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Smoothing Path to Automation

Grass Valley's recent acquisition of the Dutch integrated playout vendor PubliTronic highlights a trend that will be top of mind for TV station automation technologies in 2012—the push toward more unified automation solutions.

With the acquisition, Grass Valley will be able to combine PubliTronic’s integration playout solutions with its own existing server, automation product and media workflow systems—this according to PubliTronic founder Harold Vermeulen, who is now vice president, media playout solutions for Grass Valley.

“The future will involve more and more integration of these solutions,” both at Grass Valley and for other vendors, Vermeulen says. “Almost all automation vendors are looking to include servers and graphics. The server vendors are including automation and graphics, and the graphics companies are looking to integration automation and servers.”

The trend is being driven by the complexities of multiplatform delivery, the ongoing need to reduce costs and the fact that many aspects of the broadcast infrastructure have still not been automated.

Though broadcasters have been working to automate their operations for years, “there is actually a pretty low level of [it],” notes Mark Siegel, president of Advanced Broadcast Solutions. “Many people who say they are automated in their playback are really only 30% to 35% automated. There is a real need to take automation to the next level.”

That helps explain increased demand for such systems that vendors see accelerating in 2012. “We’ve had a record year for the Ross Overdrive system and installed over 50,” notes Brad Rochon, marketing product manager for Over- Drive at Ross Video.

And David Jorba, senior VP of operations for Vizrt Americas, says he has been seeing particularly strong interest for products to streamline workflows for multiplatform delivery and for centralized graphics systems.

“As station groups take advantage of centralization to streamline their workflows, they are also keen on developing a standardized system for streamlining workflows so they are not wasting any resources,” Jorba says.

Still, not everyone agrees that the best method for automating systems lies in the creation of a single, more unified solution that can replace the separate products traditionally used to handle the task, or control of content ingest, master control and playout.

Crispin Corp., for example, believes it can more successfully serve clients by better integrating its automation systems with solutions from other vendors. As part of that strategy, the company has been playing a pioneering role in BXF integrations of the traffic and billing systems from other vendors, and it recently became the first vendor to offer BXF integration with Wide- Orbit’s traf! cking systems, notes Crispin COO Rodney Mood.

“We continue to focus on the best of breed approach and making sure that the system has the extensibility and flexibility to really enhance all the other broadcast operations,” says Mood, who adds that this approach recently helped Crispin win a major deal to help a large group of PBS stations set up a centralized master control facility.

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