WJCT Gets Proactive with Avid Automation

Duane Smith
JACKSONVILLE, FLA.—WJCT, a public broadcaster in the Jacksonville, Fla. area, built a new facility a decade ago with Avid automation. This automation component brought about many changes, but the most significant was that it helped turn our operation from a reactive to proactive mode.

Our workflow was a very linear process when it was analog-based. For instance, if a tape machine locked up during a break, we had to react to the situation. With our entry into the automated world, the process is completely reversed. Now, not only can we can fix such a problem in a mere fraction of the time it used to take, the modern technology also keeps us solidly ahead of the curve in programming.

Our decision to purchase an Avid automation system was spearheaded through a chat service and a bulletin board that I found on line. I found that there were a lot of PBS stations using Avid, and that they were very happy with their decisions. This was a big plus for me, as I not only knew I was in good company, but could always get useful information from other committed users.

We opted for the Avid Fastbreak 8000 system and are quite pleased with its reliability. As it employs an SQL server, database information is replicated in case anything should go wrong.

Another benefit with the system is the way it can be customized on the front end by writing macros for secondary events, bugs, and other requirements.

Industry people sometimes talk about the difficulties inherent in automation; however, in a lot of situations they really haven't spent the time deciding what they wanted it to do in the first place. They just put it in thinking that it's simply going to replace people. We have a different point of view, seeing automation as a tool that can provide, with the right customization, a quantum leap in the way we do business.


We've even merged our operations and traffic departments, resulting in an unprecedented synergy of understanding and cooperation between a variety of departments, from development and communication to underwriting.

Now we have a core of extremely productive people who can do things such as using our BXF Gateway to import ad runs into traffic for reconciliation. Doing so on a spot-by-spot basis means that if a spot gets skipped in a break, our traffic system knows about it 10 seconds later, giving us the opportunity to put the spot into the next available break, rather than waiting to get it on the log the following day.

So, how do our management people feel about all this?

In a word, great.

They certainly appreciate the viewer satisfaction that comes from getting as seamlessly to air as we do these days, and know that Avid Fastbreak is as rock-solid as anything out there. In fact, it's just one of those things that works so well I can't even remember the last time we had an automation issue put us off the air. And that's certainly a good problem not to have.

Duane Smith is director of technology at WJCT-Television and FM in Jacksonville and has been working with Avid automation since 2002. He may be contacted at dsmith@wjct.org.

For additional information, contact Avid at 978-640-6789 or visit avid.com (opens in new tab).