We have been developing the Autocue Production Suite, which is designed to replace traditional, individual broadcast devices with a single, integrated system. When combined with our newsroom, prompting and production applications, it offers a cost-effective end-to-end workflow solution. We’ve been working with BroadcastShow over the last few months to trial the system in a live studio environment and to test and deploy new functionality ahead its full launch at IBC2012.
The first live show was an incredibly useful experience, and prompted us to add over thirty new features to the software to improve its operation and range of functionality. These included tally handling (for which we installed some of our on-camera tally lights in the studio, as well as new software control), improved recording capability to allow the ‘good’ portion of a pre-record to be marked on the fly, new audio level meters and improved monitoring during clip playback, an internal bars and tone generator to aid configuration, improved timecode handling to ensure that clip durations are calculated correctly, improved graphics handling (the internal ticker and clock were used in the pre-stream ahead of the live show) and extended control of the output recorder.
The system went through several upgrades in the following weeks, and was used for several recordings – including one with Workstation Specialists, where it was reconfigured to include an additional camera input. These successful sessions helped to demonstrate its capability and to boost confidence in its reliability. Even so, much of the preparation for this live show concentrated on back-up and fall-back systems – so there were four different sets of recordings running, just to make sure that the program wasn’t lost, and I had installed a hardware router around the core system to allow cameras to be switched directly to the streaming system if necessary. But actually the show went very well this time, and none of that redundancy was used. The only real problem was with audio levels, which varied dramatically between live and pre-recorded sources, and obviously this will need to be looked at.
We learnt more lessons from the rehearsals and the live show, including that better use could be made of the scripting system ahead of time, that it would be useful to enable the time-of-day display on the prompter screen so that Jon, the presenter, can see how much time is left in the show and that there are still several features of the system – e.g. still store functionality – that could be exploited. But communication during the show is perhaps the biggest issue – it is hard to whisper at the control desk, and impossible to get a message out of the studio – e.g. if a camera needs to be moved because one guest is taller than another, as happened this time. We had already planned to add a simple intercom / talkback / cans facility to the system at some point, but I will accelerate development on that now so that it is ready in time for the next show.