Automation and MPEG-2 test and measurement might not seem to be the most exciting themes for this month's Tech Focus, but their relevance has made them two of the most relied upon technologies in television. Whether you're an engineer at a station, group, network, or cable channel, automation and MPEG-2 T&M are clearly in your sights. If you don't have them yet, you will soon. Plus, with the 144th SMPTE Technical Conference and Exhibition coming up in Pasadena, CA, showcasing these technologies seemed particularly relevant at this time.
Automation is a mission critical task. The only thing worse than screwing up the airing of a program is screwing up the airing of a commercial. Whether an automation system controls what goes out to air at one station or multiple stations through centralcasting or an LMA, choosing an automation vendor is akin to choosing your religion÷after all the research is done, it helps to have faith.
We've assembled some of the best automation vendors in the industry to tell you why you should be putting your faith in them. Their philosophies differ, but they all have the common goal of providing you with a system that lets you sleep at night (even though you know that should the system fail at 3 a.m., you'll be there to take the phone call and make things right).
There's faith...and then there's magic. While some broadcast and transmission engineers have likened MPEG-2 to black magic, the reality is that once you understand how transport streams are supposed to work, life gets a little easier (although hearing a comparison of the "MPEG-2 toolbox" to what you might find in a witch's bag of tricks did bring about laughter at IBC).
When MPEG-2 works, it's a joy. When the slightest thing is wrong, you could spend hours pulling your hair out (if you had any left from the last time something went wrong). Enter MPEG-2 T&M. There are various ways of testing MPEG-2, so deciding what tests you need to make (and those you might want to make) is your first step.
MPEG-2 T&M is not simple (although the T&M equipment might make it seem easy). You'll probably want more than one test solution, especially if you'll be testing at your facility and in the field.
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