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This year’s NAB demonstrated a number of trends are developing. HD is reaching critical mass, and broadcasters are realizing that current business models might not be sustainable over the long haul. These two factors are causing broadcasters to rethink how they do business. New business models usually mean new workflows and processes. This puts the automation segment of the broadcast business near ground zero in terms of change affecting terrestrial broadcasting.

A common theme in automation this year was commoditization. You can expect to see the cost of automation systems dropping. Vendors report fewer requests for product demonstrations but more for workflow discussions. Broadcasters view automation no longer as a suite of software applications that automates a few tedious tasks, but rather as a system that streamlines the workflow process. Some vendors are aiming for a tighter coupling of file playout and automation as the industry moves toward an IT-centric approach that emphasizes handling content and its accompanying metadata as a single file. Automation is shifting from device control to managing content storage and playout. Indeed a number of vendors now combine automation and video-server functionality in a single system. More devices can be controlled via LANs now, and IP for serial conversion boxes is becoming more widely available to serve legacy devices. These factors are freeing up slots in the automation device server, allowing MPEG encoding and decoding to take the place of real estate that used to be used for the serial ports. Vendors are seeing a trend toward modular components, with customers demanding a building-block approach to system architecture.

The need for tight asset management is more pronounced today. Customers and vendors now view asset management as an inherent aspect of an automation system. The automation system touches the assets throughout the process, so it is only logical that it should handle asset management.

As the tentacles of automation reach further across the entire broadcast enterprise, automation systems are supporting an ever-broader array of protocols and using more IT tools. Today’s automation topology generally consists of an application layer that interfaces to client stations and external systems that sit above it. The application layer then communicates to a data and device control layer below it. Automation systems are using open standards-based approaches such as Web services, SOAP, XML, MOS (protocol using XML), and SNMP to interface to external systems not traditionally controlled. A number of vendors point to the Microsoft.Net framework as a good development tool. These methods enable rapid API development and easy extension as needs change. Most software development tools include SDKs that can be leveraged to support rapid development.

Over the years, automation vendors have offered systems running on real-time OS kernels outside the Microsoft and Unix realms. Today systems are available that run Linux, and at least one vendor runs software on its own proprietary OS.

Automation at NAB2004

Archive interfaces

Automation at NAB2004Archive interfaces:

Blueline Technology unveiled JustArchive, an interface between automation and DVD or tape archive. It runs on Unix, Linux or Windows operating systems.

Asset management

Crispin introduced Near-line Archive, which allows users to extend the storage of their video servers using inexpensive disk arrays.

Asset management:

Crispin has unveiled AssetBase, a Web-enabled application that allows catch servers to be treated as video servers in its automation system.


Sundance showed an upgraded version of Seeker that runs on Microsoft SQL and automatically creates an indexed proxy anytime any of the other Sundance applications touch a video asset.

Encoda introduced Broadcast Master, which integrates traffic and automation layers under a single system, combining customer relationship management, sales and asset management tools.

Device servers



Florical introduced MediaTrans Plus, which provides economical delivery of video/audio signals between two locations using MPEG-4 technology.

Sundance introduced the Sentinel SNMP monitoring package.

Last-minute changes

Device servers:

Digital Transaction Group, the former engineering and support team from Odetics Broadcast, introduced AIRO XDS, a device control server that controls up to 64 devices and can scale up to an unlimited number of devices and channels per device pool. The XDS server manages the devices, resources, state and history.



Harris Digital Ingest now allows the ingest of media and metadata for Pathfire syndication and promotional content. The company also introduced the Invenio Starter Pack, which allows the creating and storing WM9 proxies of content ingested into broadcast servers.

Media prep

Sundance also has introduced a product that manages the transfer of new media out of Pathfire’s cache server to other servers.

Last-minute changes:


Crispin and Linx Electronics’ joint TVLinx PSIP software now enables real-time updates of PSIP tables based on last-minute changes at master control.

Florical announced Automated Join In Progress, which automatically calculates the necessary timelines for a join-in-progress to a program following a live event that runs long. Operators can drag and drop commercials into the schedule to be aired, and the timelines are recalculated automatically to compensate by reducing the amount of program content to be aired.

Pro-Bel introduced Morpheus Velocity. Velocity is a client application of the Morpheus automation backbone that was introduced last year at IBC. Velocity allows breaks in live events to be changed at the last second by drag-and-drop operations.


Florical introduced AirLogger, which automates off-air logging and review by creating automatic off-air recordings on long-term storage media, such as DVD disks.

Media prep:

Server control

Sundance introduced a revamped version of its Media Prep input module for Titan and FastBreak systems.

Florical announced that MediaTimer Desktop, which allows desktop viewing of programs using MPEG-4 technology, now has the ability to designate in and out points for logo bugs, animated promotions and audio overs within programs. This information then is imported into the on-air schedule in the form of secondary events.


Harris introduced Broadcast Presentation Manager -- part of the Harris Resource Suite -- to manage scheduling, resources and playout of rich media content on multiple channels. It includes a dynamic traffic interface that allows last-minute schedule changes.

Sundance rolled out News Recorder, a product that automates content segmentation during live recording.



Crispin’s RapidPlayX offers a simplified view of all channels running in the facility, which shows at a glance the current state of each channel and warns the operator if attention is needed. Crispin also rolled out NewsPlayX Newswheel, which uses an MOS interface to allow stations to add a 24-hour newswheel without the need for an operator. OmniBus unveiled its TX>Play automation system. The system is based on OmniBus’ G3 technology and can control up to 12 channels.

MicroFirst Engineering introduced its Digital Automation System (D.A.S.) multichannel automation system. DAS provides capacity for up to 16 separate, user-configurable event lists, each holding up to 1000 events. Also introduced at NAB was the MicroFirst MPS-9810, an intelligent auto/manual multipoint A/B switch that enables redundant automation processors.

A first-time exhibitor at this year’s show was Pebble Beach, which demonstrated three products. Anemone can handle up to four channels and is intended for small operations. Neptune is intended for larger systems and facilitates proxy browsing. Periscope is a client application that displays multiple playlists, much as a program guide would.

Server control:


A few companies have introduced integrated automation and video server packages in the same box, as separate disciplines continue to merge. Matco is one of these. Although its integrated automation system has not changed, the underlying hardware is evolving, and the delineation between the control layer and the underlying media continue to blur. Fission is another company that offers a control layer over generic SAN- or NAS-based computer technology.

Blueline Technology introduced JustClips software package, which enables clip playback from any video server and gives manual control to the server. It runs on Window, Linux and Unix platforms.

DNF unveiled a couple of boxes that fall under their Flex Control Network and allow for playout control of servers and other devices. The servers currently are under only Odetics RS-422 control, but capability will extend also to VDCP protocol soon.


Jim Boston is a West Coast consultant.



Supports multiple HD formats, including DVCPRO HD, HD MPEG and HDCAM; scalable open architecture design allows addition of storage channels.

Scopus UE-9000 encoder


Provides upgradeable modules for MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 or WM9; provides 50 percent improvement in bit rate; supported by Scopus IVN system architecture.

Chyron Clyps HD


Graphics environment features built-in keyer and up to 1.3TB of storage equaling 180 minutes of lower-third animations or 60 minutes of full-frame video; features include loop, pause, hold last frame, go to black, cue and hold first frame; three stereo AES/EBU digital audio I/O.

Harris NeuStar DTV


Transports audio over the existing stereo backbone and automatically converts it to surround sound at the receiver; system uses proprietary Neural technology to reduce artifacts in compressed data formats, allowing bandwidth savings of up to 30 percent.

Snell & Wilcox Prefix-HD


Multistandard HD compression preprocessor; reduces noise-related artifacts in HD video, including film grain and video noise; offers linear filtering, color gamut legalizer and 4:4:4 internal processing; supports AES, AC-3 and Dolby E audio; provides advanced metadata handling and insertion, including flagging cuts and 3:2 cadences.

Scientific-Atlanta PowerVu D9850


Provides digital transmission for cable headends; 1RU height; 10Mb/s standard and 50Mb/s optional data output with Ethernet port; supports IP services; downloads files to servers; SDI output with embedded audio; ASI input for remote unlink monitoring.

Evertz 7710XC-HD


Uses 10-bit processing, one reclocked HD serial output and two reformatted HD serial digital outputs; accepts two groups of SMPTE 292M embedded audio signals and re-embeds them into the output HD video; fully SMPTE 292M compliant; full proc control, including color correction, black level, luma level, chroma level and optional audio level.

Rohde & Schwarz UVP


Digital audio interfaces up to a 192kHz sampling rate; features expanded measurement bandwidths; can perform several measurement functions simultaneously.

Thomson Grass Valley PVS 3500


Plays out SD/HD from same server frame and same timeline; Fibre Channel and gigabit Ethernet connectivity; supports file-streaming protocols MXF and SMPTE 360; automatic conversions of MPEG SD to HD and MPEG HD to SD; aspect ratio transformation available during conversion.

IBIS SprinTx ServerArchive
+44 1458 280 208;

For IBIS newsroom automation applications; provides common UI to control archiving video clips from server; supports VTR, DVD, MCM or data tape; manual or automatic process available.

Leitch NEXIO NX4000MTS

Supports multiple SD/HD compression formats; ASI interface; records up to four separate programs within a multiprogram transport stream; allows timing of the content for seamless splicing and playback.

Maxell HD-TV

Family of videocassettes, includes DVCPRO HD, HDCAM and D-5 tape; uses Ceramic Armor metal particles and a durable binder system providing high output, low noise and low error rate; coercively of 2350Oe and retentively of 3800BR; tapes available in 33-, 64- and 126-minute lengths.