Systems integration has become integral to any broadcast operation, production studio or post-production facility. Andy Stead gets to grips with the sum of many parts.
In the pursuit of perfection, many purists believe that any system (commonly defined as a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network) should all be of the same manufacturer or supplier. For example a quality hi-fidelity sound system should have tuner, amplifier and speakers from the same brand.
In the old days it would have been un-thinkable to have a Quad amplifier linked to Leak loudspeakers. One would not rebuild a classic Ferrari with a Ford engine. Indeed a Meccano construction could not have Lego parts.
Manufacturers catered for this and if a system was to be made up from several different units, generally they would manufacture all the required units. In some ways the manufacturers of broadcast products attempted to do the same, manufacturing a wide range of items in an effort to maintain a chain of their
As technology evolved and the range of product offerings grew, niche manufacturing began resulting in products that filled gaps, exceeded the specification of some of the larger manufacturers in some instances, and provided for newly developed technologies.
Broadcasters, facilities houses, equipment suppliers and other users of television equipment took beneficial advantage of the wide variety of equipment available, and were able to build systems tailor-made to the specific requirements. Instead of using the same supplier of say a vision mixing desk, for the cameras and monitors, an end user could pick and choose, matching each link of the broadcast chain to his own specific requirement and usage.
In the modern age any system used in any facility reveals a fully integrated equipment list, and the skill and expertise required to put systems together that comprise a wide variety of manufacturers’ products has now become a worldwide business – the business of systems integration.
In South Africa most of the larger recognised agents or suppliers of equipment are cognisant of the importance of providing an integrated solution, and are masters of weaving together a variety of equipment to best suit the customer’s needs – and perhaps more importantly, their future needs.
In these days of rapidly changing technology it is imperative that any system will be future proof in terms of changing technology, for several years at least. South African suppliers are first world in this regard and offer the most modern equipment solutions available anywhere on the globe. The industry demands this.
A typical example of a fully integrated system is the construction of one of the huge high definition (HD) outside broadcast (OB) vans that ply our sports fields on a weekly basis. Often the chassis could be of German manufacture, the coachwork made in England, the mixing desk of English manufacture, the cameras Japanese.
Other links in the chain may come from Taiwan, China and indeed even South Africa. All these elements are assembled in a confined space to create a single unit which operates flawlessly, feeding on the best each manufacturer can offer and ultimately producing pictures and sound that travel around the world.
Sony South Africa recently supplied just such an HD OB van to SuperSport and indeed local supplier ON-AIR Systems also hopes to secure a few projects later this year which include the proposal of an OB van build.
Other local systems integrator companies include Zimele and Harambe.
Concilium Technologies has several projects on the go and Steve Alves has a good point when he suggests: “As long as the integrator has the local expertise to understand the customer’s needs, the resources to be able to design and offer the solution and install and maintain any systems they put in place, and is willing to invest in continually up skilling their staff – there are no negatives.’
Inala Broadcast is also heavily involved in the systems integration field and is currently busy with several projects. The company claims uniqueness in that they handle systems integration totally in house, with highly trained project and engineering management, therefore retaining intellectual property locally.
Telemedia too (although probably best recognised for its expertise in the area of satellite and terrestrial transmission, fibre, microwave and uplink services) supplies a wide variety of equipment and components ideally suited for systems integration for production based systems such as studios and control rooms.
Jasco Broadcast Solutions offers a wide range of solutions covering all aspects of systems integration, from the original consultation through to final commissioning. They are currently busy with SuperSport’s “Nearline’ project as well as an upgrade for the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation news solution.
Pro-Sales too is busy, having moved into the Timbre Audio premises in Bryanston and the two companies have completed a fully integrated systems solution for CNBC in Johannesburg.
By Andy Stead
Screen Africa magazine – August 2012