Choosing the Correct Automation Tool

Rivendell includes two modules specially optimized for performing automatic operations: The RDCatch and RDAirPlay modules. The two modules take radically different approaches in how they go about organizing and controlling operations, so a few words regarding each may be in order here.

RDCatch is aimed at executing actions on the basis of a strict time-based schedule, referred to as an event list. Each action (which can be a recording, a play out, an upload or download, a macro execution or an operation on an audio switcher device) executes on the basis of its scheduled time in the event list, independently of all other actions. As such, RDCatch is often best suited for use in settings such as network head end operations or 'auxiliary' roles at broadcast stations, where the transitions between events are generally not an important part of the presentation.

RDAirPlay takes a very different approach, in that most events are organized into one or more playlists or logs. A Rivendell log is a list of one or more carts, organized in chronological order. As the name implies, RDAirPlay is optimized for use in situations where the transitions between the various program elements are a key part of the delivery and presentation of the content, such as in live air play environments.

Of course, it's entirely possible to use both modules, even together on the same machine at the same time – the Linux OS makes for a very robust and capable multitasking system.

 

Overview

RDAirPlay is the Rivendell module used to run logs generated by the RDLogEdit or RDLogManager (for an overview of Rivendell logs, see RDLogEdit or Logs). It contains a wide array of features for enabling playout of audio content in live assist as well as fully automated environments.

Log Machines

Fundamental to the operation of RDAirPlay is the concept of a log machine. A log machine is a virtual “device” into which a Rivendell log may be loaded and executed. RDAirPlay has three such log machines, called Main Log, Aux 1 Log and Aux 2 Log. Each of these log machines is completely independent of the others in the sense that different logs can be loaded and executed simultaneously in the respective machines.

Layout

As shown below, the RDAirPlay main screen consists of four primary areas: the top area, which contains a variety of indicators for use in live assist situations as well as a set of audio meters; the button widget, which occupies the bulk of the left-hand side of the screen; the right-hand side, which displays either a SoundPanel array or a full log width; and the edit buttons in the lower lefthand corner of the screen.

The Wall Clock

In the upper left-hand corner is wall clock indicator, which indicates the current system date and time. The style used for displaying times throughout RDAirPlay can be toggled between 24 hour “military” format and the traditional “AM/PM” presentation by clicking once on this display. If the system administrator has enabled it, this display will also flash RED to indicate possible clock inaccuracy due to loss of master clock synchronization.

The Post Point Counter

Immediately to the right of the wall clock is the Post Point Counter. A post point is an attribute applied to a log event with a hard time type. The post point counter uses this information to display countdown and timing information.

The counter can be in one of four possible states: Idle, On Time, Under Time or Over Time.

Idle

If the next upcoming hard timed event does not have its post point attribute set, then the counter will be in Idle mode (shown below).

On Time

If the attribute is set however, then the counter will provide an estimate of how “on-time” the log currently is, on the basis of the current time and events still scheduled to be played. If the playout is such that the post point will be reached within one second of its programmed time, then the counter will be in On Time mode (shown below). The value shown in the square brackets is the scheduled time of the point point.

Early

If the playout is such that the post point will be reached one second or more before its programmed time, then the counter will be in Early mode (shown below). It will also give an indication of how much more material would need to be added to make the join on time.

Late

If the playout is such that the post point will be reached one second or more after its programmed time, then the counter will be in Late mode (shown below). It will also give an indication of how much material would need to be removed to make the join on time.

The Audio Meter

Immediately beneath the wall clock and post point counter is the audio meter. The meter shows the current peak levels of audio being played out of RDAirPlay, with '0' level referenced to -16 dBFS.

The Pie Wedge Widget and On-Air Indicator

In the top center of the top area is the pie wedge widget and on-air indicator. This widget counts down the final few seconds of each event. The length of time it counts down, along with whether it counts to the start of the next transition or the absolute end of the event are both configurable in RDAdmin.

The color of the band that grows as the countdown progresses will change color to indicate if the currently playing event is the last event before a log stop-down. If it is the last, it will be RED, if not, GREEN. A BLUE band and countdown will also appear to indicate the event's talk time (if talk time markers have been set in the underlying cart).

Pie Wedge Widget State Meaning
Idle. No events are playing.
Playing. Event is last in log, so playback will stop after current event.
Playing. Event is NOT last in log, so playback will continue into next event.
Playing. 19 seconds until Talk End marker. Event is last in log, so playback will stop after current event.
Playing. 19 seconds until Talk End marker. Event is NOT last in log, so playback will continue into next event.
Playing. 3 seconds until Segue End marker (or Cart End if Segue End Marker not set). Event is last in log, so playback will stop after current event.
Playing. 3 seconds until Segue End marker (or Cart End if Segue End Marker not set). Event is NOT last in log, so playback will continue into next event.

The Background of the Pie Wedge Widget will indicate whether or not the on-air indicator is active. This is set using the RML command TA!.

On-Air Indicator State Meaning
Indicator is Off-Air
Indicator is On-Air

The Next Stop Counter

Immediately to the right of the pie wedge widget is the next stop counter. The large numerals indicate the predicted interval of time before the next stop-down of the Main Log machine, with the actual predicted time in the square brackets.

If the Main Log is already stopped, then the counter simply displays 'Stopped'.

Play Mode Indicator

In the upper righthand corner of the top area is the mode indicator, showing the current automation mode of the log machines. To change RDAirPlay to a different mode, simply touch the mode indicator until the desired mode is indicated.

Three different modes are possible:

Automatic

All log features, including PLAY and SEGUE transitions and hard times are fully enabled.

LiveAssist

No automatic transitions or hard start times are executed but automatic crossfades are done between elements.

Manual

Very similar to LiveAssist except that not even automatic crossfades are enabled (thus permitting fully manual crossfade control by means of an external console).

The Label Area

Immediately below the next stop counter and mode indicator is the label area. Text messages can be made to appear here (by means of the RML command LB!) to signal the operator concerning the state of the system or need to take some kind of action.


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