Screenshot of RUSHWORK's A-List automation
Government cable operations have increasingly complex programming and busy playout schedules, and the only way to do this with minimal staffing is to use automation. Fortunately, multiple companies address the needs of cable access channels and government video operators with affordable and functional channel automation.
RUSHWORKS is one such company, so I was looking forward to testing its A-List channel automation, which puts just about everything you need in a single box.
The rushworks A-List is a multichannel automation system, configured in either a desktop package or as a 4-RU or 5-RU chassis. (The unit I evaluated was the desktop model). The system operates on Windows 7 Pro with Matrox Mojito I/O, and can schedule and output up to four independent SD/HD playlists. RAID 5 and NAS storage are available. The front panel of the unit I received included a DVD slot, two USB ports, power and reset buttons, and 3.5mm audio connections for headphones and mic.
The rear of the unit was PC-ish, with power connection, two additional USB’s, an RJ-45, mouse/keyboard connections, an HDMI port, two 3.5mm audio connections, and also SVGA and DVI connections. In addition to chassis-mounted SDI and HDMI I/O’s, the Mojito (PCIe) connections included a 59-pin pigtail breakout connector to provide connectivity for composite/component I/O BNC’s, AES unbalanced I/O, L/R channel audio out on RCA connectors, genlock in, an RS-422 data connection and R/L balanced analog audio I/O on XLR connectors.
Other features include drag-and-drop for schedule creation, auto-fill, file trimming, external router/switcher control, recording of live scheduled events, MPEG-2/H.264/ AVI/MOV compatibility, real-time SD/HD upconversion, multilayer graphics, EAS, integrated zone bulletin board, 2D and 3D DVE transitions, traffic import, as-run log creation and more.
The RUSHWORKS A-List automation system under test
Setup of the A-List was a really breeze. I set the desktop machine up on a table in my station’s tech core, hooked up power, LAN, a PC monitor and the mouse and keyboard. After pressing the power button on the front, the unit booted up, and I double clicked on the A-List desktop icon. The unit started up, synced up time-wise, and began playout of its preloaded playlist. This was on February 12.
In order to evaluate the output, I connected a Blackmagic Design audio monitor to the SDI port, then looped the feed to my Ikegami HLM-2450WB monitor. The stereo audio sounded fine and the SD picture looked pretty good. The playlist was a combination of files, including stills, video files and assorted graphics (PNG, JPEG, BMP and MPG file types).
The left side of the GUI included a playout window with playout controls and a file browsing area for “CG,” “Pics,” “Clips” and “All File Types.” The middle and top of the screen displayed the running playlist, showing the complete current break and about five others below in tabs, ready to be modified or inspected.
Below that window were tool boxes for Playlist items, including event, input, media, folders, fill and playlist, a graphic toolbox area, for bugs, crawls, snipes, “up-next” and text. It also contained a toolbox for triggers, including DTMF, manual, GPI/GPO and a toolbox area for “Snap-To,” including top, now and end. The right top-side of the GUI included a clock, audio metering and video output monitoring, while the lower portion included DSK, PVW/PGM monitors, and also the “settings” window for A-List, audio, encoding and configuration.
As I became familiar with the unit, I figured out how to add bugs, crawls and snipes to content. For modifying the playlist on the fly, it’s really a matter of drag and drop. Downstream keying proved to be just as easy. Near the end of my evaluation (and after I’d focused on the operation of the unit), I was able to reconfigure things to provide a 1080i high-definition output. This made a nice improvement on the picture quality, all the way around.
MORE INFO MODEL: RUSHWORKS A-List
LIST PRICE: Starts at $8,795
Although didn’t do any traffic imports or as-run logs, I must say the learning curve on this thing is short (at least for anyone who has worked in a TV station). I did refer to the manual for a few tips, but it was at my fingertips on the GUI and the manual was laid out just right for me.
We all know picture quality is only going to be as good as the file you try to play out, but the box was quite impressive with its picture quality, especially with the mix of formats I had it playing out. As mentioned, I fired up the A-List on February 12 and when I finally turned it off on March 8, it had exhibited no hiccups or lock-ups of any type. Of course, I had no operators handy to help me try to break it.
Seriously, the unit was remarkably stable and overall, it appears to be a very solid box.
Joey Gill is chief engineer at WPSD-TV in Paducah, Ky., and has been with the station for 30 years. He has worked in television since 1977. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.