How to Automate HD


HD movies are on average more than three times larger in size than the equivalent SD movie. Naturally therefore, HD material requires more storage and longer to transfer from the archive/storage to the transmission path. Managing these increased file sizes and optimally controlling the bandwidth is one of the main challenges which need to be addressed when it comes to automating HD. So how do we do it?
Firstly, by creating separate transmission paths for HD and SD, the automation system can then ensure the material in the correct format at the correct time arrives into each transmission chain. To manage the multiple transmission paths between the asset management system and TX server, the automation systems requires more sophisticated algorithms and therefore more processing power. Fortunately, continuing advances in technology in recent years have resulted in companies now being able to take advantage of cheaper processing power to control this process.
Housekeeping in the transmission area is going to be important when it comes to automating HD, as due to the larger files sizes, the broadcaster would not be inclined to duplicate storage in both the transmission suite and the archive.
Managing different file formats and new worklflows also become an issue. Live feeds, predominantly in HD, need to be recorded for archiving and playout at a later date for example, or programs may need to be encoded for playout on the IT infrastructure as small files to be selected on the company website for playout. Similarly, SD material often needs to be up-converted to HD. To control the workflow of these different material formats, the automation system needs to be able to interface with numerous peripheral devices.
HD capable mixers or logo generators are coming onto the market all the time and need to operate in parallel with legacy equipment. Eventually they will replace the SD infrastructure but before this process is completed there will be inevitable integration challenges of using a mixture of equipment (SD and HD) and material (SD and Hd) and routing files appropriately.
Therefore, when it comes to managing HD workflow, an automation system needs to be flexible enough to integrate easily with both old and new equipment. This flexibility will protect the broadcaster’s investment in the automation equipment purchased.
To achieve this, an automation system needs to be designed around a top-down framework. Abit’s Present-It system for example, is designed in this way. It has its own unique data structure, allowing the characteristics of an interfacing device to be stored. In this way, logical templates are assigned to each new physical device and any upgrade to the template is automatically reflected down to the applications it interfaces with.
In other words, what is needed is a base design like this, that encompasses development techniques which will work with any other system – regardless of whether that is a media management, storage or archive system for example. Any necessary changes or additions to interfaces with peripheral equipment become a relatively straightforward process, which is important to protect the broadcaster’s automation investment.
To achieve overall frame accurate HD broadcast, the communication to all of the devices needs to be synchronised. In this way, rather than trying to get devices to work together, the logical operation is carried out at a high level application level and timing of control signals are changed at the point of transmission synchronised to the station timecode.
Optimal workflow is achieved by the creation of adaptive routing tables for all interfacing devices. Physical control occurs through the router and mixer while workflow control and operational changes carried out on the workstation have to be authorised against a set of rules configured in the automation system..
With more broadcasters now making the switch to HD, the automation required to manage the new workflow is a significant consideration. The system needs to be flexible enough to manage larger files sizes and increased bandwidth but also to easily integrate with new peripheral equipment. Even in newer broadcast environments, systems tend to be made up of both legacy based hardware and software driven equipment and so it is necessary to select a system that can easily be adapted to a changing workflow and one which links devices seamlessly. When it comes to investing in a new automation system, broadcasters need to match plans for growth with scalable, future-proof technology to protect their investment in HD workflow now and well into the future.

Tags: abit | automation | automate hd | iss040 | automation hardware | automation software | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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