This is a crucial time for broadcasters. Networks are cutting back compensation to affiliates and may phase compensation out altogether. Affiliates must find new ways to generate revenue.
The Time Machine is a new way to generate revenue by generating additional commercial time.
The system transparently creates 30 seconds of extra commercial time in a 20- to 30-minute program. In all cases, the process occurs in real time without pre-recording or pre-processing, does not reduce program content, and is virtually undetectable to viewers. The amount of additional time created and the period over which it is created are programmable and variable.
It does not need to be used all day everyday, just two or three times during popular programs where commercial time is sold out. Most stations have popular programs that have high commercial value, as well as popular affiliate programming. In addition to contributing to day-to-day profit, the system can help stations with funding for their transition to digital and provide time for public service announcements, newsbreaks, weather updates and station promotions.
To insert an extra 30-second commercial into a 20-minute program, users can set the machine for a 30-second audio/video delay at any time during a program. The time delay can be triggered manually or automatically using BVW protocol. The program is then delayed 30 seconds. During the 30-second program delay, stations can insert an additional commercial.
Twenty minutes of programming is seen in the remaining time, with no pitch change or other unwanted anomalies. This is accomplished by carefully throwing away the 30 seconds of delay and thus ending in real time.
The Time Machine uses a patented process that automatically looks for identical or near-identical (no motion) adjacent frames and transparently drops one of them, thus dropping one-thirtieth of a second of video time in NTSC or one twenty-fifth of a second in PAL or SECAM. This much time can’t be dropped in the audio domain because one-thirtieth or one twenty-fifth of a second is part of a word.
Furthermore, the best time to drop audio is not necessarily the best time to drop video. Therefore, the system drops smaller digital packets of audio more often than the larger video packet in order to maintain lip sync. The difference in total time delay between audio and video does not exceed plus or minus one frame. This amount of offset time between audio and video cannot be detected. It takes at least two or three frames of offset for even an expert to detect a lip-sync problem.
The system also passes full closed captioning with no impairment. This is accomplished by utilizing a variable delay equal to the remaining time delay for the audio/video. First, the closed captioning is removed from the vertical interval and decoded. Then it is passed through the variable delay and encoded and reinserted into the outgoing vertical interval. The result is closed captioning that is not as accurately timed as audio with respect to video; however, closed captioning does not need to be as time accurate as audio.
The second-generation serial digital version of the Time Machine is now available and is shipping. The basic digital real-time unit easily creates up to 30 seconds of extra commercial time in a 20- to 30-minute program. Options are available to allow the digital unit to go up to several minutes of extra commercial time.
Digital input and output are standard, and the Digital Time Machine offers four channels of analog or AES/EBU audio. Optional features include analog component or composite video input and output, four additional analog or AES/EBU audio channels, redundant power supply, and multi-format HDTV input/output.
Bill Hendershot is president and founder of Prime Image, Inc.