With Christmas well out the way now the new season of programming is kicking off. Were you fortunate to be away from work over the festive break or where you at work but wondering why it was like a ghost town?
It made me think about the visit I made to a German Broadcaster back in March of last year to look at a fully automated archive system processing hundreds of tapes daily.
The system was designed and installed by Swiss based Jordi AG its an Automated Digital Archive Migration (ADAM) system capable of running twenty four hours a day seven days a week.
The ADAM system consisted of 468 tape slots, 6 VTR decks & 2 cleaning decks. With the high slot count its possible to load the system using the loading carousels by using the carousels it doesn’t take the system offline, after all you don’t want to in with the robotic arm while its doing it’s thing!
Once loaded you can run the full migration unattended. Depending on the length of the tapes loaded into the slots you can run the system for days before needing to reload the system with fresh tapes needing to be migrated.
The decks used by ADAM have been slightly modified to allow the ADAM software to monitor the picture as close to the heads as possible, this is done using a microprocessor. Information about picture & audio dropout etc is fed back to the ADAM software, this is independent to the channel condition which is also fed back to the ADAM software.
Within the ADAM software you can create error rules & formulas which will trigger a second ingest of the material if required. This can be using a different deck or after the tape has been processed by one of the cleaning decks. Once the second ingest has taken place the report information is compared. Again depending on how the system has been configured the technically better ingest can be the only version retained or both versions can be kept.
Also with this information the system can workout if a deck is faulty, then subsequently taking it out of service flagging it for human attention.
With every ingest ADAM creates a report detailing the contents of the tape, this is done by frame & time code, it will detail, bars, back & mute, time code breaks, duplicate times codes, time code of content etc
This report is produced in an open format – XML, this can be integrated with 3rd party MAM systems to continue the automation of the content. So is there a future for articulated robots in the TV industry, especially as we are moving more into the time for tapeless content and someone has to load all those beta tapes!
The robot only run’s at 5% of its potential load and as a result it’s a life span of 25 years and only requires maintenance once a year that taking a few hours. The same robot is used in car manufacturing, these run at 100% load and have a reduced life span of 5 years. When you start to workout the throughput of the system as well as the life span then start to calculate the equivalent workload without an automated system the sums start to stack up towards capital expenditure over operating expenditure.
From the calculations I made on a per hour basis the ADAM system is 79% cheaper per deck over an equivalent person using a single deck. As automation increases throughout the TV industry bringing controlled and higher throughout I feel human element will remain, after all who will keep an eye on the robots and make sure they have enough to get on with…