As predictable and prevalent as Murphy’s Law in broadcasting is the N+1 principle. It applies to technology and people but we’ll stay focused on technology. N stands for the number items you think will be necessary in the foreseeable future. The number N could be the number of channels, inputs, outputs, devices, monitors, multiviewers, vehicles, or just about anything else an engineering or news department might procure on a capital expenditure. The N+1 principle states that despite the most intense and diligent research, or how clear your crystal ball may have seemed at the time, odds are that N will nearly always prove to be one or more short of what is really needed.
You can take advantage of the N+1 principle by factoring it in your planning and purchasing, and it will make you look good in the process. I’ve heard it called headroom, spares, room to grow or future expansion, but those words are tough to sell in today’s more-with-less business environment. Instead, consciously factor N+1 into capital expenditures whenever feasible, and cross the two last things an engineering manager wants to do off your worry list. It’s cheap insurance for your career and facility.
Ignoring the N+1 principle is like building a rack full of equipment and cutting all the cables as short as possible. A non-engineering salesperson will see a rack wired like a guitar as looking slick and well-planned. A seasoned broadcast engineer looking at the same rack will see a future nightmare. Using the N+1 principle in planning and purchasing is like wiring a rack with adequate slack for quick changes and maintenance. It may look a little messy to non-engineers, but you know better. That slack, or the N+1 factor may ultimately prove to be the only reason the show can go on.