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Old December 6th, 2014, 05:08 PM   #1
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The Beeb has a robot problem..............

and nothing to do with Dr Who, either.


Malfunctioning robot studio cameras continue to wind up BBC News presenters live on TV - TV & Radio - Media - The Independent


It's a shame most of the phraseology in the news item is so woolly, probably what's required when you're firing for effect rather than accuracy, as it doesn't shed any light on what, exactly, is causing the spate of problems with their robotic systems; the robotics, the operators, the presenters, the producers, the floor managers, a bit of all the preceding or even something else entirely.

I'll fire a link to this thread to Vintens new Product Manager, Philip Dalgoutte, who has replaced Andrew Butler as the rep to DVinfo (I do hope he's signed up!) and see if he can enlighten us. Prior to this new posting he was the PM for VintenRadamec (Vinten Radamec | About Us | www.vintenradamec.com ) so if he hasn't got a handle on the true story I can't imagine who would.


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Old December 7th, 2014, 07:47 AM   #2
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Re: The Beeb has a robot problem..............

Global News in Canada has been using a Telemetrics system for quite a while combined with a MOSART system, and it's mostly the MOSART or user error that causes framing issues.

Global TV - Telemetrics Inc
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Old December 7th, 2014, 05:09 PM   #3
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Re: The Beeb has a robot problem..............

I for one would be most interested in this.

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Old December 8th, 2014, 09:03 AM   #4
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Re: The Beeb has a robot problem..............

The BBC News robotics system is not a Vinten Radamec installation, but was instead supplied by one of our competitors. I can give you a bit of background as to how these systems are architected and where problems can arise but I don't know enough about, and don't wish to speculate about, the exact problems that the BBC are facing.

A broadcast newsroom environment can be very complex and will often involve many different systems from a number of different vendors all interfaced together. An example may be a dedicated newsroom system that handles all of the building of the stories (including content and scripts) and constructs them in to a rundown for a particular news broadcast. This rundown and scripts are imported into a play-out automation system that is responsible for orchestrating the actual broadcast. It will typically by pulling in on-screen graphics, any virtual or augmented reality graphics, and relevant to this thread, instructing the movement of the cameras. The camera movements will all have been pre-programmed from the robotics control system and the play-out automation system will be referencing particular shots from within the database of the robotics controller.

It has been published on other news sites that the play-out automation system used by the BBC is from Mosart. Vinten Radamec have enjoyed a lot of success with working with this particular vendor and there are a number of news broadcasters using our systems together without issue.

Broadcast news is a fast paced environment with stories changing by the minute - scripts, rundowns, graphics are changed frequently while the show is on the air, how else would we be able to achieve 24-hour rolling news coverage. These changes need to propagate through the interconnected systems in the correct sequence in real-time. It is possible that an edit is not saved correctly or an incorrect change is put into the system (human error). These edits then move through the various systems so that ultimately the play-out automation system recalls an out of date shot. What you then see is that when the technical director triggers the playout automation system to move onto the next segment of the show an incorrect shot reference is sent to the robotics controller and a robot moves to a position the production crew (and presenter) were not expecting.
What are your options when it goes wrong. An operator could intervene and command a change of position directly in to the robotics controller by selecting a pre-programmed move and the show then proceeds without incident. Another intervention is that an operator grabs hold of the of the robotics controller joysticks and starts to hunt for the presenter. Depending on how panic stricken the operator is this may not result in the smoothest of camera moves.

Happy to continue the discussion if people are interested.
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Old December 8th, 2014, 09:27 AM   #5
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Re: The Beeb has a robot problem..............

Or you can have a couple of qualified camera operators in there listening to the director.
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Old December 8th, 2014, 11:12 AM   #6
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Re: The Beeb has a robot problem..............

Agreed, Chris, that would be best but the modern world isn't like that. There are training costs, union "considerations", a whole raft of things that appear to make robots more attractive. Ironically, probably more time and money is wasted on designing, correcting and maintaining these wonder systems than the salary of a good old fashioned real person who is capable of thinking on her/his feet. Funny old world.
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Old December 8th, 2014, 09:14 PM   #7
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Re: The Beeb has a robot problem..............

Thanks Philip. Learning what goes on behind the scenes is always interesting and time well spent.

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Old December 8th, 2014, 10:21 PM   #8
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Re: The Beeb has a robot problem..............

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stewart Hemley View Post
Agreed, Chris, that would be best but the modern world isn't like that. There are training costs, union "considerations", a whole raft of things that appear to make robots more attractive. Ironically, probably more time and money is wasted on designing, correcting and maintaining these wonder systems than the salary of a good old fashioned real person who is capable of thinking on her/his feet. Funny old world.

Well, it's the perceived attractiveness of robotics technology that is eventually going to put everyone out of work. I'm not being a Luddite about this, I do think robots have a place where dirty, dangerous, boring and highly repetitive jobs need to be carried out. At least that way, people can be freed up to do more fulfilling and meaningful work.
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Old December 9th, 2014, 03:47 AM   #9
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Re: The Beeb has a robot problem..............

I think most of these problems are down to human error rather than technical faults as the whole system relies on the camera moves and pre-sets being entered into the running order correctly.

I agree that robotic systems have their place and applications, a rolling 24 hour news operation and integration of a nightly news show makes sense, the new broadcasting house studios have been in operation for some time now and no doubt the disciplines are starting to relax and more mistakes are being made, there is also the element of creatives trying to put back into the mix the very thing that they have strived to get rid of by automating the processes.

The whizz bang camera moves and show opening tracks highlighting how much hardware is in the studio may look great initially but if you are seeing the same thing every night it de-values it's impact and it may be that they are at that period where the human quest for creativity kicks in again.
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Old December 9th, 2014, 06:28 AM   #10
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Re: The Beeb has a robot problem..............

Dr. Stephen Hawking warned us about this...
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