The Other IP Video - Control and Tally

The TV broadcast industry is buzzing with talk and early adaptation of various forms and formats of IP video. Moving gigabytes of video content packets across networks is where the TV industry is headed, but there are more uses for IP than moving video content across a LAN or WAN.

It wasn’t that long ago when most local TV weather reporters controlled the weather graphics during their news segments with a common garage door opener remote.

Push the button on the tiny opener transmitter and the opener receiver provides a contact closure. That closure was used to trigger a GPI in many popular weather graphics systems to step to the next graphic in a sequence. Cannibalized garage door openers were a first step toward a modern trend.

Today, nearly all video production and post production tools, as well as most new production and master control switchers have IP control features accessible via GUI. IP control is easy, if you’re not doing anything else. All you need is a computer, eye-hand coordination, time to clearly see a screen and good aim to click on exactly the right spot, all while the operator is likely busy doing something entirely different.

One issue with GUI remote control is typically the lack of useful control room or edit suite physical desk space and too much complication. Laptops, touchscreens, keyboards and mice need horizontal real estate. Full GUI control is wonderful, but easily addressing the operator-only functions and handles needed during the heat of live production doesn’t always match the live broadcast workflow environment. Everyone would prefer a dedicated button.

The other IP

An alphabet soup of AIMSASPEN, NDI, TICO IP data standards has attracted the industry spotlight, but there’s another side to IP that isn’t as high-profile – remote control and tally. Several companies including DNF Controls are building products dedicated to simplifying control and tally via IP.

According to DNF Controls Chief Technology Officer Dan Fogel, “Every TV facility has unique needs and requirements, and they address them in different ways.” Using the Ethernet, facilities have a control node with GPIs, HTTP, serial and Ethernet control of devices in a system. Many devices talk to each other over the Ethernet. Fogel says the two most popular products from his company that broadcasters like to use are the Tally Manager and the USP-3 Universal Switch Panel.

“Facilities want to build systems that allow them to accomplish whatever they want from anywhere. For example, part of a shared system might be in LA, with the other part in London,” Fogel explained. People in LA may want to switch a production, fed from cameras and mics in the London studio facility. New technology makes transporting the content across the internet easy. What the new technology doesn’t always address is tally.

“During the recent US political conventions” Fogel said, “some of the major networks were using part of our tally control system, feeding cameras back to the main facility, and sending tallies to the talent and operator at the on-site camera.” Tally lights should be simple but aren’t, because there is no standard tally voltage or current. His company made remote tallying simple with IP.

The US political conventions have joined other events such as the PGA, Masters Golf Tournament, US Tennis Open and others who share cameras, and use this technology to share tally from truck to truck.

True tally logic

A prime example of a tally issue solution was at the past Masters Golf Tournament. What happened was something that could happen anytime, anywhere in a large multi-truck production. During setup, engineers experienced great difficulties interconnecting all of the trucks to share camera tallies. Money and time were wasted and tempers got short.

Tournament TV producers came to NAB fresh off the Masters in search of a solution. DNF Controls resolved the issue with their GTP-32 Control Processor. Now, each truck connects to a GTP-32, effectively isolating the trucks from each other, yet allowing them to easily share tallies. Sharing camera tallies are once again simple. Everyone is happy now, except for the highest-scoring golfers.

Keeping it simple

Who hasn’t dealt with complicated GUIs that require two hands on the mouse to zero-in and click a tiny button on a screen? Who has space for another computer in the control room and time to use GUIs during the heat of live television?

Operators using GUIs can’t rest their fingers on a touchscreen, keyboard or mouse awaiting a cue. Adding to that downside, some GUIs give operators too much access to critical technical properties and settings that could cause trouble. People make mistakes.

Reliable pointing and clicking on a web-based GUI can be assigned to a dedicated button.

Reliable pointing and clicking on a web-based GUI can be assigned to a dedicated button.

Giving people a tactile control and visual indicator satisfies all their senses. Status can be instantly verified and changed or toggled with a single finger if necessary, and the button is always in the same physical location. Tactile controls eliminate control room GUI screens and the risks associated with operators having too much access.

DNF’s new IP Control Buddy controls any Ethernet, RS422 or RS232 enabled device with a button push. The device can turn a GPI output on or off, or send a serial, Ethernet TCP, UDP, SNMP or HTTP command. It doesn’t require a computer programmer to set up. A browser-based setup tool uses drop-down menus and fill-in text boxes to customize the control device.

IP Control Buddy’s popularity is growing quickly in TV stations, where early adaptors are using it to change satellite feeds. Programming that particular function into IP Control Buddy gives the operator a dedicated control panel button to select a preset on the satellite receiver. The button lights up to verify the receiver is set, and the busy operator has one less distracting task to worry about. Goodbye risky GUIs. Simplicity is the key to reliable live TV success.

IP Control Buddy is available with up to 4 individual programmable buttons. The larger Universal Switch Panel offers up to 16 buttons, and the Shot Box has 30 LCD buttons, all programmable similar to the IP Control Buddy. Users can customize the text and color of the buttons on LCD systems.

The broadcast industry is transitioning from “big iron” dedicated production hardware to off-the-shelf enterprise-level computers that do nearly everything TV stations need to keep the content flowing.

Dedicated tactile controls maintain the familiar instant access of the “big iron” controls that live TV operators are accustomed to and need. They can turn a complicated and cluttered control room into a minimal-stress and efficient cockpit.

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