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Thread: Automation Systems - Pros & Cons

  1. #1

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    Automation Systems - Pros & Cons

    I'm researching a possible automation system replacement for a station group and I'm looking for information from people who actually use each system. As much detail as you want to provide would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    This comes up frequently. Frankly, I don't think there is a "best" system, though there are a lot of good choices.

    Some people shop for lowest price. There's some pretty cheap stuff out there that'll run a list of music files, and that's good enough for some. Some need local or remote voice tracking, and there are systems that do that very well, and others that don't. If you need your automation to pull a stream out of the internet, a few can do that, and some don't. You need to factor in whether anything comes in by satellite, if you need incoming triggers, input switching and/or the ability to fire off external relays. The ability to build "carts" with multiple cuts that can be run in sequence or at random matters to some. Some systems can generate their own music log for the day while others have complex daily logs that need more sophistication.

    Transitioning from one system to another is almost always clumsy and painful. Getting past the learning curve makes true believers out of people, because they resist learning something else, even if a different system might be better. That could affect what system you choose.

    The best system for you will depend on what you need from it, what priority you place on your criteria. Whether you need multiple stations and/or production units attached, whether you're comfortable with "build it yourself" or need the computers, software and audio cards provided will affect cost... and that will whittle the list of prospective systems down to a much lower number. Will you need external music or logging software, or do you already have that?

    Finally, consider what kind of support you might need. Some systems are more-easily understandable to the "dangerously conversant", while others... not so much so, or might even have proprietary files you can't easily modify. Consider what your local talents are vs what you might have to pay the software people for support time. Also note when they're available to you. A couple of systems are made overseas, their time zones are dramatically different from ours and their phone people aren't very understandable.

    If you want reasonable opinions from the group here, some of the above info would help a lot. Even then, you'll get a list of our personal favorites, which may not wind up being yours.
    Last edited by Grounded Grid; 04-04-2018 at 02:24 PM.

  3. #3

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    Ok, I have added a list of requirements.

    Handle Satellite Shows
    Incoming Triggers
    Fire External Relays
    Input Switching
    Carts/Rotaters
    Local Tracking
    Have central audio server

    These items would be nice but not essential.

    Remote tracking
    Integrated Traffic system

    I'm more than comfortable with building the hardware side of things.

    We already use separate music scheduling and traffic software that readily integrates with almost all common automation systems.

    The availability of support is a must. In my experience no matter how good the software is there will always be unforeseen issues.

  4. #4
    With a little re-working......I'd bet some of the older automation "brains" could perform well with today's internet/AudioVault format(s)....

    Harris System 90 (8008 microprocessor-based)
    Schaffer 903
    SMC DP-2

    Of course, technical support for this stuff is scarce-to-non-existent...but it MIGHT be a way for a smaller station to save a buck or two -- and have a unique operation in the bargain!!
    Or.......am I just thinking in the wrong century...??!!

  5. #5

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    For the sake of clarity on this thread, price is not an issue. Looking more for info on functionality. Anything that users have experienced that were either difficult or impossible.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Oldie919 View Post
    With a little re-working......I'd bet some of the older automation "brains" could perform well with today's internet/AudioVault format(s)....

    Harris System 90 (8008 microprocessor-based)
    Schaffer 903
    SMC DP-2
    Good Lord. The only place this list belongs, is in a museum.

    Since the late 90's, even inexpensive automation running from a single $3,000.00 PC will run circles around old ways of automating a radio station. Think abacus to an Iphone.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by masterphreak View Post
    Ok, I have added a list of requirements.

    Handle Satellite Shows
    Incoming Triggers
    Fire External Relays
    Input Switching
    Carts/Rotaters
    Local Tracking
    Have central audio server

    These items would be nice but not essential.

    Remote tracking
    Integrated Traffic system

    I'm more than comfortable with building the hardware side of things.

    We already use separate music scheduling and traffic software that readily integrates with almost all common automation systems.

    The availability of support is a must. In my experience no matter how good the software is there will always be unforeseen issues.
    As you know, there are several systems out there which will do what you're looking for. I'm currently a fan of RCS Zetta. It will do everything on your want list, and more. For radio automation systems, I feel their support is second to none. On the other side of the coin; BE has some of the most lacking support, at least in regards with their automation.

    One of the things I really like about Zetta, is the ability to configure backup database options without having to purchase really expensive redundant file servers. If you have an existing network, it's easy to park one or more alternate databases to other places within a network. Zetta's remote voice tracking application works really well too, and runs as a web GUI that doesn't require any special hardware or applications at the talent end. As an example: We have a woman in Dubai who voice tracks a weekly top 40 style show every week from her laptop with a microphone and set of headphones. Our Zetta system is in Virginia.

  8. #8
    I'm a PD not an engineer, but we use iMediaTouch by OMT and it does everything you're asking for and it's not the most expensive automation system out there.

    Chuck

  9. #9

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    Just thought I would add that i'm looking for opinions from both engineers and the programming staff that might be using these automation systems.

  10. #10
    Have have to add my vote for RCS Zetta. I have had this for two years now...before Zetta I used RCS NexGen. Prophet before that.
    I have found over the years that tech support is the primary consideration when it comes to automation. All the systems have their pros and cons and yes, some don't provide all of the features you want/need. But when you're off the air at 2 in the morning it sure is nice to get an understandable technician on the phone to hold your hand.

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