The Voice of America (VOA) is an international multimedia broadcaster providing service in 44 languages. Serving an estimated weekly global audience of 123 million, VOA provides news, information and cultural programming through the Internet, mobile and social media, radio, and television. Operating from Washington, DC, VOA produces multiple worldwide streams in various languages, providing news to viewers around the world in their native language.
Although VOA program schedules are published well in advance to advise viewers of when their native language program will be broadcast, VOA’s largest challenge is managing the unpredictable nature of news content developed each day by its Program Services.
Over the past five years, Communications Engineering, Inc. (CEI) has helped VOA transition from an entirely tape-based production to a highly optimized file-based workflow. Program segment requirements are initiated through VOA Traffic using Myers ProTrack TV. A dublist is passed to DaletPlus, which is used to manage the content production and approval process. The required content lists are sorted by language and assigned for fulfillment to each of the VOA Program Services. DaletPlus creates a placeholder for the anticipated program content, including expected run length and other associated metadata. A corresponding ProTrack Playlist is passed to the air channel’s Harris ADC automation system and runs as scheduled. Program segments created by VOA Program Services are produced and delivered to an Omneon MediaGrid for review and approval. Once approved for air, the segment is moved to an Omneon Spectrum server, ready for playout under automation control.
Uniquely, the duration of finished VOA program segments may not match the run length VOA Traffic had anticipated, normally requiring significant action by the master control operator to mitigate. Additionally, because the majority of VOA programming is aired several times each day, this same anomaly would occur at each playout of the finished segment.
Working closely with VOA stakeholders, the CEI project team focused on developing a system that would automate moving approved story content from production to air channel services. Ideally, it would also include an exchange of segment metadata to update repeat segment playout. The significant efforts of all parties involved produced a system that enables DaletPlus to automatically move finished content from VOA's production systems to its air channel servers. A key component of this process is the ability for DaletPlus to automatically update a running ADC automation playlist, enabling manual or automatic action to fill the story’s run-length shortage. The system also alerts ProTrack of the finished segment’s revised metadata for use in subsequent playout across all VOA television program services.
Challenged by a unique operational problem, CEI led an innovative collaboration among VOA staff, Dalet Digital Media Systems, Myers Information Systems, Harris and Omneon to produce a highly efficient solution that automates dynamic content delivery from production to air.