Test, QC & Monitoring Global Viewpoint – February 2016

Changing Face of Test & Measurement

For the few that may have missed it, the sophistication required in test and measurement has increased about 1000X since digital was introduced. It’s no longer adequate to rely on a VOM (do they still exist?) to maintain a modern audio, video or broadcast system.

Today’s video and audio equipment requires increasingly complex test equipment. More tests and kinds of tests are needed. At the same time, these measurements often need to be managed by less trained engineers and operators. Now we have a dilemma. The T&M manufacturers need to create highly complex measurement devices. At the same time the devices need to be more automated enabling less-trained people to use and interpret the results.

Complex but simpler

Manufacturers want to launch their products faster and with increasingly complex technologies. To reduce development time, vendors rely on smart measurement technology that shortens development times. Even so, they must keep their eye on ease-of-use because of less skilled users. The goal is faster and more cost-efficient time-to-market while producing a consistently high-quality and easy-to-use product.

An operator may just want to know, “Is the signal okay?” Red light/green light. If it’s a red light, call an engineer. Then question becomes, “What is causing the red light?” The engineer may say, “Red light means I need to measure xxx.” The actual measurement is only a means to an end. What the engineer really wants to know is “How do I get the light to turn back to green?” The engineer wants trust worthy and understandable results without having to complete a degree in measurement technology.

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The RTW TouchMonitor TM9 audio monitor provides test and measurement and monitor functions in a flexible configuration with easy on-site upgrades

One-stop testing

Traditionally, test and measurement was segmented into three types of solutions; audio, video and RF. Add digital paths and an entirely new range of testing is required.

A customer today often looks for a single solution; one box does all tests. There are some applications that can be served by such solutions. Audio performance can often be monitored, tested and evaluated with a single device. Video is increasing moving to that solution. Digital transmission paths may require an end-to-end measurement capability.

Testing versus monitoring

Audio devices are often used first for monitoring and less so for testing. In fact, this is a great solution. The ROI on a device that can be used daily to generate revenue in the studio is much higher than something that only gets turned on when something is busted.

When building a new complex or control room, the installers or system integrator will perform the tasks of testing and commissioning. These experts will rely on sophisticated testing to ensure the system meets specifications. Once that happens, the facility may go back to the red/green light monitoring scenario.

The Videotek TVM9150PKG multi-format video waveform monitor and audio signal analyzer is is targeted at 3G/HD/SD-SDI, analog composite and ASI video and audio applications.

The Videotek TVM9150PKG multi-format video waveform monitor and audio signal analyzer is is targeted at 3G/HD/SD-SDI, analog composite and ASI video and audio applications.

When talking to test and measurement manufacturers, the claim is that T&M gear is last to be added and first to be cut from budgets. One way to avoid that scenario is to look for multi-purpose gear. As noted above, devices that can provide real-time-monitoring functions rate a higher ROI because they are used more.

A product that is inexpensive but performs only a select set of functions may actually be more costly than one that costs more, but does much more. 

What really counts is the total cost of ownership. In general, test equipment with a higher purchase price provides more functionality, may actually be easier to use and produce better results. The bottom line, it can cost less when measured over time.

Consider these points when next buying monitoring and test gear.

Let us know what you think…

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