current busy schedule of major broadcast projects, which includes significant upgrades to existing sites as well as brand new installations stretching ahead into 2019.

Neil Hutchins, CEO of aQ Broadcast, says that “visitors at major trade shows are often extremely pushed for time, and so it can be difficult to make sure you have the conversations – both with existing and potential customers – that really need to take place. Part of the thinking in reviewing our attendance at IBC is that we should free up more time and personnel to visit customers at their own premises. There is no denying that assigning multiple staff members to any one major show has serious implications in terms of time and related expenses, and on careful reflection we came to the conclusion that in this case our resources could be better spent approaching customers on a more individual basis.”

The move comes at a crucial point in aQ Broadcast’s expansion trajectory, particularly in the UK, where - although it does have some notable customers - its overall market situation is “disproportionate in terms of our product range and capabilities. So, one of the messages we want to emphasise going forward is that we are able to provide everything from very basic scripting to full-scale station transmission, playout, media management, storage and ingest. In effect we can supply a complete station solution, and indeed our largest customer in the UK employs us to provide exactly that.”

As well as undertaking more site visits in the months ahead, aQ Broadcast will also be inviting customers to its demo facilities so that they can sample the capabilities of existing products and receive information about forthcoming developments. “We look forward to having the opportunity to spend a decent amount of time with each customer, guiding them through what we can offer in detail,” says Hutchins.

But although aQ Broadcast will not be present at IBC this year, the decision should not be interpreted as a general move away from trade show attendance. The NAB Show in the US and conferences in Canada continue to be fixtures on the company calendar, reflecting aQ Broadcast’s “strong and growing” interests in both countries. But there is also likely to be a marked increase in presence at smaller regional shows, such as BVE in the UK, which benefit company expansion priorities at any given time.

“The regional shows can provide invaluable gateways to new markets, with their smaller scales making it possible to spend more time with potential customers, so we definitely see events of this kind being an important element of our future strategy,” says Hutchins.

Example of aVS graphics capability

We wanted to provide an example of the type of graphics that our servers can generate internally, without requiring any third-party systems. A short video is attached below (content courtesy of Cafe Studios):

A number of elements can be seen in this example:

  • The video has been squeezed back into the left corner, leaving space for graphic elements around the edge. In this example, the resulting blank space has been filled with an animation, which is just visible behind the news bar at the bottom.
  • A logo has been inserted bottom-left. This example (our logo) is a rectangular image, but more elaborate graphics - e.g. animated and/or with an alpha layer - can also be used.
  • A clock has been inserted next to the logo. The format is completely flexible, so for instance am/pm might be used instead of the 24-hour time, and the seconds might be hidden. A date or temperature might be used instead or as well.
  • A ticker has been added along the bottom of the screen, in this case showing at least three different types of item (i.e. with different background colours).
  • A news bar has been added above the ticker. In this case, text is displayed as complete 'pages' rather than scrolling horizontally. Again, different types of entry are possible - e.g. with different backgrounds.
  • The top-right panel shows rotating pages of traffic/travel information, using text and icons over a specified background. This element also includes an example of an embedded video on one of the pages.
  • The bottom-right panel shows weather information, again including different icons and text. For both of these right-hand panels, the server is capable of obtaining and processing underlying data itself. So, if desired, it is possible for the aVS to collect traffic, travel and weather information appropriate to the local area directly, and then build a sequence of graphic pages based on that data automatically, without any user intervention.

This is intended just as an example of the type of layout that is possible. Every aspect is configurable, including the number of layers being used, the images shown, their location, size and transparency, the font(s) being used and the size, style and location of any text, plus entry and exit transitions for any element. Tools within our standard FMC application allow data to be entered manually when required. The operator can control when each element is shown (they can be displayed / removed individually or as a group) and automation can be used to show/hide graphics based on a transmission schedule.

Considering a new Video Server system?

We have a wide range of possible video server configurations, suitable for use in almost every broadcast environment. There are a number of points to be considered in order that we can offer the perfect configuration for your project:

  • Which video standard would you need to use – for instance, SD or HD?
  • Which format (codec/wrapper) would you want to record into?
  • Our servers can have either bi-directional ports (so they have separate input and output SDI connections) and can be switched on-the-fly between a recorder and a player, or single channels (with one SDI connection) which can be set as an input or an output. Would you prefer bi-directional ports, channels or a combination?
  • How much storage would you need? We can provide almost any capacity from 1 TB to hundreds of TB, although the capacity in hours will obviously vary according to the standard and format of material being used.
  • How much resilience would you need? We can provide different types of hardware platform according to requirements for the environment, ranging from single PSU and unmirrored drives to dual PSUs and hardware-based RAID-6 redundancy.
  • Do you have particular size or environment considerations - for instance, a particular rack height/depth requirement or intended for use in a vehicle?
  • Finally, how would you want to use the server – for instance, what type of production environment would it be used in? We can support a very wide range of applications, from simple recording through live/studio production to full 24x7 transmission environments (and a lot more!), so we would need to tailor the available functionality to your particular project.

Options for multi-site Transmission/Newsroom solutions

We've been looking at different options for group operation across multiple sites. We can provide a completely integrated solution for both Transmission/MCR and Newsroom, including scheduling and NRCS software and video server storage and input/output hardware - but there are still different ways in which that integrated system could be configured. For instance, each site could support its own MCR and studio production, or the group could operate a centralised model, with MCR and news production at the Hub, and only news gathering taking place at the Spoke sites.

The pack of drawings, attached, illustrates:

  • the QNews (NRCS) server structure for fully-centralised operation
  • an alternate QNews structure for distributed news production
  • a possible aVS (video server) configuration for centralised MCR and news operations
  • a modified aVS configuration supporting local news production
  • a possible aVS configuration for a single site, where MCR and NRCS are distributed
  • an alternative distributed model, where MCR and News storage is split at each site
  • an example of how individual aVS storage at different sites can appear as a single media volume - allowing clips to be scheduled before they exist in the required location and supporting automatic media movement and conversion

Of course, these are just a few examples - almost any configuration of storage, I/O and functionality is possible with our flexible systems.

Summary of new features for the QuBE

For NAB, we've been looking back at some of the new features and functions which have been added to the Broadcast Engine firmware over the last few months. The list is quite extensive!

  • RTMP streaming component, allowing an IP stream to be produced in parallel with the video output

  • NetStream, allowing a video input on one unit to appear as a video output on another, via a standard internet connection

  • FileStream, allowing a file to be transferred and played out on another unit, via the internet, even whilst recording is still in progress

  • NetFrame, providing real-time unit-to-unit transfers and virtual routing via a fast IP network

  • ScreenFeed application, enabling any window or screen on a PC to appear as a system input, without requiring external conversion

  • Pointer-based sub-clips, allowing sub-clips to be created by reference, almost instantly, as an alternative to creating new content

  • Still Store mode, providing playlist playback of selected still images, with stills keyed internally over a looping background

  • Extended Key+Fill support, allowing linked playout on standard I/O hardware

  • New ability to start transcoding as soon as recording has begun

  • New ability to initiate export as soon as transcoding has begun – allows the transfer to USB device to complete earlier

  • Alpha-channel transcoding, enabling creation of sub-clips for content with an alpha channel

  • Additional transcode features, enabling burnt-in timecode and audio down-mix to stereo to be included within the new clip

  • Program Part Recognition, enabling a long clip to be split automatically into program parts, based on identification of black breaks

  • Audio down-mix to stereo, for both main and preview outputs - for instance to enable review of clips on standard PC workstations

  • Manual audio level control on port outputs, allowing volume to be adjusted by the operator on-the-fly during playback

  • Automatic audio levelling, providing normalized output levels based on automatic analysis of each clip

  • AES support, providing AES input and output connections as an alternative to embedded audio

  • h.264 encoding, now available as a standard option at no additional charge

  • Auto-mask processor, providing automatic detection and replacement of specific on-screen elements (e.g. an incorrect graphic)

  • Auto-failover handling, providing detection of black, frozen, lost or silent inputs and automatic switching to backup/emergency sources

  • Talkback monitoring, allowing access to any audio source from any networked PC – soon to be extended to full intercom capability

  • HTTP interface, allowing system control and monitoring from any standard browser on any OS

New document packs available

We've updated two of our standard document packs, available for download using the links below:

- Company & Product range: provides information about our background and details of our products, especially the new Broadcast Engine (QuBE)

- System & Block Diagram examples: provides a set of drawings which illustrate different types of configurations, functions and processes possible with the QuBE


aQ at BroadcastShow Live

The aQ Production Suite was once again in use for the latest edition of BroadcastShow Live - the Christmas special - where Simon and Matt took over the presenting role at the last minute. We modified the caption templates to include the new BroadcastShow logo, decorated the set to add to the festive feel, operated the prompter for the first-time presenters and provided the vital role of filling and passing the box containing the competition entries! Another great show powered by aQ.

The episode can be viewed here: