Introduction and overview of the DIGISPOT II Media Content Management and Distribution System

About two decades ago when digitised audio and the technology of large storage capacity on Hard Disk Drives appeared as a reality, it became obvious that the marriage between networked computer technology and centralized storage of large amount of audio files, would be a tremendous opportunity to improve the workflow for program production and ON-AIR delivery.

DIGISPOT II  has been one of the early developments, which introduced this opportunity to the radio broadcast industry. Within a minimum of time it changed the workflow of small and large radio stations totally and consequently, it became the bases for a revolution to the about 70 years of experienced management and workflow in large and small radio broadcast stations.  DIGISPOT II, however, did refer to this many years of experiences in the field of international broadcasting and combined the new technology by careful conceptual system engineering to a complete and functional system, it is now a modular radio broadcast operating system, combining both, software and adequate hardware components, that allows to carry out all stages of radio program production and the ON-AIR broadcasting process in an efficient easy going workflow. The software structure permits you to use a great variety of modules to easily adapt to specific stations requirements, allowing you to create and configure a system installation that helps to optimise the workflow for each radio station with individual task related functions.

DIGISPOT II is based on a very versatile and comprehensive SQL database handling engine. This Media Database (MDB) is a special database working under the control of the Microsoft SQL Server 2008. MDB stores descriptions of the elements, a set of categories created by the user, attributes and other information. The main task of the MDB is to provide for the well-ordered storage of elements and permitting for the convenient allocation of materials and for fast searches.

A large number of DIGISPOT II modules used the database as support for a wide variety of individual tasks. The redundant data storage for two or even three days of schedules and their related material at the local hard drive of the ON-AIR station, the so called “Reserve system”, is based on the versatile MDB management functions, increasing the system reliability and provides failsafe broadcasting, even in the event of LAN or Internet breakdown. To reach total failsafe operation the “Hot AIR Standby System” does provide for full play out redundancy in synchronized play mode. For this the DJiN ON-AIR application with the X-Player and the special software module “Hot AIR Standby“ have to be installed on two separate Workstations. These workstations have no equal rights, one is preconfigured as the Main, the other - as the Reserve ON-AIR Play out station with the equal schedule. Both workstations are interconnected by a “Watch connection”, this is an Ethernet cable connected to a dedicated network card in each computer, this direct cross wired network connection by thus avoiding any additional Ethernet equipment and cable patching. The “Hot AIR Standby” Software consists of two parts, the Hot AIR Standby module  and a special version of the X-Player Play out module installed on each of the two workstations. The following functionality is provided for full redundant ON-AIR operation including some features for special requirements as technical service: Automatic changeover to Reserve workstation in case of failure of the Main workstation Workstation, which is quitting, stops play out ON-AIR Workstation, taking over, starts play out ON-AIR Manual changeover of Play out  from Main workstation to Reserve by controlling from the actual ON-AIR module: Generation of control commands, necessary for workstation changeover (GPO for routing, control of equipment, indication of actual status  e.g.)

Furthermore the MDB can be enhanced by another software building block, the specialized “Distributed Data Base” (DDB) handling engine. The DDB Agent helps building up radio station networks with centralized schedule preparation facilities allowing with the DDB Agent, for the easy exchange of data and audio material between separated locations, which permits a convenient and fast allocation of content for production and final ON-AIR delivery from any location.

DIGISPOT II DDB Agent software module allows you to build a branched network for the retransmission of radio broadcasts using cheap, low-speed Internet channels, which noticeably reduces the network support expenses, that are associated with standard satellite communication channels or wide band network links. The DDB Agent performs also the transfer of the ON-AIR schedules the moment they are ready direct to the remote regional Station, whereby any later changes will be synchronized on both sites automatically. For each schedule being transferred the local storage is checked for completeness of the ON-AIR material in reference to the received ON-AIR schedules, and starting the transfer of those elements which are missing in the local storage.  The integrated administration facilities in the MDB and DDB allow for the limitation of the rights for the user, allowing each one to work only with a certain range of materials and perform only a specifically defined range of actions related to his workflow and responsibilities. There is a very new the Decro Scheduler module provides automatic filling of the replacement time frames to a necessary length. Replacement time frame stands for a block in on-air schedule with a fixed length and fixed structure containing mandatory and non-mandatory elements. Classical example of Decro block, or commercials replacement block, is a specialized schedule block formed in a special way and intended for smooth replacement of frame audio program block for a local (regional) commercials block. In that case Decro Scheduler has to extend duration of local (regional) commercials block to the full duration of frame program block by a preset skeleton and rules by adding non-commercial (decro) elements at the empty spaces of local commercial block. Decro Scheduler fills commercial schedule blocks by preset rules at command of operator. At processing of commercial blocks it is possible to bypass (not to process) some of those. At that the current task should be fulfilled (independently or accordingly) either on the frame radio station side or on regional radio station side. The R-News building block of the DIGISPOT II System type installation is a must for all radio stations which are delivering beside the Music program a certain part of actual information content, as a news cast at each half or each full hour and in between reports in politics, sports and other actual fields of information. The following functionality is available for running a news department in the radio station including a versatile module for the ON-AIR delivery of the information content. The software provides the automatic text and audio import from News agencies by FTP server or satellite connections, from the e-mail and internet  automatically categorised in the System database by settings in the system configuration. Easy and fast access for the journalist is supported by settings of search filters and key word search functions.

The DIGISPOT II Broad-Cast System (BCS) Editor for text and audio editing as an integrated tool in the system allows for a very smooth and effective workflow in the news department. The completed news items are stored in the database for a chief operator to place them in the ON-AIR news Agenda Schedule, or the journalist can place them from any workstation direct in the next  actual news agenda or any agenda schedule ahead of time. The news ON-AIR Agenda can be called up on the second screen of the Main ON-AIR station if the moderator in a self –op studio is presenting the news cast and the reports, or on a separate workstation and screen in the News booth separated from the ON-AIR studio. The main feature of the agenda ON-AIR presentation software is the combined handling of the text and related audio elements on the news reading screen. In the sequence of the text elements, the audio elements are indicated by a coloured line at the position of the text where the audio is scheduled to be played. The coloured line is showing the title and the length of the audio element and also the last words in the audio, so that the presenter knows when to start reading again.

The Smart Jingle Machine (SJM) module is a new element in the stack of building blocks for the DIGISPOT II Media Content Management and Distribution System. The module provides universal interface for playing of audio elements, decorating the ON-AIR program. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) of this module is designed for working with a touch-screen monitor, which helps to combine the known CartAssist visual interface and button field for controlling by one functional hand on surface. Screen layout can be arranged under tabs; each of them representing audio packaging elements for various ON-AIR sessions for a morning show, or game show e.g. That helps avoiding "overloading" the GUI with too many elements which are not needed always to be on the screen. The most significant difference of the new Smart Jingle Machine is a new approach to correlate the next musical element by changing its tempo without changing the pitch, to start as an opener or stinger over a music bed, or in a crossover in the beat rhythm of the previous sound or underlay, whereby the start point can also be defined precisely on the first or any other bar of the beat.  Thus creating a smooth perception listening to a changeover from one musical piece in the crossover to the next one. Further on the moderator can use a fader on the bottom of the touch screen to fade the intensity of the playing elements to meet the optimal sound impression during a talk over or in the play out of two or more elements being played in a mix. The SJM system has two parts, the editor and the play out module for the moderator to be controlled by the intuitive control via the touch screen monitor. The set up of the touch screen can be configured by the moderator himself using the SJM Editor or by the producer on his workstation. The screen can be easily set up in a flexible structure of buttons in different positions and sizes including labelling the content under the button. An automatic follow up order of element starts can be programmed and stored indicating the sequence on the screen when the screen layout is called for the session. These screen layouts in an unlimited number, organised in groups or categories, are stored in the DIGISPOT II media database (MDB) and can be called up on any workstation in the network. The complete music, jingle and sound effect archive of the MDB is at hand for the producer and moderator to be used in the jingle machine for a creative composition of a perfect radio show with an ergonomic GUI for intuitive and secure handling.

The above given introduction selected only such building blocks of the DIGISPOT II system functionalities, which stand out and underline the measure which has been taken to provide a reliable software system securing the highest possible operational availability for the radio station and those which confirm that the system engineering department is supporting the actual demand of the user by providing new, state of the art developments, thus keeping the DIGISPOT II equipped radio stations on top of the media industry.

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