08.16.2005 03:30 PM
Lessons Learned: Crispin's System 2000 Operations
Provides Total Automation Solution for PBS Facility

WGCU is a Fort Myers, FL PBS member station co-located with Florida Gulf Coast University. From 1983 until 1996, this region’s public television and radio licenses were held and managed by a state university 200 miles away in Tampa. In 1996, the broadcast licenses were transferred to Southwest Florida’s Gulf and Everglades region. The stations’ call letters were changed to WGCU-TV/FM, and a new state-of-the-art broadcast facility was built as part of the new university’s campus.

Because of the way our funding was allocated, we really had to manage our digital transition. We researched automation thoroughly and chose Crispin as our automation partner. Our big undertaking was automating our facility. Crispin helped us in the sense that they asked questions... they were really interested in our workflow. Crispin worked with us to customize an automation solution that addressed our specifications, equipment and needs.

We use Crispin’s System 2000 suite of applications to support satellite recording, media ingest, asset management and control of five channels for on-air playback. The Crispin solution includes six workstations, each focused on a specific workflow task, connected via TCP-IP. The system is designed with redundancy and air protection features.

Control

Crispin’s on-air playback application, RapidPlayX, provides playlist monitoring and control, allowing our operators to create and load playlists, edit events, issue playlist commands and monitor event status. The application automatically loads daily program and record schedules for 24/7 operations and instantly updates events when new material is available on the video server or is updated in AssetBase, Crispin’s web-enabled database. In addition to four SD channels, Crispin automates a 5th playback channel for the HD on-air playlist and ATSC day part control.

Crispin’s DeviceServer, which runs on a standard Windows workstation, interprets commands from RapidPlayX and controls our broadcast devices via RS-422 or over the LAN. DeviceServer takes its instructions from EventServer, the System2000 event table manager which can handle up to 16 lists or channels of control. Device commands are written to the event table memory maps by EventServer when a schedule is loaded. Any schedule edits are also written and confirmed by EventServer.

DeviceServer reads the event tables and carries out the commands to cue and play all devices in perfect synchronization with reference to the house clock. DeviceServer controls Sony VTRs, Leitch Nexio video servers, a Grass Valley Saturn master control switcher, Triton router, Trinix router, Evertz 9625 series logo and EAS inserters, Thales Sapphire ASI server and a Thales Amber HD multiplexer using independently developed dynamic link libraries (DLLs). All external device control logic is contained in the DLL for that specific device and changes or additions of devices are handled readily without affecting the primary application. WGCU has an additional DeviceServer and EventServer loaded on a separate workstation for redundancy.

We use Crispin’s Dubber application to control multiple source devices and acquire and prepare video assets for air. Dubber provides all of the tools needed to speed and simplify the acquisition and preparation of material for fully automated on-air playback.

Traffic Crispin’s Mapper interfaces to our traffic system, ProTrac, to convert the traffic schedule into an automated playlist, ready for on-air playback by RapidPlayX. Mapper automatically loads the translated daily schedule without the need for a dedicated operator. Crispin’s Mapper “rules files” are custom designed to our specific requirements, resulting in a seamless transition. During operation, as-run data is written back to traffic for reconciliation within the traffic system.

Crispin’s AssetBase application provides web-enabled asset management capabilities with a powerful relational database. Our users are able to monitor and track specific video assets through house numbers, ISCI, NOLA codes, comments, durations and cue points on the Nexio video servers and videotape inventory.

AssetBase allows WGCU personnel to automatically create and manage associated metadata, such as program length, date shot, editor and number of times aired. Since AssetBase is web-enabled, any of our authorized operators can access the data from anywhere on the network. AssetBase presents an accurate representation of assets on our video servers even when those assets have been placed there by independent means.

We use LoRez, a low-resolution content encoding server, to generate and view low-resolution proxy clips from video assets. In addition to proxy clips, we also view slates of the media to verify video assets in our on-air playlists. Our operators can search for and view proxy clips and slates anywhere on the network via AssetBase, Crispin’s database application.

Crispin was willing to listen to our needs and designed a cost effective solution that solved our digital transition. The Crispin solution was also flexible; if we choose to expand our facility in the future, our infrastructure is in place and ready to accommodate future changes. Crispin offered us flexibility, value, great service and a modular, cost-effective solution that addressed our needs.

Joe Maggio is the chief engineer at WGCU, the PBS member station in Fort Myers, FL. He can be reached at jmaggio@fgcu.edu.


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