Broadcast Beat Magazine September, 2015 - Page 90

AFTER THE BIG IRON IS GONE: DOING MORE WITH LESS

In many contemporary discussions regarding the uncertain future of broadcasting as we’ve known it, it’s ever more common to hear the term, “Back in the day …”. For those of us who’ve been involved with broadcasting for decades, the equivalent of the Pleistocene and Jurassic eras are synonymous with names like Ampex and RCA.

Talk about Big Iron! Two-inch quad VTRs made the most incredible sound when those half-ton beasties tumped into the dumpster. Like lemmings driven off a cliff of technology, these were followed closely by the amazing two-inch helical by IVC, and the new wave of one-inch machines from Ampex, Sony, Hitachi, NEC, RCA and 3M. And of course the exotic Bosch-Fernseh one-inch portable and studio machines.

After a time-warping ride in Doc’s DeLorean, here we are. Tapeless. Not a smidgen of oxide to clog the heads. We’re now dealing with over a hundred video file formats, the price we pay for videotape dissolving in the twin tar pits of Time and Technology.

While it’s humorous to flip the pages spanning decades of technology, the real Truth is that everything associated with broadcasting is changing. Playback, software, cameras, routing switchers, and lighting systems provide an order-of-magnitude increase in performance, with an inverse decrease in cost. And that’s the good news.

The not so good news is that we’re not sure what “broadcasting” is about to become. Only one thing is certain. Change. And under any real or imagined scenario, survival in the industry will require that broadcasters do more with less. Less equipment. Less people. So given the uncertainty, how do you craft a business model which provides the greatest opportunity not only to survive … but to thrive?

The pending spectrum auction notwithstanding, station owners who made substantial investments in certain software/hardware systems are scrambling for alternatives to replace brands that will soon cease to be fully supported. It’s analogous to your insurance company notifying you that they’ll be dropping

Rick Owen, Chief Engineer at RUSHWORKS

your home, auto and health policy in a few months. Yikes! Talk about a sinking feeling. It’s an operational disaster of Titanic proportions.

Saddled with a system fast approaching obsolescence due to impending lack of support, KTNC-TV in San Francisco researched alternatives with the traditional mindset that with Big Iron, you get what you pay for. It’s pretty safe to say that the definition of Big Iron doesn’t refer to physical dimensions. It more accurately refers to the price tag.

The road led to an automation vendor with a long-recognized brand name and history. Following a lengthy negotiation and sophisticated configuration process the station sadly discovered that the features and functions stipulated as deliverables weren’t up to the task. In spite of the high price tag, the Big Iron was deemed to be too rusty to put into reliable operation with appropriate support.

Rick Owen, Chief Engineer at the station, proposed a solution. Because he was already familiar with the A-LIST “station in a box” solution from RUSHWORKS, he suggested the station consider that hardware/software platform as a robust, proven and cost-effective alternative. (continued on next page)

BROADCAST BEAT MAGAZINE

IBC Issue September 2015

90