There is much debate in the industry about the move from a capital expenditure basis, built on large, expensive hardware architectures, to an operational expenditure basis, relying rather more on software licences. Competing voices argue in favour of capex and opex, but in truth media businesses prefer to minimise their expenditure either way, and chief engineers tend to get tasked with achieving more while simultaneously saving money.
A unified control system delivers both capex and opex savings, and sits equally comfortably within a traditional environment, a software-defined architecture, or a hybrid transitional system.
In terms of capex, a control system offers the ability to reduce the amount of hardware you need to buy. Most obviously, you minimise the number of operational control panels you have to purchase and install, as any functionality on any controlled system can be managed via unified interfaces.
Further, you can potentially reduce the amount of systems you need, where you can share technology between multiple locations. You might have four occasional use remote studios, each fitted with multiple cameras. But you only need one set of camera control equipment – not to mention production switcher and audio mixer – at base, managed through the unified control layer and switched to the appropriate studio when it is required.
The simplification and centralisation of control, even in complex production environments, is a major contributor to savings in opex. By putting just the appropriate amount of control under the hands of a single operator you inherently reduce staffing levels, and minimise reworking through errors.
Remember that this is just the control layer. It provides simple and intuitive operations, whatever the equipment under control. As the facility moves from traditional broadcast hardware to a software-defined architecture (and possibly from capex to opex) the control layer does not change. Staff do not need to be retrained: the operation still looks the way it always has.
The commercial case for unified control is strong. It allows production values to rise while limiting the need for staff to be retrained and to devote time to complex operations. It delivers richer solutions, and it makes them easier, and more reliable, to operate.