BBC moves Linux into TV production

Expensive and error-prone digital tapes has forced the BBC to look at using computers running Linux to help produce its programmes.


Expensive and error-prone digital tapes have forced the BBC to look at using computers running Linux to help produce its programmes.

Speaking at the annual Linux and open source conference in Melbourne, Australia, Stuart Cunningham from BBC research, said copying digital tapes was a slow process as it must be done in real-time.

"The key to solving digital tape problem is with standards-based files in the MXF (material exchange format) as you can store more in less space," Cunningham said.

To solve this problem, the BBC Research team developed Ingex for tapeless TV production using Linux.

Ingex is used to get the TV footage from the studio into the post-production editing suite by intercepting it via the Serial Digital Interface (SDI), a digital broadcast standard, rather than from tape.

"Ingex is a low-cost, file-base production system where a commodity PC with an SDI capture card that does software encoding with ffmpeg and writes MXF files, which can be stored on a NAS server or a USB drive," Cunningham said, adding a USB drive can be physically transported to post-production.

Once the USB drive arrives at post production, the AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) and MXF files are copied to the Avid editing "bin" for post-production.

The team set up two dual quad-core Intel systems with 4Gb of RAM and 4Tb of disk storage with the XFS file system. OpenSUSE Linux is the operating system.

The XFS file system was found to have the best performance for getting high bit-rate video to disk, and an open source developer was contracted to develop a DVCPRO50 codec for ffmpeg which resulted in a better decoder than many of the hardware based decoders, according to Cunningham.

"The goal of this is to get rid of all tapes [as] we save the time in manually processing tapes," he said.

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