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Transforming Staff Alongside The Technology
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Transforming Staff Alongside The Technology

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Transforming staff alongside the technology

Transforming staff alongside the technology

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  • 1. Transforming staffalongside the technologyWe have talked about transformations in the broadcast environment at every big change: black and white tocolour, analogue to digital, SD to HD. But today’s change – from linear audio and video to file-based architectures– is a real transformation, and it requires careful planning not just for the equipment but for the people.F rom the dawn of television you decision. But it does mean that, for risk of bottlenecks and critical points of could unplug a BNC and plug in broadcast engineers, the 100 or so racks failure are around the IP switches and a waveform monitor to see what of equipment are largely alien territory. The server drivers, not router ports or VTRs. the signal was like. If the So the system integrator has to take automation went down you responsibility for designing a system thatcould still put an emergency programme can be supported, incubating the internalinto a VTR to keep the station on air. Yes, resources within the broadcaster tostaff needed training on new equipment, understand what the system can andbut it was always a development on the should do, and provide a common pointfamiliar. The systems we are building of support to triage faults and get themtoday for our customers are largely file- corrected as quickly as possible. The firstbased, built on IP infrastructures. To give critical decisions come at the designone example, we are currently building stage. The choice of equipment has to bewhat is effectively a greenfield start-up for led not by performance alone but by howSky News Arabia. As well as what we it can be supported. There is no point inmight regard as the traditional HD specifying a mission critical piece ofnewsroom and production system this equipment if there is no local support ininvolves accepting content from new the territory in which it will be installed.platforms like Skype video calling, and it Relying on shipping in spares – or anhas to deliver to the internet, tablets and “Success in any integration project expert engineer – from half way aroundmobiles as well as broadcast channels. depends on identifying the right people to the world is not acceptable in support the system once it’s installed and broadcasting.File based architecture operational,” says Suhail Ahmed, manager of Technical Services for TSL Middle East in The only practical way to achieve Dubai. “When a new station goes to air the Design decisionsthis is through a file-based architecture, operational staff need to be fully equipped The second and more subtle designand no-one, I think, could argue with that and fully enthused to make it work.” decisions are around what happens when 37
  • 2. a fault does occur. How can problems be understand who is coming, what skills they replaying, or a DA goes dead, but it can bemitigated? Without the fall-back of putting bring with them, and when it will be most far from obvious when data no longera tape into a VTR and patching it on air, advantageous to develop those skills with moves around a complex infrastructure. Atyou need to understand where the site-specific knowledge. There is real that point the broadcaster needs a singleredundancy paths lie, and how they will be concern around the lack of new person to turn to, and it is likely that theimplemented should disaster strike. engineering talent coming into the industry. system integrator is the best placed to The IABM is beginning to tackle this, with triage the fault and bring about a speedySystematic transfer of skills introductory courses on the fundamentals resolution. In a support agreement the It is at this point that the staff of the of broadcast technology for IT engineers, system integrator can manage thecustomer organisation starts to become but much more will be needed. While individual SLAs to ensure minimuminvolved. Because you are implementing some technology will be based on downtime and maximise performance, asnot just new equipment but new concepts, commodity IT hardware and software, the well as verifying upgrades.there has to be a systematic transfer of special requirements of television willskills. Installing the system then planning always be there, making extra demands on Commercial benefitfor two weeks of training is probably not processing. Bringing the brightest and best Am I suggesting this as a way ofgoing to work. It is only by understanding engineers into broadcasting is going to justifying further fees for the systemthe logic of the design that engineers will take years, so for now at least the system integrator? No, I do not see it as a newbe able to work through issues and integrator and customer have to work way of driving profit. There is a commercialdevelop a clear idea of where a problem together to develop an effective support benefit, though, in that it helps the SI getlies. Those engineers will come with structure. It cannot happen overnight, so it even closer to the broadcaster, therebydifferent skill sets, so the way in which needs to be in the implementation understanding the real requirements andknowledge and understanding is passed programme from the beginning. Finally helping focus future investments as theon will need to be tailored. there is the issue of long term support. In a system evolves. That, I would suggest, traditional broadcast architecture the end benefits both parties. Ultimately, though,Lack of engineering talent user would agree an SLA with the key success depends upon identifying the right As I said earlier, some of these major vendors, specifying the speed of response people to support the system, helpingfile-based installations are going into to issues and the replacement of faulty them to buy in to the thinking behind it,greenfield sites, which means the in-house components. and developing their understanding of itengineering team will have to be recruited. over time. The goal is that, at the momentIt is important, therefore, that the system When things go wrong of going on air, the broadcast team knowintegrator works with the human resources But that implies knowing where the the system and are fully equipped, anddepartment of the broadcaster to fault lies. It is fairly obvious if a VTR stops fully enthused, to make it work.Revised code of practice for soundsystems at sports groundsThe British Standards Institution has launched the revised BS7827, a code of practice for audio systems designersin sports venues.T he BS7827 code of practice for Group, and decided to revise that designing, specifying, maintaining standard, and I was appointed chairman of and operating emergency sound the revision panel. Our first meeting was insystems at sports venues, was initially January 2008, and now 3 and a half yearsdrawn up in the wake of the Hillsborough later, we have published the reviseddisaster in 1989, and covers not only standard.” The new revision, BS7827:2011,stadia, but any venue where sport is was formally concluded at PLASA 2011,played such as race courses and which provided the perfect setting to putswimming pools. It is also applicable to forward this new code of practice to the The Hillsborough disaster was a humanlarge public facilities such as shopping pro audio industry. At the launch, Steve crush that occurred on 15 April 1989 atmalls, conference and exhibition centres. commented: “This is a code of practice; a Hillsborough football stadium, resulting in theSteve Jones, a Consulting Engineer guide as to what to think about when you deaths of 96 people, and 766 being injured, allspecialising in sound and Chairman of the are designing a system right through to fans of Liverpool FC. It remains the deadliestEPL 100-2 Working Group at BSI, who commissioning a system, and also the part stadium-related disaster in British history andproduced the revised standard, said: “The in the middle, which is the electro-acoustic one of the worst ever international footballorigins of this standard are a code of design and the system design and so on. accidents. The official inquiry into the disasterpractice produced by a working group We’re hoping that some of the good work concluded that "the main reason for thewithin the Sound Communications that we have put into this standard will go disaster was the failure of police control." The findings of the report resulted in the eliminationIndustries Federation, which I chaired back into EN54 part 32, which is being written at of standing terraces at all major football stadiain 1989 after the Hillsborough disaster. It the moment by the European Working in both England and Scotland, as well as thewas then taken into the British Standards Group 3, and that will effectively be a BS7827 code of practice for designing,and became BS7827 in 1996. Four years performance standard for voice alarm specifying, maintaining and operatingago we had a meeting of the EPL 100 systems.” emergency sound systems at sports venues. 39