A notable example of how automation systems are expanding their purview can be found at NBCUniversal’s recently completed West Coast broadcast center, which houses the NBC4 Southern California/KNBC stations, the Telemundo 52/KVEA stations and a number of news bureaus from various company divisions.
In the previous L.A. facility, the Ross Video OverDrive production automation system had controlled many of the basic control room functions— cameras, servers, audio and so forth. But the new system takes the level of automation to a new scale, explains Richard W. Westcott, VP, technology and broadcast engineering for NBC4 Southern California and KVEA-52.
“When it came time to design the new facility, we were barely scratching the surface on automation systems and I pushed the team a lot to see what we could do different and change,” Westcott says.
In the new facility, NBC expanded the automation to control monitors, lighting and additional aspects of the graphics systems.
Controlling the monitors was particularly important because KNBC has 27 of them, and KVEA over 50, in their new sets. Using the automation system to control the monitors as well as the lighting allowed them to create many different “scenes” or templates. “We find we can do breaking news with a more sophisticated look because we have hundreds of these templates,” Westcott says, adding that the templates make the set look entirely different depending on the time of day or type of story.
For example, the set moves from blue hues during more normal stories to red for breaking news. “Immediately, the audience knows something is happening,” he says.
Planning for Automation
In addition, they have over 700 combinations of shots for the various shows. “It is really all about the upfront planning, which helps us have a cleaner, more visually appealing product on the air,” he says.
The facility, which uses Grass Valley’s Stratus media workflow application suite, also illustrates how automation systems are increasingly integrated into larger software systems. At KNBC, Stratus is used for editing and is tightly integrated with Avid’s iNews newsroom system and the Ross OverDrive automation system. “Avid, Grass Valley and Ross have been tremendous partners in developing next generation systems,” Westcott says.
These larger systems are part of a push by vendors to help broadcasters better manage and monetize their content.
As part of its “Avid Everywhere” strategy, at the recent NAB Show the company rolled out its Avid MediaCentral Platform, designed to be closely integrated with automation and other systems, explains Pam Gill, senior marketing manager for broadcast and media. “It gives us a common foundation for all of the services that [extend] across all of the product sets,” to help users collaborate, create and more efficiently monetize content, she says.
Similarly, Imagine Communications has rolled out its MediaCentral platform, which “brings all the major broadcast capabilities together in one application that can easily talk to automation and other systems to create advanced workflows,” says Scott Criley, chief technology officer for the media business at the company.