By Dan Bailey, Product Manager, Control Systems, TSL Products
A coherent system control in broadcast brings a number of real operational and commercial advantages. By grouping multi-level actions into a single, simple control surface, you can do things which are much richer, making your production more engaging.
At the same time you reduce errors: by defining the controls you offer the operator, you define what each individual can do. If you want someone to switch cameras but no more, then just give them the direct camera controls: cut or mix; maybe pan, tilt and zoom. Hide more sophisticated control, like black and white balances, ensuring the operator cannot get distracted or make unrequired changes.
In a well-designed system which is founded on logic, you should be able to define very complex operations and workflows, yet ensure they are implemented safely and without errors. That reduces training and improves the on-air performance.
Once you get a feel for what can be achieved with a coherent control system, more and more applications suggest themselves. A simple system might configure a router and monitor wall. Sources could be identified in under-monitor displays, and outputs fed to lines, servers and loggers. Selection of incoming lines could also steer satellite downlinks.
Imagine a playout centre that needs regular reconfiguration, perhaps with a night shift taking on more channels from the same room. Build the configurations and all you need is a single button press at shift change. The duty engineer would have the ability to drill down to look at the details of the configuration and make any changes that might be necessary.
Perhaps you are a news broadcaster, and want to put studios in regional centres, or even in a hostile environment. Economics or staff welfare means that these studios need to be unmanned but available whenever a reporter needs to do a piece to camera, or an interviewee cannot travel to the main newsroom.
A keycode gives access to the studio, and sounds an alarm in the main control room. Simple keys on a touchscreen will allow the studio to be set for one or two guests, adjusting the lighting and positioning remote cameras as appropriate. Talkback routing would be automatically set, and production sound could be routed to earpieces as required.
Again, using a simple touchscreen interface, an operator has control of the remote studio. Pan, tilt and zoom cameras can be adjusted to suit the guests. Video or graphics are sent to any in-vision monitors. Cameras are switched from buttons on the touchscreen, and rotary or linear faders control the microphone levels. A sophisticated multi-camera studio can be operated, entirely remotely, using intuitive controls on a panel designed for the application, minimising staff requirements while increasing production values.
Outside broadcast (OB) operators can configure their trucks. One key press sets all the routers, production mixers, monitor walls and video servers, putting the right names and tallies on the UMDs. For very large events requiring multiple trucks, for example, installations in each truck can talk to each other, passing routing information from truck to truck.
Every broadcast facility and operation is unique; every operational team will have its own way of working. The value of unified system control using devices is that you can build the configurations you need, and the logic underpinning them, and you can design the user interfaces you need, providing just the right level of control and intuitive operation.
TSL Products has developed Tallyman, an extremely powerful, extremely easy to use unified control system. It is built on three essentials: third-party integration; an intuitive user interface; and a control layer that is capable of anything from direct router control to the creative management of live remote productions, or configuring complete OB trucks at the touch of a button. Its user interface design toolkit is remarkably simple to use and allows you to customise virtual panels for every user.
However, regardless of infrastructure and the system used, it must meet three key demands of the industry today — seamless high quality, high production values and cost control.