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Remote control and monitoring by Alan Wheable Y ou might wonder what remote control has to do with test and measurement. And you might be pleasantly surprised when you find out. For a number of years now, manufacturers of broadcast equipment have used remote controlled test installations to allow them to test systems and modules for compliance against a huge array of broadcast and non-broadcast video formats and test patterns. Remote control is one tool that allows manufacturers to quickly check if the equipment under test meets its specification as well as providing documented test results. In these types of test installations scripts are used to select functions (such as video format and test pattern choice) and control the test equipment without the need to manually setup each test in turn. Away from the factory, however, the equipment under test may be down in the depths of the building and being temperamental. You need to find out what is going wrong but you don’t want to spend the whole day standing over it waiting for it to go wrong. Here automated remote controlled testing does not help you. The solution here is remote monitoring. But what can you sensibly monitor? 64 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 83 NOVEMBER 2013 Figure 1 - Quantel sQ Server under automated test using PHABRIX SxE T&M instruments Remote Control in Manufacturing With over 400 different format combinations in broadcast and production worldwide, manufacturers have to design and test equipment that may need to support all or a large subset of these combinations. These have to be tested both in development and in production to ensure that they are compliant with SMPTE and EBU specifications. To do this the tools available within products such as the PHABRIX Sx and Rx instruments can be used. Automated scripts and remote control can be used to make systematic selection of generator test patterns, video formats, line rates, frame rates, colour spaces, bit depths, etc while the equipment under test is monitored and errors reported using the inbuilt logging system. This approach to large scale testing for compliance has been adopted by manufacturers such as AJA (using scripts in production to test their units for CRC errors), Snell (production testing switchers) and Quantel (production testing SD-SDI, HD-SDI and 3G-SDI functionality of their sQ server range). therefore can be difficult to operate manually. Ideally you need to place a piece of test equipment next to the problematic equipment and remotely monitor the findings of the test equipment and change parameters on the fly. Depending on the type of problem, you may want to log issues over time or you may want an alert when some parameter fails. Being able to remotely monitor the test equipment allows you to keep an eye on it while you go about your normal activities. In many organisations remote monitoring of equipment has become an essential activity for keeping the studio running and programs on air. Video test systems need to allow you to remotely capture video data and deliver it locally for analysis via a standard network cable. This, however, only goes someway to help diagnose issues remotely. Being able to intuitively control the test equipment remotely, including changing test patterns, analysing specific waveforms, checking data and viewing error logs as well as having a graphical view of the equipment is a significant advantage. Remote Monitoring With tools like SNMP you can only detect issues or error conditions that have been programmed to be trapped. This doesn’t help you if the problem is with video signal itself or with equipment stability especially as most SNMP implementations are for un-manned computer automation and Figure 2 - PHABRIX Sx remote browser control