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New Media, New Automation Systems

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The best illustration of how automation systems are spreading their reach far beyond production and playout can be found in their growing importance for multiplatform efforts.

Here broadcasters face an all-too-familiar problem: lack of revenue. “There really hasn’t been a business model for them to make money at this yet,” says Scott Murphy, president of NVerzion.

As a result, Murphy says, some stations have become more cautious with their multiplatform delivery plans or are seeking solutions that allow them to either simplify or automate all or parts of the multiplatform delivery process so it will not dramatically increase costs.

To tap into that demand, all the major vendors of automation and work flow solutions have been developing processes to streamline the delivery of content to more platforms.

About a year and half ago, for example, Grass Valley released its MediaFUSE product for automated multiplatform distribution, says Scott Murray, product marketing manager, integrated production systems, Grass Valley.

“Currently we have 15 locations installed, and we are in the process of adding about 10 more,” Murray says.

At the National Association of Broadcasters Show last month, Harris announced a unified user interface with its ADC product that allows operators to see “the complete content workflow, end to end,” notes Jason Salyards, product line manager for automation in the Broadcast Communications division of Harris Corp. “It means that from one client, the user can see everything and doesn’t have to move from one screen to another or application to application to manage the workflow process.”

Also at NAB, Ross Video demonstrated an extension to its OverDrive automation platform called Quick- Turn. “The plug-in allows the newsroom to flag content that will go to the Web” and then have segments automatically created and sent to the Web within seconds, says Brad Rochon, marketing product manager for OverDrive at Ross Video.

Such automation is particularly important in the graphics area, because graphics designed for large TV screens can look horrible on small phones or even tablets, notes Petter Ole Jakobsen, CTO at Vizrt.

To overcome that problem, Vizrt has developed systems to automate much of the process. Initially, users must design the look and feel of a show or a newscast for different devices—linear TV, smartphones and tablets. “But once that is done, it will automatically give you the version of a station’s nightly newscast for an iPhone or an iPad that will look stunningly good without adding any more work” beyond the initial setup, Jakobsen notes.

Meanwhile, stations are also looking to software systems to streamline workflows so their newsrooms can create more content, both for their broadcast newscasts as well as Web and mobile platforms.

“People realize they need to produce more for the Web and mobile platforms and are trying to " gure out the best way to do this while maintaining or even reducing their costs,” notes Fred Fourcher, president/CEO of Bitcentral.

Bitcentral workflow management systems, Fourcher says, can cut out half to two-thirds of the steps in a traditional production workflow, freeing up time and resources for more content creation. “Typically, you have about 10% of the people in a newsroom tend to be field journalists,” Fourcher says. “If you can get that up to 20% without increasing costs, that would be a big win.”

As part of that effort, stations have also been looking for more open solutions that make it easier to integrate products from different vendors so that content can be brought to air faster and more easily distributed to a variety of devices, says Jim Frantzreb, senior segment manager for broadcast at Avid, which is a strong advocate of the Broadcast Exchange Format (BXF) standard that was created to simplify integration between products.

Better integration between products will also allow the metadata attached to content to better flow through the production process, improving digital asset management and distribution. “We spend a pretty significant proportion of our R&D on being open and being able to interoperate with a number of different devices and vendors,” Frantzreb says. “Forging partnership and qualifying solutions from other vendors is very important to us, because that is what our customers want.”

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