Comcast Media Center
With the launch of its latest control room, Comcast Media Center (CMC) developed a new solution for multichannel program origination that improves program uptime while simultaneously reducing operator workload. This customized approach to advance playback, when applied to the appropriate programming model, strikes the perfect balance between operational overhead and on-air performance, making it one of the best performance-per-dollar models in the program origination industry. With the solution, CMC uniquely implemented features readily available in the Avid Sundance Titan automation and Evertz MVP systems and combined them with its custom “Heads-Up” application to make the most efficient use of staff while simultaneously ensuring near-perfect uptime.
With the advance playback model, CMC staff runs the scheduled programming hours in advance of the true air time, caching the programming into delay servers, which replay the content at its scheduled time. This approach allows the operators to monitor a preview of the program signal and, should there be a deviation from scheduled programming or a system failure resulting in program interruption, the operator can mark the time of the discrepancy, recover the service and cover the discrepancy from a parallel real-time program path at the true air time. Through a synchronizing feature, the Titan system allows the operator to edit the advance playlist and have changes automatically update the real-time playlist, saving edit time. Conversely, edits can be made on the real-time playlist, maintaining the cached version of the advance schedule in its original form as a fallback.
The advance playback control room also employs a live event management pod, which contains a dedicated live event operator that can manage dynamic live events autonomous of the main master control operator. In such a case, the live event operator routes the live program to air while the master control operator continues running alternate programming offline, ensuring failure of the main venue feed or a catastrophic failure of the live event pod results in minimal interruption to the on-air programming.
The Heads Up Display (HUD) was added to ensure master control operators focus on the quality of the programming and performance of the technical systems, and reduce reliance on the traditional automation display to exception handling. A custom software application developed in-house, the HUD system reads the Titan schedule data in real time and presents on-air events, plus a “look ahead” for other primary events and secondary events, to the operator in a rundown.
The HUD system presents only the most critical elements of the automation playlist, essentially decluttering the schedule information compared with the traditional automation display. The HUD includes a clock display that marks color-coded next-up primary and secondary events and countdown information on the clock face. At the five-second mark, it displays a flashing color-coded solid arc and a color-matched icon next to the event in the scrolling rundown to ensure the operator knows which event is executing next. When the event executes, a countdown begins for the next event.
Submitted by Comcast Media Center
Avid: Sean Pendleton, software development
CMC: Griffin Moore, software eng.; Jeff Hagny, applications eng.; Rich Rivera; mgr., sys. integration
Technology at work
Avid: Sundance Titan automation
CMC: SSG custom software
Evertz: MVP multiviewer
Omneon: Spectrum servers