Analogue to Digital
Moving from an analogue to a digital IFE system can seem an overwhelming process. Here we talk you through the main steps to consider.
CHOOSING THE HARDWARE
This can appear a daunting task with the variety of hardware on offer from companies such as Thales, Panasonic and Rockwell Collins. Plus there are hand held devices and “exchange hard drives” to replace Hi8 Machines. There can also be a plethora of acronyms and abbreviations which can seem another language such as GUI, AVOD and ATP.
Your hardware choice will be driven primarily by budget and the size of the fleet you wish to retrofit or deploy as a brand new aircraft rollout.
- Hand held devices: can be a very useful bridging tool whilst the analogue fleet is replaced. With correct management you can utilise the same digital files used in the rest of the digitally deployed fleet on the hand held units.
- Systems overview: a good Content Service Provider (CSP) can guide you through the maze of jargon and give you an overview of the different systems. They can also help you minimise the technical diversity of systems that can have a very significant financial impact.
- Flight sector lengths: can have a bearing on the type and volume of content on a digital system and how often it is updated. For example long haul can mean a movie content bias whilst short haul flights can mean a heavier weighting of TV shorts and audio with a smaller content selection.
- Passenger cost: whether the digital system and content will be complementary or revenue driven is also an early consideration. It will effect how the system is designed and structured and the type of media chosen.
- Capacity: assessing the storage capacity of each system helps identify how much content can be stored and therefore the volumes of media that need updating on a cyclical basis.
When choosing a digital system, the main questions to consider are:
- Is the system broadcast overhead or via seat-back screen?
- Will the system be complimentary or passenger-payment driven?
- How often will the content be updated?
- What is the main focus on spend for content (movie heavy at one end of the scale or TV only at the other)?
- How soon is the Entry into Service?
- What is the anticipated rollout schedule?
- What is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) rollout schedule?
- If there is an AVOD interactive menu (GUI) and what kind of design do you want?
- Who will design the GUI?
- What will be the navigation flow of the GUI?
- Is there any bought-in functionality such as games, survey or navigation map?
DEFINING THE ROLLOUT SCHEDULE
From an analogue background, airlines may have a shorter schedule mindset to the ordering and deployment of content. Digital is different and can present more problematic, practical challenges for entry into service and cyclical updates.
Because of the large number of steps involved in media encoding, system scripting, testing, ship set configuration and fleet loading, the lead-times for digital can be quite long. Certainly longer than the equivalent analogue requirements. Typically, an airline may feel that the digital selections can feel a month behind analogue, with difficulties in matching analogue and digital mixed fleet content over the same period. With careful timeline scheduling and management, this can be addressed.
Depending on the digital hardware deployed, the lead times vary considerably. Retrofitting an aircraft can take a lot longer than “swapping” a Hi8 player for a hard drive. Designing a system from scratch, with a brand new GUI can take up to 12 months, from initial meetings through to entry into service.
LAUNCHING THE SYSTEM AND CONTENT INTO SERVICE
Once the system has been defined and fleet deployment is under way, the next steps are choosing the content, encoding and organising advertising, marketing and promotions. In addition to media (movies, shorts and audio), there are also considerations around information sections, shopping, games and GUI tutorials.
An experienced CSP will advise you carefully and tailor your needs and budgets to meet your expectations and the system's requirements. This will ensure that your passengers’ entertainment experience is as faultless and pleasurable as possible.
You can view a sample of our original in-flight production work here. Contact us to see what we can do for you.