Applied Technology: ENCO Media Operations Manager for TV Automation

A common theme of many TV stations is that the majority of automation systems on the market are expensive, spreadsheet-based systems, limited in scope and often difficult to learn and manage. That need not be the case.

It has become increasingly clear that small-to-mid market broadcasters, as well as LPTV stations, religious broadcasters and smaller cable networks often find it challenging to find the right automation solution. Because these stations typically lack the budget to purchase an expensive “market-leading” variety, they are forced to leverage used systems that gradually begin to fail. Or they buy a lower-end system that provides only the very basics.

ENCO is best known for its DAD radio automation system, components of which have long been adapted by TV and cable stations to automate audio playout. DAD has been successful for a variety of reasons, many of which tie to the basics – a modular feature set, a quick learning curve, ongoing ease of use, and a graphically-rich, highly visual presentation that establishes an engaging user experience.

The launch of MOM, short for Media Operations Manager, brings these tenets for the first time to the TV automation space. And it brings more to the table than simple playout: Users can modularly access other operational production and playout elements within the system that typically are viewed as separate workflow components with dedicated operators.

ENCO’s MOM, short for Media Operations Manager, brings more to TV automation than just playout.

ENCO’s MOM, short for Media Operations Manager, brings more to TV automation than just playout.

Object-Based Approach

The initial approach was to recast the DAD user interface to accommodate video, and provide users with a similarly comprehensible interface to create playlists, manage sequences, and control other devices. This meant throwing out the traditional playbook of very plain, cryptic spreadsheet-based approaches in favor of more visuals, colors, graphics and thumbnails. This object-based approach gives users a true sense of what is on the air, what’s coming up next, and how to make simple modifications, insertions and scheduling adjustments.

This visual, object-based approach creates a logically arranged graphical dashboard. Playlist manipulation and other content management tasks are achieved by either clicking a large, clearly identified button or a drag-and-drop event. The large, colorful buttons are ideally tailored for touchscreen operation. This approach provides the same familiarity of working on a cell phone or tablet interface.

The automation system offers complete automated playout that unifies all media workflow operations within one workstation. Features include; automatic ingest, media asset management, graphics, and playout automation. A single operator can ingest, schedule, manage, edit and play out media from the same system, using the fourth-generation On-air user interface to manage log changes, enable manual playback and perform live insertions as needed.

The system can store local video with embedded audio, and play out media from across the network. The system enables customers to start modestly and then add additional features through licensing.

This includes the ability to use the system as a comprehensive controller. The automation engine cleanly integrates with scheduling systems, and its intelligence can control log manipulation and reconciliation. Built-in control protocols also enable connectivity to production system’s robotic cameras, graphics and branding solutions.

The system supports a multitude of modules including HDMI, SDI, HD/SD and analog interfaces. When IP connectivity is available, the broadcaster can eliminate external video and audio I/O cards and devices relying exclusively on the automation system interfaces.

Primary and Secondary Events

With direct interfaces to most scheduling systems – and the ability to create one for an unrecognized system, users can quickly create logs and pull them into the automation workflow.

ENCO’s MOM automation system provides up to 4 channels of simultaneous record and playout channels and easily integrates with switches, routers, control surfaces and EAS devices.

The automation system can be used as an editor to assemble components into a production that can play to air from multiple files and recordings. This eliminates the need to dub every element into a single program, allowing the operator to quickly build playlists. Cuts and pieces can be assembled into a playlist by tagging them together, moving from element to element similar to a voicetracking process in radio. The pieces will all play together, requiring only that transitions be added.

Management of secondary events are similarly easy to manage. A edit window allows users to play content forward and backward, in slo-mo, at double speed; or scroll frame-by-frame via a built-in jog wheel.

At any point in this file, the operator can insert a new secondary event, such as a key to produce a lower third. Other secondary events may include picture-in-picture, which brings to air two cameras in separate boxes squeezed over a graphic.

This early release of ENCO’s MOM is not built to replace the most sophisticated systems on the market. Instead, it provides an all-in-one solution that gives TV stations the power to use any of its components as needed, all built and licensed in a modular fashion--in an affordable and easy-to-understand platform.

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