Automation systems of all shapes and sizes will be available at NAB—and smaller systems seem to be getting more attention than ever.
Omnibus Systems, for example, will introduce an entry-level playout automation system designed for multichannel content-delivery operations of mainstream broadcasters. Called TX> Play, it will cost around $30,000 per channel for a multiple-channel system.
According to Product Manager Andrew Newham, TX>Play's modular design can expand by channel, device or functionality, depending on user requirements. He adds that he expects most of the customers to use the system for one to four channels of content delivery.
"A single-channel TX&Play solution can easily be expanded all the way up into a sophisticated Colossus G3 multichannel delivery system," he explains. "Typically, the recommended limit would be four to six channels before we recommend an OmniBus Colossus installation. But the TX>Play system will accommodate further channel expansion, depending upon levels of content complexity. Complex content delivery would normally be provided through a Colossus solution."
OmniBus's G3, he adds, is a new software architecture designed from the ground up based on standard IT open protocols. It's also a philosophy for the design and deployment of applications. "The G3 environment enables us to design and deploy solutions that are purely task-focused and configured on a user-by-user basis. We present users with modules of functionality and the tools they need to carry out their tasks and nothing else."
He hopes that third parties and other manufacturers will want to develop systems for G3.
Encoda is introducing the 5000 series automation product, a low-cost application that can automate up to four channels. According to Jon Hammarstrom, vice president, worldwide sales and marketing, it offers the same device interfaces and capacities found in the company's larger automation systems. "We're providing a four-channel system that will hit the market in the $50,000 range with a full set of features. It won't be redundant, so, for that, we recommend the higher-end systems."
From a marketing standpoint, he adds, Encoda thinks it's very well-positioned for individual PBS stations and call-letter stations in markets below the top 100. With the conversion to digital transmission a concern, he notes, cost savings from automation could be attractive. "Stations in the top 100 may be able to afford hundreds of thousands of dollars for the conversion to digital, but it's a different story for those in smaller markets."
The system uses Encoda's DALdb transmission database and publishes an XML interface to the database, using it as the basis for metadata collection.
"Our automation systems can have access to all the information available for all the elements available within our purview," Hammarstrom explains. "That's not unusual in itself, but it's intended to provide a repository and portal for other companies to provide metadata and to make use of the information in the database."
Harris last week introduced its latest automation system. The Harris Resource Suite is designed to streamline all ingest-to-air operations throughout a facility or network to improve operating efficiency and maximize resources.
According to Harris Vice President, Automation, Jim Woods, the system is scalable, allowing broadcasters to start with a small system for a handful of devices using the same software and a server architecture used for hundreds of channels.
The system's goal is to eliminate duplication, originate live productions outside of master control, and share media seamlessly throughout a facility.
"The workflow-process manager allows mapping to the automation system, providing more-intelligent reporting and management," says Woods. "It alerts operators if media has shown up for ingest and also gives broadcasters the tools so they can more easily manage those things that require attention."
The company considers a dynamic interface between third-party systems from companies like Pathfire and Vyvx important. "It allows the user to set up the ingest system to behave the way the user wants it," says Director of Product Marketing Brian Lay, adding, "It also has some browsing capability."
The product will be introduced over two phases. The first is centered on the ingest functionality. The second phase allows for the moving of metadata and also will include more-sophisticated features.
Sundance Digital is introducing a number of enhancements to its automation system, but it's the company's new digital asset-management (DAM) system that will garner attention. "We're not trying to get into the business of competing with Kincadia or the other DAM solutions out there," says President Robert Johnson. "But we definitely feel there is a niche for a media-asset-management system designed for broadcasters."
The system will cost $45,000 and provides for one media database that he says will have facility-wide access, allowing for searches across different types of assets. "We had tools that allowed for looking at the data, but it was still only looking at them in the confines of automation," Johnson explains. "You can export it and do different things with it, but you couldn't attach it to other pieces in the station."
Johnson says the media-asset-management system allows looking at content on the video server and the information on the system. It also allows management of assets in graphics, post-production, news or anywhere in the facility.
The DAM area hasn't exactly been a big winner for manufacturers, but Johnson thinks Sundance could change that because its system is priced more attractively. "Broadcasters look at the price of a DAM and decide not to buy it because they can't make business sense out of it. It's basically a glorified database system but targeted towards video graphics."
He adds that the biggest problem with existing systems is too much functionality. "Tools like facial recognition look like a good idea on paper, but most people don't use it while spending a lot of money to get the functionality," he says. "We're offering a product that has 90% of the functionality needs for broadcasters and at a price point that makes sense."
Also new from Sundance: Its integration-control software for the digital newsroom is now available to users of Avid's iNews newsroom computer system. Added functionality includes a Producer's Rundown Manager to facilitate manual storylist creation and on-air device management when used in conjunction with a legacy, non-MOS-compliant newsroom computer system.
Titan, the company's automation system for stations that have tapeless on-air playback, features an enhanced edition of ProgramView Lo-Res, which automatically converts all media ingested to the video server into browsable MPEG-1 proxy format, which can then be frame-accurately trimmed or converted into sub-ID clips. ProgramView versions are also available to users of FastBreak Automation, FastBreak Spot Play and NewsLink.