Encoda Systems

As Encoda Systems has steadily enhanced its status as a heavyweight vendor, the Colorado-based company has developed a keen sense of the transactional dynamics that surround and influence centralized broadcasting options.

Already heavily involved in the areas of multichannel automation, traffic and material management, the company sees in centralcasting a natural outgrowth of what it considers its strength. And with many of the centralcasting-related elements falling into place, the company views the centralcasting movement as a new opportunity.

"The new models are starting to make sense," says Joe French, executive vice president, Encoda Systems' Automation Group. "There are a lot more user-friendly interfaces today, and these, along with the steep drop in telco costs that were quite unrealistic before, have made the centralized model much more feasible."

Formulating an appropriate centralcasting model involves looking at how pure technology, operations and material management must be balanced so that each coexists rather than collides with the other two elements.

"Take automation, for example," says French. "What is the most valuable thing that the automation system does? It manages server space, and it depends upon a lot of things' working in tandem in the background. That is where you encounter our LinkServer, which provides a transactional exchange."

French adds that, as facilities move out of event-stacker automation and into material and asset management, the engineering staff must lend itself to the design and creation of a new infrastructure.

"To enable this to go forward successfully," he observes, "centralization must be viewed holistically."

French sees the merging of traffic and on-air work flows as a natural progression in an increasingly centralized TV industry. Much of Encoda's energy of late has been devoted to identifying and overcoming various choke points.

"With LinkServer at each end, we are dealing effectively with a potential choke point and allowing the business environment to take advantage of the automation environment with centralized scheduling and material management," he says. "This will enable a seamless flow of material from traffic through the entire automated environment."

Before anyone approves a specific centralcasting model, the organization must define the goal. Where are the efficiencies to be gained? Easier operations? Less personnel? Less capital expenditure?

Once those goals are chosen, getting to them may pose unexpected hurdles. For example, existing personnel need to see centralcasting as something that does not threaten their livelihood. This may require a change in job duties to make them more secure in implementing a centralcasting model.

Departing from past practices is one thing, while adapting career paths to meet the requirements of a re-engineered work flow is quite another thing entirely.

French emphasizes that employee training must be portrayed as a pathway to an expanded role in which more, rather than less, involvement in day-to-day operations is the result for the vast majority of employees.

"Sure, you can advocate a need for everyone to take a different, more futuristic and more efficient view of the business as a whole," French says, "but how you keep your staff on track is critical."

There's no doubt that mental challenges can be as difficult as technical.

"This can be an extremely disruptive process," he points out, noting that "how these proposed dramatic changes are perceived is critical both to the outcome and to the flow of the project in question."