NAB 2011

Automation, Traffic: Doing More With Less

Among the myriad of broadcasting gear on display at next week's NAB Show in Las Vegas are automation, traffic and billing equipment and software. There's growing interest in these products since TV broadcasters need to be able to oversee a growing number of channels with a shrinking number of staff.

The new products in broadcast automation and in traffic and billing to be shown at the NAB Show continue the evolution of technology that is allowing broadcasters to operate more channels more efficiently and make the leap into new services like mobile.

In automation, expensive hardware has been emulated in software that can be run on low-cost, generic computers by a single operator. And systems have been designed to automatically and simultaneously work on multiple platforms and to facilitate centralcasting in its various configurations.

Traffic and billing technology is more integrated, simpler to use and can handle more channels with fewer people. Ditto for media and asset management software, servers and transcoders.

On the automation front, Florical Systems is offering an updated Acuitas “TV station in a box” system. According to the company, it eliminates the traditional, serial-based, proprietary equipment within the broadcast chain and replaces it with off-the-shelf, IT-based components to provide high-definition playout, graphics, conversion, effects and switching. Acuitas is powered by the company’s AirBoss playout software.

“Acuitas is a game changer,” says Shawn Maynard, VP and GM of Florical. “It replaces proprietary hardware within the broadcast video chain with a modern, commodity-based software solution. A broadcaster can replace their video server, branding device, up/down/cross converters, DVE device and master control switcher. This provides a full HD master control for a fourth the cost of the traditional proprietary approach.”

At NAB Miranda is introducing the Playout Glass Cockpit, a new system that integrates its iTX automated playout with Kaleido multi-viewers and iControl Playout Manager facility monitoring.


The Cockpit improves stations’ channel-to-operator ratio, allowing fewer people to operate large multichannels systems. A control room operator, says Miranda, can monitor more TV programs with greater effectiveness and respond more rapidly to any signal problems.

iTX uses enterprise-grade IT servers and software to unify and streamline ingest, media management, schedule management, asset management, automation, master control, graphics and multi-format playout. This year’s upgraded system can incorporate electronic monitoring, using fingerprint detection for content identification and lip-sync error measurement, as well as loudness monitoring and correction.

WideOrbit is launching WO Master Control, an integrated IT and DTV master control solution. WO Master Control provides up to four channels of HD/SD, master control switching, graphics, automation and video storage in a single IT server rack, dramatically reducing equipment expenditures and operational costs.

Traditional broadcast master control equipment is a complex array of video servers, switchers, graphics software, automation computers, specialized software and miles of wiring. It is often costly to install, maintain, upgrade and scale the complicated and multiple racks of equipment, the company said.

“The days of machine control versus standard IT protocol within television master control are over,” said Eric Mathewson, CEO of WideOrbit.

Thomson Video Networks will show its upgraded Sapphire MPEG Broadcast Server, another “TV channel-in-a-box” solution with advanced capture, playout and regionalization capabilities. It operates frame-accurately in the compressed domain.

Sapphire provides all the functions needed to ingest, process, brand and generate television channels ready for air. New features include frame-accurate clip editing enhancements, advanced logo insertion features (support for H.264, new scheduling capabilities) and BXF support. Such features improve the flexibility of the video server when used with external automation or traffic systems.

Thomson will also introduce the ViBE VS7000 video system, an integrated IP video solution for such applications as over-the-top TV, traditional IPTV and IP-over-cable delivery. The system combines all major audio/video codecs, the latest adaptive streaming formats and a resilient IT platform for native redundancy and scalability.

PlayBox Technology, an international “TV channel in a box” manufacturer, is launching QCBox at NAB. QCBox provides automatic quality control, allowing the operator to track technical quality to guarantee successful playout via an AirBox server.

QCBox analyzes the relevant media files in a playlist, folder or selected files. Basic tests include checking for correct duration, continuity (no missing or overlapped frames), blocking, frozen and black frames as well as audio tests, including loudness.

Harmonic is announcing several new server-related products at the show. Omneon’s Spectrum MediaCenter is a new multichannel media server with integrated low-cost storage and support for Spectrum MediaPort modularity and scalability. The system was designed for TV stations requiring from four to 12 channels in a single server configuration.

The new Omneon MediaPort 7000 series of video I/O modules for the Omneon Spectrum media server system delivers new multi-codec support with enhanced media processing functionality to streamline playout workflows and simplify the transition to HD. It supports a range of codecs, formats, frame-rates and resolutions along with integrated up-, down- and cross-conversion and simulcast SD and HD outputs for every channel.

Harmonic will also showcase enhancements to its ProStream 4000 multiscreen transcoder optimized for adaptive streaming applications for OTT and mobile TV services. New capabilities include increased scalability, H.264 video encoding, multi-encapsulation and expanded compatibility with a range of content distribution networks (CDNs) and digital rights management software.

Similar convergence in technology is affecting traffic, billing and content management systems for broadcasters, as well as automated transcoders for delivering programming to non-broadcast platforms like the Web and mobile devices.

Myers Information Systems will exhibit ProTrack Television, a modular suite of broadcast traffic, business and content management software. The lineup will include the developer’s new Media Asset Management module for managing content and its on-demand module that enables media facilities to build, schedule, track and publish transcode requests for station-defined distribution.

At the heart of the new offering is ProTrack Television, a scalable, modular broadcast traffic, business and content management system for individual, multi-channel and multi-station facilities. ProTrack integrates with existing automation, archive, accounting, PSIP and Web distribution platforms.

Pilat Media Global will launch TrafficCentral, a new traffic management console for the company’s Integrated Broadcast Management System. It provides a single point of control from which to drive end-to-end traffic functions for complex broadcasting operations that encompass large numbers of channels or networks spanning many regions, the company says.

“To support hundreds of channels or networks across a large number of regions requires hundreds or even thousands of playlist variants, combining national and regional programming and national and local advertising. Manual data entry and monitoring is no longer feasible given the large number of actions required,” said Bob Lamb, chief technical officer of Pilat Media.

Harris will demonstrate its Broadcast Master, a cost-effective scheduling and media management solution that enables increased revenue through the sale of airtime while delivering enhanced scheduling features. With multiple users accessing a common database, Harris said productivity is increased while operator errors and duplication are decreased.

Broadcast Master was designed for both single-channel and multichannel environments. It features tools to expand advertising sales and to integrate sales, scheduling, content acquisition and media management.

SintecMedia will introduce OnScreens, an integrated over-the-top (OTT) management solution that will handle everything from content planning and media preparation through advertising sales and distribution for linear and nonlinear platforms. The company says it will eliminate the need to maintain separate applications for managing traditional TV and new emerging forms.

OnScreens is a new module of OnAir, a broadcast management system combining traffic, sales and programming into a single framework. As a combined solution, it lets stations deliver individualized content to multiple device types including television sets, tablets and other hand-held devices.

Snell will launch of a new suite of enterprise automation and content delivery solutions based on its Morpheus automation and Integrated Content Engine (ICE) playout technology. Targeted to media companies with multi-site and multichannel playout operations, the family of delivery solutions address key challenges for centralcasting, multi-regional broadcasting, business continuity and sports broadcasting.

In a typical configuration, a Snell central hub provides the bulk of content ingest and storage for multiple regional stations, as well as on-air playlist management and remote monitoring of broadcast signals. In addition, Snell is offering a centralized multi-region broadcasting solution that allows a primary location to distribute common programming to regional channels, with variations in commercial, promotional and graphical insertions.

Viz Media Engine, Vizrt’s most advanced video management system, will feature a completely revamped user interface with much faster searching. It integrates with Vizrt’s transcoding solution.

The latest version of Vizrt’s transcoding software enables users to collect video signals from the broadcast production workflow and distribute the selected video online or to any mobile device.


Read all of TVNewsCheck‘s NAB 2011 coverage here.

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