Station managers, supervisors and engineers often find themselves in situations where they need to remotely access a station's automation software or equipment, especially if the station is running unattended. It can be for quality control, to occasionally make sure that “everything is OK,” or it can be for a specific reason like making changes to an on-air playlist, recording a satellite feed or changing the power output of a transmitter. In practice, use of desktop-sharing applications or other types of control software is usually limited to a single computer; therefore a person would need to have his or her PC available at all times.
To avoid this restriction, Deyan Automation recently introduced On Line MCR, a service that provides access to automation and equipment control applications through a Web browser. (See Figure 1.) Users can control and monitor on-air automation, ingest channels, timed scheduled ingest lists, transmission equipment, temperatures, relays, tower lights, etc., from any place with an Internet connection using any device capable of Internet browsing. This results in a few key advantages:
A user is not limited to a single computer and is free to use any available computer regardless of its operating system (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc.).
Service can be used through a smartphone.
When using a smartphone, a user is not limited to the available wireless networks, but can access the Internet through cell phone service.
How the site is set up
The default Web site consists of a log-in page, application control pages and user management pages. Which application control pages are shown depends solely on the user's system requirements. There is a default Web site design, but the system's flexibility allows the Web site to be modified or custom designed according to the user's specifications.
In the case of the on-air playout application (AirMaster), the default page displays an on-air playlist, real-time clock, remaining and elapsed time of the on-air event, and playlist control buttons like take and hold; gives the option of an on-air database search and playlist editing; and can include live on-air video.
A page for an automated ingest application (ClipMaker) provides control of timed record lists of the remote application and allows users to place a video server into record manually. Just like with the on-air playout page, video and audio of a video server's output can be included in order to remotely monitor the recording process. It is also possible to keep multiple ingest applications in sync with the timed list located on the Web site, allowing users to set the ingest time for multiple video servers by editing a single record list. This can be handy in case the same satellite feed has to be recorded to video servers located in different facilities.
The default Web page for the hardware monitoring and control application (HMC) displays a table with various parameters requested by the user, including relay states, temperature, UPS status, tower lights and satellite receiver information. The page will also display alarm conditions for each parameter that gets out of bounds.
Which pages a user is allowed to see and control is defined in the user management page. For example, permissions can be set so station engineers can monitor and control the status of equipment, and an MCR supervisor can monitor and control play and record lists, while the station manager monitors the entire system but may not be allowed to make changes.
In the case of a multichannel environment or if multiple remote sites are being monitored, an additional main page can be added to the site. This single page displays alarm statuses of all the other pages. If an alarm condition occurs (such as missing a playlist clip, server failure or high temperature), it will also be reflected to this main page, thus allowing monitoring of the entire system through a single Web page. This effectively makes even a smartphone a centralcasting point. Streaming videos from each individual playlist can also be added. In addition, it is possible to send e-mails or SMS to required personnel in case an alarm has been triggered.
On Line MCR is a management tool that provides 24/7 access to almost the entire playout process of a station. It's available regardless of whether you're on the road, in a hotel or a restaurant.
Dejan Seke is the owner of Deyan Automation.