Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spotlight Feature: What Happens When The Switcher Locks Up

For those of you watching the early morning news on Channel 3 this morning, you may have noticed some "technical difficulties" as we say in the broadcast industry. Our main control room news switcher locked up completely at 6:30 a.m., bringing the entire show to a screeching halt.

As computers overtake our lives in the broadcasting industry more and more, we [mortals] find ourselves at their mercy when something goes wrong.

Most of the time, mistakes you see on the air are a result of human error. I push a wrong button and something ugly gets on the air that is quite unexpected - and at times humorous (News Director never think this though).

In the good ole days, switchers were much less complicated than they are today. Our Sony HD switcher uses software that practically controls everything that happens on the air. The Directors (who also switch their own newscasts now at WKYC), still physically push buttons to take sources to air, but each of those buttons are software controlled. If the software isn't working, the buttons don't either.

Also, a technical director can move sources anywhere on the board they want including cameras, video playback servers and incoming remote feeds. What's really nice about today's switchers is that each TD can customize his/her board to their own preferences much like you do on your home or office computer. Or, how NASA controls their Mars Rovers from millions of miles away from home.

And like a computer, it literally takes a reboot of the system to bring it back online - which is exactly what we had to do this morning before we could get back on the air.

Kudos to Mark, Abby & Hollie - and the entire behind the scenes crew for tackling the beast and slaying the evil digital dragon.

But that's the beauty of live television. No matter how perfect you try and make it, there are always something that will getcha.

1 comment:

Frumpy Curmudgeon said...

reminds me of the 80s when the RCA TK-47 cameras were popular at a lot of TV stations and networks - they were all computer-controlled - and if the computer that handled setting up and controlling them went belly-up, all the studio cameras it ran were hosed...