Studio automation or two-way innovation

Overall, these are good times for intelligent automation. Like other investment and technology development trends that have seen a notable acceleration in 2020, Deloitte’s annual Automation with intelligence study reveals a growth of more than 40% over the last year, which implies a rise from 58% of companies using intelligent automation tools in 2019 to 73%. However, the most significant data is found on the first study conducted on the subject in 2015, which revealed that at that time only 13% had this type of technology.

In this respect, the Broadcast & Media industry is a pioneer. Various types of software with automation functionalities have been progressively implemented in different parts of the media lifecycle over the last decades, and in many cases a reversal is hardly contemplated anymore. The reasons for this transition are simple: making a significant investment in automation is the most logical choice in the long term versus maintaining the operational costs of a large workforce, as well as eliminating the human error factor. However, this process is not a one-way process; it is not about a software company offering a watertight product. In most cases, we are talking about a two-way evolution, a customization of the automatable functions according to the needs of each company.

Without a doubt, studio automation systems are at the forefront of Broadcast automation, which is natural considering the dynamism, precision and multiplicity of actions that they usually require. For example, if we analyze the most recurring tasks in live news production and broadcasting, it is easy to see why many of them are now problems of the past.

Playlist and graphics management

It was not so long ago that all channel and playlist management was done manually, without the option of interaction with the newsroom team and without real-time control of the order in which news clips were broadcast. It was common for the operator to be handed a paper with the initial list of clips only a few minutes before the broadcast or the program, which left him very little room for maneuver and foresight. Special mention should be made of the associated graphics, which inevitably required coordination with another operator and therefore the existence of another control point in the studio.

The current scene has changed a lot since then: it is usually the editor-in-chief who controls the NRCS (Newsroom Computer System) and the rundown order, and thanks to MOS (Media Object Server, an XML-based protocol that allows to control and communicate with different elements of the studio without the need of specific drivers), it reaches the operator, who plans and sequences videos and graphics to the different channels thanks to a software automation system like VSNLivecom

Today, the studio automation software allows multiple users to manage the rundown simultaneously. Regarding the little room for maneuver, it is worth noting the importance of VSNLivecom’s offline mode, which allows users to create and manage rundowns disconnected from the MOS protocol to resolve any eventuality in time. 

Management of videoserver channels

Currently, a competitive studio automation software such as VSNLivecom allows the operator advanced management of channels and rundowns (playlists) in parallel, being able to control up to 4 channels (A/B/C/D) in list mode, but with the possibility of manually managing events, which can be programmed with variations with respect to the playlist, enter loop mode, etc. 

Current systems also allow a much larger and more synchronized operation, managing up to 16 auxiliary channels (CH), which are commonly used to broadcast content in parallel, for example, projecting to different screens in the studios. In addition, the software allows programming clips with loop, trim or slowmotion functions and previewing content clips, being able to manage them comfortably from an interface that allows frame-by-frame advance, rewind, fast forward or cue preview option.

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VSNLivecom: Dynamic, transversal and flexible software at the user’s service

Finally, there are advantages that are defined by the implementation of the automation software itself, and that support the aforementioned need for dynamism and flexibility in a studio.

For example, VSNLivecom is compatible via MOS protocol with most news production systems (NRCS) in the market, allowing companies to choose the complementary systems that best fit their needs. In addition, the use of such an intelligent system also saves the team time in two ways: on the one hand, having an instant update functionality of the automation engine, which allows viewing any changes made in real time, and on the other hand, the customizable modes, which enable operators to manage the configuration in the way they prefer, either manually or automatically managing trimming or reassignment events, handling the graphics system, using keyboard shortcuts or Jog Shuttle functionalities. It should be added that this technology is not only suitable for live news programs, but for any team that wants to optimize tasks and production functions, making it a transversal and dynamic software.

All in all, it seems clear that, although many companies are now experiencing their first impressions with process automation, the Broadcast & Media environment has been refining this type of technology for years now, and its future possibilities are yet to be discovered.

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