Building the Very Model of Efficiency

Solving the streamlining puzzle by integrating automation with other operations

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To get the full benefits of automation systems, broadcasters and cable networks are exploring new ways to tie automation software into other parts of the station infrastructure. So far, the payoff from those efforts has been most evident in the integration between automation and traffic and billing systems, but vendors and programmers are now looking to further streamline workflows by more closely linking automation with media asset management software and other aspects of their operations.

“We think there are opportunities to use BXF [broadcast exchange format standard], which was originally designed for better communication between automation and traffic, to create other integration points in the broadcast infrastructure” for better efficiencies with archiving, transcoding, storage, media asset management and other areas, says Crist Myers, president and CEO of Myers.

Such integrations are an important part of the current work by SMPTE to create a 4.0 version of the BXF standard, he adds.

In the meantime, Myers and others explain that a number of efficiencies have already been created by tighter integration between traffic and automation systems using the BXF standard.

Standard-Bearers For Efficiency

Pam Gill, senior marketing manager for the broadcast and media segment at Avid adds that they were an early adopter of BXF integrations. “Our automation system not only manages the playout and control of the transmission, it is also reporting back to the traffic system on what was played out so the ads can be more efficiently billed and invoiced,” she says.

This has the happy double play of reducing costs and increasing revenue. Jason Salsbur, product line manager for automation at Harris Broadcast explains that the company’s ADC automation system sends back frame-accurate scheduling information to its traffic system. “This reduces the amount of time being spent on the automation side grooming the schedule so it runs properly,” he says. “Having logs that time out accurately has also helped our customers find unsold inventory that can be monetized.”

In some cases, broadcasters are beginning to push these BXF integrations between traffic and automation further to create “live logs,” making it possible for ads to be sold closer to airtime and help reduce make-goods, Salsbur adds.

On the production automation side, Allan Pepper, marketing product manager, technology, Ross Video, says there is a growing interest in using automation to drive studio monitors and multiplatform delivery. “There is more and more interest in using OverDrive to post content to the Web and social media,” says Pepper, who adds that their OverDrive system, which is widely used to automate the production of newscasts, has been recently adopted at facilities for KNBC, Fox Sports 1 and Fusion.

The push to deliver more content to more devices is also encouraging tighter integration with rights management. “The issue of rights management is one of the big reasons why you don’t see more live streaming,” says Chuck Garfield, product line manager at Grass Valley. He adds that their Ignite automated production control system helps overcome that problem by automatically replacing content that can’t be used on the Web with other content.

MOZART DEAL MUSIC TO VIZRT’S EARS

When Vizrt’s pending deal to acquire the Mozart automation technologies is completed sometime in the next few weeks, the acquisition will help Vizrt expand the range of its broadcast products and extend the use of Mozart Medialabs in the Americas, reports Isaac Hersly, president of Vizrt Americas.

While the system has been widely deployed in about 100 facilities in Europe, it’s in only a few operations in North America. Vizrt plans to more heavily market the product stateside and use Mozart to strengthen its product line. “It means we now have tools to cover more areas of live production,” from graphics to media asset management, ingest and automation, Hersly says.

Some of the technologies from Mozart will also be used to improve other Vizrt products such as the Viz Engine, a rendering engine and real-time graphics and video compositor.