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Shotoku - No Robot Is An Island

23/06/2020

GBR: Shotoku's James Eddershaw considers the importance of interoperability.
 
Any system forming part of a modern broadcast infrastructure must inevitably interface with other systems, usually with many other systems. Robotics are no exception. On the simplest level, the robotic system is there to support the camera and position it wherever required. This requires basic standards like mechanical fixings and counterbalancing. Similarly, the lens requires support but also electronic interfacing which might be analogue (positional or velocity signals), digital (RS232 or RS422) with the appropriate protocol for the lens model. And that's the easy bit!
 
Much more sophisticated is the requirement for the control systems to interface with third-party equipment for preview routing, on-air tallies, VR graphics and of course studio automation. Legislative systems may require interfaces to the audio-conferencing system and the vision switcher itself. As anyone in the broadcast technology industry knows, there are a plethora of 'standards' when it comes to controlling or signalling to other devices. No robotics system can deliver a customer's integrated requirements without supporting a very wide range of these protocols and physical interfaces.
 
Shotoku has always held to the principles of open interoperability. We support a wide range of protocol specifications from GPIO to nationwide-networked TCP remote control for countless third-party products and systems. We strongly follow the 'best-of-breed' principal. We won't 'advise' clients to consider a particular related product just because that might be easier for us, and especially not because we will make money selling our own system. Use any switcher you prefer, any graphics or VR system, any automation system, any teleprompting device and of course any camera and lens. 
 
But it's not enough to simply say we interoperate; it's necessary to work on those interfaces and to ensure developments in other spheres are monitored to confirm our own developments are in alignment. This requires open dialogue with other manufacturers, formally and informally, to keep current. For example, we recently joined the Grass Valley Technical Alliance (GVTA) - a group of totally independent companies who realise that interoperability with other leading manufacturers makes sense commercially and technically for our clients. The alliance is just that, an alliance, not a conglomerate or a 'one-stop-shop' where choice is limited, and decisions are forced upon customers. 
 
With so many years' experience installing within diverse systems we have most likely interfaced with a customer's chosen partner before, but even if we haven't that's not a problem. We will implement the necessary interfaces for a new system and we almost certainly won't charge you a penny for it. 
 
The approach we take truly is the best of both worlds: confidence in interoperability along with complete freedom of choice.
 
James Eddershaw has 32+ years experience in technical and commercial roles within the broadcast industry. He joined Shotoku UK in 2007 and was named managing director in 2016.
 
www.shotoku.co.uk
 
 
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