The auto pilots
Some of the technology leaders in station automation systems
By Karen Anderson Prikios -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/15/2000 8:00:00 PM
In station automation and media management, there are a few manufacturers that dominate the broadcast market. Here's a look at the companies that are major players and some of the systems and equipment they offer.
"We're migrating to more-sophisticated media-management solutions, leveraging content and repurposing it for the Internet," says Odetics Broadcast President Steve L'Hereux. "We're developing systems and solutions that are multidistribution-path-
enabled. [Broadcasters need] to be able to distribute content however and whenever the viewer wants it or needs it."
With that in mind, Odetics' facility-management system, Roswell, was designed with multichannel broadcast and datacasting applications. The Windows NT-based system automates the acquisition, manipulation, on-air presentation and management of all broadcast content and associated metadata, and interfaces with traffic and billing systems.
Its new eDetics technology provides new economic opportunities on the Web by allowing broadcasters to insert an ad into their regular video broadcast and simultaneously air a different one on a Webcast version of the program.
"We're not really a technology provider," says Andy Ioannou, vice president of OmniBus Systems Inc. "We provide the solutions to enable content to be repurposed more easily and to allow the producer to be able to get to the assets that they have. We're providing the solution to be able to do that with one single database with keyword searches, picture searches, across multiple sites or within a facility or group."
To support the move to greater facility integration, the company last month introduced to the global broadcast market Opus (OmniBus Process Unification System) at the International Broadcasters' Convention in Amsterdam.
The system is designed to enable broadcasters to plan, coordinate and integrate all the technology and processes within their stations and to integrate business-management software for applications like airtime sales scheduling and human-resources management.
In addition, OmniBus' new Workflow Manager can link a facility's IT and broadcast infrastructures through a single graphical interface and trigger the next logical action in a particular broadcast process.
Automation and systems provider Philips Broadcasting has introduced a business unit called Media Networking and Control based in Salt Lake City.
Under an initiative called "Control Your World," Philips' NetCaptain software system will allow broadcasters to monitor information and content from remote sites using the Internet. According to Mike D'Amore, vice president, business and technology development, this venture takes the concept of asset management and station networking and automation to a new level. In fact, using it in conjunction with automation software, an operator could conceivably monitor the operations of a small station or an overnight shift from the comfort of home.
"Over the Internet, you can request to preview content using MPEG 4, switch the routing switcher, and start a machine," says D'Amore.
Philips offers its MC-2098 high-end multichannel automation system, the MC-900A lower-end software for on-air control of one to six channels, and the MSL-4000, an entry-level product that provides the direct interface to broadcast devices for control of VTRs, video servers, cart machines and character generators.
Since Harris Broadcast merged with Louth in January, it has released several new products designed for greater integration of the automation system into overall broadcast operations.
NewSource links newsroom computers to the automation system. It supports both the Media Object Server (MOS) Protocol, an initiative led by AP Broadcast, and the established BetaCart protocols. It allows broadcasters to control news servers, VTRs and cart machines in the control room from a single interface. It can also transfer any changes to the program rundown made on newsroom computers to the automation system, which will reorder the playlist for each device under its control.
DTV Manager provides control of DTV transmission devices like video- and audio-format converters, encoders, multiplexers, compression preprocessors and other types of equipment in the DTV transmission chain.
For more tightly integrated asset management, Media Browser provides desktop access to content, allowing users to review frame-accurate low-resolution video and audio matched to the server or archive.
Encoda, the new company formed by the merger of CJDS DAL and Enterprise Software, is focusing not only on automation but also on the management of assets in a multichannel environment.
"It's not a product. It's a whole process," says Encoda CEO Barry Goldsmith.
In addition to offering its D-MAS multichannel automation product, Encoda specializes in integrating traffic and scheduling functions-key areas of any automation system.
Goldsmith says his company has long recognized the importance of media management to the automation system. CJDS was built on a variety of such products: Columbine, an in-house media-management system for spot and media scheduling on IBM AS/400 computers;JDS2000,a media-management system that integrates traffic, billing, accounts receivable and sales-management applications; and Paradigm, a station-automation system.
The company's full-featured D-MAS automation product line is designed for large multichannel operations and is currently used by DirecTV. It offers device control via dual serial connections for redundancy.MCAS-IIIis a single-channel master-control automation product that can be scaled to support multichannel operations.
Sundance Automation offers a line of cost-effective products designed to provide broadcasters scalable solutions from entry-level server-control systems to multichannel automation systems.
The company's FastBreak automation solution is based on its SIDON (Sundance Integrated Digital Operations Network) Architecture, which allows serial device control-VTRs, video servers, routers, CGs, etc.-across a standard TCP/IP network.
SalesView, used in conjunction with FastBreak, allows the sales department to view the inventory of material on the video server and play elements back either directly from the server or as a low-resolution copy. Intelli-Sat Broadcast Recording Manager for FastBreak automates the scheduling and recording of satellite feeds.
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