As engineering-oriented television stations are transformed into news- and sales-oriented stations in which an abundance of centralcasting options can be tapped effectively, the noticeable improvement in the overall reliability of equipment throughout the TV station is opening new frontiers in terms of infrastructure.
"Increased reliability means that, once the decision has been made as to how the business model in question will run, we can tailor the technology for [that purpose]," says Jim Moneyhun, president of FloriCal Systems.
FloriCal was recently selected by NBC to provide an automation system for its centralcasting platform.
That system will also use Grass Valley Group Profile XP Media Platform servers running on the GVG Media Area Network (MAN) shared-storage system.
Moneyhun lists such advances as the ability to bring in material from different locations and frame-accurately place it within the same commercial break as important to the orchestration of centralcasting, regardless of the model that is involved.
Besides the seamless merging of material from disparate sources, the ability to provide precision timing and control of far-flung networks with time-line capabilities is another important and relatively recent development.
"Running multiple switchers, for example, is essential to centralcasting as a whole," explains Moneyhun. "One might encounter a hierarchy of switchers today where the routing switcher feeds the master-control switcher, which in turn controls the 16x1 routing switcher and, finally, the regional station switcher. This is exactly what Groupe TVA is doing in Montreal," he adds.
The router-switching hierarchy can even be swapped around or completely reconfigured. At the same time, a robust user interface allows for a variety of different playlists for all the different time zones to be displayed on a single computer screen.
CNN International is able to transfer control-room switching among several so-called pods by using FloriCal with Leitch ASC servers for its commercial insertion.
Although this degree of flexibility may not be seen as vital to every broadcaster, FloriCal Systems offers it as one of numerous features on its centralcasting shopping list.
Another often overlooked feature is the capability to orchestrate a synchronized time shift automatically on a systemwide basis for daylight-saving time, for example.
"At NBC, we will see an emphasis on much shorter clips and reduced cuing time," explains Moneyhun. "With greater fault tolerance in the future, a break will continue to run even when the power to the automation system is completely switched off.
"At the NBC hubs in New York, Miami and Los Angeles, everything will be running in parallel over dual fiber links with multiple video-routing paths available."
While all of this technology is evolving rapidly, according to Moneyhun, the design and management of the central site is still subject to substantial performance gains as different vendors pursue their own agendas.
As a result, what is perceived today as a breakthrough might be dismissed tomorrow as inconsequential.
"Look at the impact of source recognition, for example," says Moneyhun. "This enables us to find a piece of material no matter where it sits. We can find it and load it into the central playlist in a seamless fashion.
"Still, our relational database, which identifies and locates multiple copies across the entire enterprise and works together with our advanced schedule editing, represents just the start of what will be a long and evolving process affecting how centralcasting is implemented."