Does one size fits all


Economic realities are driving most technical industries toward considering solutions that combine what began as stand-alone, discrete devices into single, multifunction systems. In the broadcast and multimedia production arenas, character generators (CGs) are among the discrete systems now being offered in multifunction platforms.
The assumption is, of course, that in buying just one system, the purchaser reduces initial financial outlay while gaining broader functionality. What’s more, logic suggests that in employing just one integrated system, the company can employ fewer operators. Are these assumptions correct? After all, reducing operational costs while enhancing brand recognition to generate revenue is what the modern CG is all about.
Intuitively, this all-eggs-in-one-basket approach seems to make complete sense as a cost-saving technique. However, what many broadcasters and other organizations are finding, is that the purpose-built CG systems provide higher levels of reliability, functionality, and ease of use that are difficult to achieve in multifunction solutions, because those solutions are tasked with serving a variety of workflow roles.
In trying to be all production things to all production environments, some combined solutions can fail to do any particular thing well. When, for example, a single system is required to provide robust CG functionality while also serving as a vision mixer, multi-channel video server, audio mixer, and camera control system, its operation becomes much more complex. With so many features and applications incorporated into one interface, even the simplest tasks can become operationally overwhelming.
Today’s generation of broadcasters and video professionals have grown up working with a computer and mouse, and in approaching video production, they expect to be able to sit down at a system and get to work right away – without needing to pore over a pile of manuals or sit and view multiple, mind-numbing on-line tutorials - just to make their multi-function behemoth behave properly in a simple online environment.
Because CG system developers straddle two worlds, bringing together computer-based graphic arts and the technical aspects of working with live video for real time play to air, CG systems must offer simple user interfaces and straightforward functionality to facilitate the creation and manipulation of electronic graphics. These systems must then allow flawless playout of complicated graphic effects required for modern on-air broadcast quality CG graphics.
There are still places in larger productions that require personnel with highly specialized and expensive CG operational skills — with years of hands-on experience. But, the majority of most productions rely on staff, students, and volunteers who must be familiar with the CG system and get up to speed quickly. Stand-alone CG systems make this possible, and in many cases the tools they provide can allow users to create graphical overlays and other CG-based enhancements to the video project without the need for the complications and cost of video switchers or OB vans.
In more complex broadcast operations, the stand-alone CG can integrate with automation and other systems, in turn enabling greater efficiencies, and reducing the manual intervention required to create and output reliable and real time broadcast graphics. For example, template based sports scoreboard graphics can create real time lower third game scores, stats, and frame accurate shot clock information automatically. These are duties the modern purpose-built CG can easily deliver at an incredibly affordable price point.
Because these are dedicated systems that can integrate and operate smoothly in tandem with other key systems, stand-alone CG systems offer a higher standard of performance that can’t be compromised by other broadcast operations. While simultaneous stresses from multiple processes in a combined solution can cause slow-downs or system crashes that threaten an entire production, a dedicated CG system, some with the added safety of mechanical bypass relays, offer stability, limited risk and peace of mind to the final on-air product.
The independent operation of stand-alone CG systems is valuable also within the educational environment, where the use of discrete devices gives students the best opportunity to learn specific production skills. Equipped with a practical understanding of how to use CG technology effectively, those students can then enter the working world in a production facility and be prepared to work either with a discrete system or to make sense of and take better advantage of a combined solution.
Those companies, organizations, and institutions that really take a hard look at how they are spending money will realize that the best investment is one that delivers the required features, functionality, performance, and associated benefits at a reasonable price point. Typically, 80 percent of a product’s cost can be attributed to the last 20 percent of its functionality – the bells and whistles that may or may not be actually used over the product’s lifetime. It very well may be that the promise of a “one size fits all” or a “station in a box”, may in fact turn out to be a box full of empty promises and false economy.
Following the same “80/20” rule, true value can be realized through implementation of purpose-built CG systems that focus on providing the necessary 80 percent of the functionality, and on doing that 80 percent very well. This approach to product development has brought to market a range of high-value CG systems that offer powerful features suited to the majority of video production applications.
Used independently or as part of much larger installations, today’s stand-alone CG systems make it easier and more cost-effective than ever for users across the broadcast, sports, military, government, education, and house of worship markets to create more dynamic, engaging, cost effective, and revenue enhancing video productions.

Tags: compix media | cg | character generator | vision mixer | multi-channel video server | audio mixer | cg graphics | graphics | iss041 | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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