Many television stations in Asia are now making the move from analog to multichannel digital transmission. One of the leading suppliers of systems to the local market is Dayang. “Automation Technology Update” spoke to Karlton Burn, CEO of Dayang International, in Hong Kong about the special requirements of the Asian market.
ATU: Would you class Dayang as an automation vendor?
KB: I would describe us as an IT company that sells software. We are not a hardware company. One of our product lines is the D3, which includes modules for ingest, media asset management and master control.
ATU: One question we always ask vendors is whether the broadcaster can approach automation with a building-block approach? If so, doesn’t this mean that the broadcast is then forever locked into one vendor?
KB: Many of our customers operate on restricted budgets, so we have adopted the modular approach. Rather than selling a complete automation package, we sell broadcasters software modules so that they move to fully digital playout over a longer timescale. Now it is all networked computers, so you can add systems bit-by-bit. Total automation is expensive and never finishes.
We usually partner with other vendors for a complete system; we often integrate our systems with third-party automation products and video servers.
ATU: What areas should a broadcaster automate first?
KB: On-air commercial playout is the obvious choice. Some of our customers have been using automated playout for years but want to add media asset management or ingest. It very much depends upon the broadcaster.
ATU: How do you interface to third-party equipment?
KB: We often interface at the media or content level. That way, we are decoupled from version updates for the third-party. This is typical when we put in media management alongside an existing automation system.
ATU: What are some of the regional differences in how automation is implemented?
KB: In Asia, most projects are on greenfield sites, so there is no old analog plant to integrate. Also there are no legacy workflows. We can implement a completely new workflow without the need to migrate.
We find that training is a big issue for the change from analog tape playout to digital file-based systems. It only takes a week to install our software systems, but we have an ongoing presence training the staff for up to a year.
Another feature of Asian countries is that often television stations are run by the government or the military, rather than by public corporations. Decisions on investments in technology are part of government budgeting.
We see difference across Asia in expectations of service level. In some countries, it is acceptable to have short periods of black to air, whereas countries like Thailand have high standards. We tailor systems to suit the customer’s budget. If they need a high service level, then we install dual-redundancy with mirrored backup. One low-cost option, which has proved popular, is to fall back to a low-resolution feed if the main output fails.
ATU: Do you operate outside Southeast Asia?
KB: Yes, although we have a large home market — 70% of the editing market in China. As an example, we sell systems throughout Asia and South America. The Chinese government has many trading agreements in South America, which is a big help to us. We are seeing business developing in India and the Middle East, plus we have set up an office in Europe. We will shortly open a new factory in Singapore to serve the international business. The staff speaks Mandarin and English, so we can provide a bridge that is vital for good support.
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ATU: How would you sum up your approach?
KB: I would like to emphasize that we sell modular software applications in a networked IT environment, rather than complete automated playout systems. We cater for the broadcaster who wants to evolve into the digital world rather than take the big-bang approach.