FileCatalyst & Vpro

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In 2009, VPRO TV was producing a 35 part series that followed the original route of the HMS Beagle to celebrate its 150-year anniversary. Recorded content from the voyage had to be transferred from the ship to the mainland for post-production. This was done using a pair of VSAT domes on the ship which connected to the network via an unpredictable satellite link. This original system was slow and unreliable, which led to failed transfers and lost time. VPRO needed to increase the reliability of their file transfers and maximize the available link speed, all while keeping a balanced budget.

Challenges

During the journey, the VPRO-Beagle soon experienced problems concerning with their file transfers because the original software couldn’t handle the high latency (from 600 milliseconds up to 3 seconds). There were also connectivity issues when switching between the two modems and IPs. The original process only generated maximum speeds of 70 Kbps, which is normal for high-latency satellite links. This inefficient method resulted in serious delays in the production process, which carry a financial cost, but more importantly, the audience experience was suffering.

It was critical for VPRO to increase the reliability and speed of transfers, while still keeping a portion of the bandwidth available for other activities. They also needed to maximize bandwidth during short weekly windows of high connectivity so files could be sent back to VPRO’s production facilities in a timely fashion and meet the production schedule.

Solutions

VPRO evaluated FileCatalyst as a solution, and after a careful analysis of the transfer scenario, FileCatalyst HotFolder was recommended to schedule and manage transfers to the FileCatalyst Server. VPRO initially used a satellite link with conditions similar to those faced on the VPRO-Beagle. After a successful test phase, FileCatalyst was deployed on the ship. Francis van Gorp, a technology consultant to VPRO Television, said this about the experience:

As soon as we deployed the software we immediately saw that FileCatalyst used full bandwidth. We then installed the software on the live link to see how it performed under extreme conditions. The FileCatalyst team was extremely helpful and fast in providing configuration tips and online sessions to tune the software to our specific needs.

Because of the strict time frame for the project, FileCatalyst’s quick responsiveness was an influencing factor on VPRO’s decision. “Pre-sales support from FileCatalyst provided us with answers we would never have found with just the software to test. We were pointed in the right direction and were able to make a very well-motivated decision.”

Results

File transfers were no longer an issue and files were delivered on utilizing full bandwidth. When the system routes traffic from one dome to the other, transfers will  pick up automatically – even under extreme weather conditions with a very unstable satellite link. HotFolder’s bandwidth scheduler allowed the system to improve transfer speeds without monopolizing bandwidth. The ability to manage bandwidth from either the client or server gave greater flexibility for ad-hoc transfers and the ability to accommodate rushed or emergency transfers.

VPRO’s audience was provided with an up-to-the-minute stream of information. Previously, production schedules were reworked and compressed to accommodate for delayed media delivery, which incurred a cost in terms of human resources.