When WLVT was starting our DTV migration in the year 2000, it needed an automation system that could handle multicast programming and an ever-growing record schedule. WLVT came upon MicroFirst and were intrigued by its prior experience in building microcontrollers that it used as port expanders and interfaces to various devices. MicroFirst then decided to build its own automation process controller and operating system. The result is a package of hardware and software that is built from the ground up for real-time, mission-critical operation.
The MicroFirst Digital Automation System or D.A.S. with its real-time operating system will boot in under 10 seconds and start running any schedules that are loaded. The operating controls are a suite of programs that run on Windows 2000 or XP workstations and connect over the Ethernet network using TCP/IP. Application functions include: schedule import/export, editing and event monitoring with alarming and manual override; machine control for manual device control, server ingest and clip trimming; media database management; resource configuration; and a log viewer that can be filtered by any number of parameters. Up to 10 workstations can connect to an automation processor at the same time.
All resources are available to all schedules. There is no need to restrict a device to a particular function. WLVT normally runs three schedules: analog, digital and record. The record schedule is used for incoming and outgoing network feeds. Schedules can be built arbitrarily far in advance and still edited at the last second. A feature that is particularly useful is branding one of the DTV services as the default schedule. This service is a network feed that is the same format every day. If the DAS does not find a schedule for a certain date, it determines if a default schedule is established. If it finds one, then that is run. This way, a schedule only needs to be created for the days that some of the network programming is pre-empted.
The Machine Control Program is used for manual control of devices. Its GUI makes for an intuitive operation. The server dubbing screen docks the VTR and server control panels with the ability to enter a cue point or grab one from the tape. One feature is the ability to create duplicate clips based on an existing server clip. A duplicate clip has a different name and start and end points. WLVT records multi-segment shows off the satellite, and then each segment is broken out of that one file as a duplicate clip.
MicroFirst worked well for WLVT's needs. Many of the features came from suggestions from the users. Need to control a device that is not on the list? It will develop it and either download it into a system or refer a Web page to get the updates from. The result is a package of hardware and software that is built from the ground up fora real- time, mission-critical operation.
Bill Ziegler, chief tech. officer
Paul Keller, asst. CTO
John Scarpa, CEO MicroFirst
John Beneat, CTO MicroFirst
George Teplansky, dir. bus. dev.
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