The QNews Automation Control Centre (ACC) provides control over a range of broadcast devices to assist with operation during a live show. The ACC typically operates directly in conjunction with QNews, but can be configured to receive event information via MOS from other newsroom systems such as ENPS.
Video and Caption automation
The ACC is most often used to automation video clip and graphic playback. This is typically achieved by inserting different types of ‘automation event’ into the left-hand column of a script. A typical example of an automation event would be a caption (or lower-third), which allows a user to enter the text to be displayed in the final on-screen caption. It is important to note that the way in which the caption appears on-screen is entirely defined by the template contained within the character generator device – i.e. fields, locations, fonts, styles, sizes, effects, etc. are all a function of the CG. The functionality provided within the QNews Client is simply a short-cut to entering text on the CG device directly – it is far more convenient for a journalist to enter a name and location, for instance, directly from their newsroom workstation while editing the appropriate script, rather than having to pass the information to the CG operator to be retyped.
Another type of automation event, similar to the caption events described in the previous section, are video events. A video event refers to a single piece of material, and includes information to specify the name of that clip and (optionally) the in- and out-timecodes for this instance of the material. The ability to define in- and out-points for a clip means that different parts of a single clip can be used at different times. Video events differ slightly from caption events in that they can appear both in the script and at the rundown level (caption events can only be entered within scripts). However, the selection of material is the same in both cases – the user chooses the required clip from a drop-down list which can be set to show text details or simple thumbnail images for each clip.
Having entered CG or video clip information into the scripts and rundown within the QNews client application, these automation events will then be available for playout via the ACC, which provides the user interface for a technical operator.
One side of the ACC screen shows the automation event list, which will contain one or more different types of events – e.g. video clips and captions. The event list is dynamic, which means that it will immediately reflect any changes to the overall running order, or any change to any particular event. The types of events that appear in the list are defined by the types of devices that are currently being controlled, which is dependent upon the automation profile that the user selected at the start of the ACC session. The other side of the ACC provides control over the currently connected devices. The control panels vary for different devices, but for a video server channel, for instance, will provide play, pause, recue and skip controls, and status information showing clip name, time code and countdown to the end of the item.
The overall function of the ACC is prepare events (in terms of cueing a tape, loading a video clip or preparing a caption, for instance), but ultimately the point at which an event starts is controlled by an operator – either by clicking one of the on-screen buttons, or from an external button box.
The ACC does not have a direct connection to the devices it is controlling, rather it communicates across the network to the DCI (Device Control Interface) Server. The DCI Server has direct (via serial) and/or indirect (via IP) connections to each controlled device, and translates the generic automation commands (e.g. ‘load’, ‘cue’, ‘play’, ‘take’, etc.) received across the network into the specific protocol required by the connected devices. This configuration means that an ACC session, as a purely software component, can be run on any PC on the network.