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Automation market primed for more interoperability, cost-effective products

In our series of interviews on the state of the automation market prior to NAB2007, Automation Technology Update spoke to Rick Stora, product manager at Sundance Digital, and Pedro Serrano, of vsn.

Automation Technology Update: Are you expecting any changes in broadcast automation this year?

Rick Stora: Slimming down workflow for greater efficiency. Improved interoperability between components and software systems. Greater use of nearline and deep archival storage. A higher channel count per facility.

Pedro Serrano: We at vsn see automation as an ever-moving target, with new equipment and manufacturers to interface to, creative revenue generation ideas in audience participation and the exciting business plans being implemented by new entrepreneurial investors in our industry.
A possible new trend is the merge between automation and contribution/distribution, which means the rise of technologies that automate playout processes transparently with the transfer of content, a kind of "send-while-encode."

ATU: Do you see any trends emerging in the design and implementation of automation systems?

RS: System interoperability with the new BXF format communications protocol.

PS: Although cost has always been a major consideration, there seems to be more of an understanding that with reduced cost you do not have to throw away the engineering handbook and compromise quality. This has put vsn in a very strong position this year and raised our profile within the industry as a whole. The trends we see are more niche broadcasters, creating new content for niche markets, and it just seems to keep on growing. We also see a higher commitment toward open, non-proprietary formats and architectures.

ATU: Are you expecting to see innovations at NAB?

RS: Mostly evolutionary improvements within existing systems. A few new players, perhaps some fading away, and yet another generation of low-end/low-cost "all-in-one" systems.

PS: We are now more focused on our own innovations, so both NAB and IBC will see the rise of our new high-end automation software, vsnmaster, and a very powerful traffic module, vsntraffic, as well as some new revolutionary technologies directed toward content contribution through the Internet.

ATU: Do you see the rise of IPTV impacting automation?

RS: More channels represent greater opportunities for Sundance Digital automation. These may require some modification to the metadata management portions of our software to accommodate different system playout priorities.

PS: We see that IPTV has a place in being another reliable form of delivery, with companies who have been doing automation-type functions (mainly scheduling) but only for delivery over IP. We also see that traditional broadcasters using traditional methods of delivery also see the value in having different forms of delivery, of which IP is one. The only impact I see to our market is the possibility of more potential cost-conscious customers, which increases the interest in our solutions. Any real impact to automation will not be until 2008, and then only when there is regulation to cover IP-only delivery for public access.

ATU: What about mobile TV?

RS: Same as above. The underlying broadcast model for server-based workflows won't change significantly, regardless of differences in the transmission and viewing technology.

PS: As with IPTV, the difference is seamless in some respects for automation companies as it is a delivery mechanism. So, DVB-H is a new delivery medium that creates new business models using existing content, just repurposed for that transmission (in the extreme case), or the same content on demand. It is all very positive for automation companies like ours.

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