HI (Human Interface): Intuition makes it to Broadcast control systems
With the inclusion of more and more systems getting involved in our signals -from matrices to processing systems- coordinating and unifying their control became essential. The systems being used to do so and their associated protocols, have been characterized by their complexity, both in regard to configuration and, sometimes, when it comes to operation. hi has come to remove that stigma from control systems.
Lab test perfomed by Yeray Alfageme
When the proposal to carry out this lab review arrived there were mixed feelings about it, since it is something different from what we usually test, but at the same time a question arose: how are we going to do it? We do not have a production center with endless signal processing equipment to connect it to so as to be able to test it and offer our readers a truly interesting analysis. Broadcast Solutions offered us remote access to a fully cloud-based hi system that we could use to clear out all our doubts, so we got down to work.
The detail mentioned above is one of hi’s distinguishing features: it is natively hybrid. What does this mean? Well, you can assemble a 100% hi system in our facilities in a hybrid way, by having an instance in our facilities and another instance in the cloud, or even 100% in the cloud. By default, Broadcast Solutions proposes working on AWS, but the system uses IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), so it can be deployed on any public cloud, be it Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud or even Alibaba Cloud.
It is not a system initially designed to be installed on a server which can be uploaded to the cloud, but an architecture conceived for said model from the outset, thus allowing for the use of advantages such as cost-optimization, greater reliability, and flexibility inherent to the cloud on the system itself.
In particular, hi can be installed in:
– Mini-computers (Intel NUC type), oriented to mobile units and small environments.
– Dedicated servers.
– Server clusters, thus increasing redundancy and reliability.
– Virtual servers in a private virtualization environment.
– Virtual servers in the cloud (Azure, AWS, GCC …).
Before going into detail about the system interface, let us review its main components so we can feel more confident when working with it.
A node is a representation of a device, a service, or a component of the physical installation in the system.
A node can be formed by:
– Ports: The ports in a node describe input, output, or bidirectional interfaces of a node. These can be, for example, physical input or output connectors of a device or end points in a service. Ports can be interconnected with each other by using a link, which can represent a physical cable between two device ports.
– Capabilities: A capability describes what device functions are available for control in hi and what protocols are used to execute said capability.
– Node cabling: hi works on the idea of recreating the architecture of an actual system in the software in order to have a virtual simulation of the physical installation. This topology is built by adding relevant nodes and creating the cabling between these nodes on hi. A cable (or link) connects a node’s output port to an input port of (most likely) another node. All nodes and their cables form the system’s topology.
Tags are used throughout hi in order to add additional information about nodes, ports, and users in the system. They are the central part of exploring and filtering resources on hi.
Knowledge of the system’s topology enables hi to provide automatic configurations and smart calculations.
Port containers link together a set of ports in the system. They can be used, for example, for audio-video monitoring scenarios or for simultaneous switching of UHD links.
Rules are logical combinations of events and actions in the style of macros on video mixers.
hi handles the installation and its signals in three different layers. In the same way that topology installation being monitored is known, the nature of signals and data themselves is also structured. For example, let us take a look at an audio signal from a microphone. While in the microphone the signal travels along a cable by itself, it could later become a channel in a MADI broadcast. And this MADI stream could be carried again along with many other different signals on a fiber link.
The layers are:
– Physical layer
– Logical or flow layer
A parameter is any feature that can be configured in a node. From delay or active status, to text or any value necessary to control the equipment.
Obviously, in addition to these components, there is a whole layer of administration and management of rights and users that offers a high level of granularity and allows for operations to be carried out with great security as well as flexibility without compromising the stability of the system or its operation.
Let us now take a tour of the system’s usage.
To access the hi system, simply open a supported web browser on a computer or mobile device on the same network as the hi server. Everything is web-based, as simple as that.
Once logged in, the control panel pops up. This panel shows sources and destinations in the system and allows most of the day-to-day operations. Suppose we want to change a multiviewer assignment on the third monitor in the production monitor wall.
In the first row of buttons, -Preset Selection- we choose the ‘MULTIVIEWER’ preset.
Now we press buttons ‘PRODUCTION’ and ‘3’ to limit the selection of possible destinations to the four multiviewer inputs. On the left-hand side, we select ‘HD’ and ‘PROC’ to narrow down the choice of sources.
Now, we select a destination on the right-hand side and a source on the left-hand side. The buttons between the source and destination area will be enabled.
We press the connect button in the middle to route PROC 1 OUT to MV PROD 3.1. When the connection is successfully established, the source button will change to a darker color and the destination button will display the newly connected source.
Note the two widgets that appear in the box below the source area of the control panel. These widgets represent parameters of a device that can be controlled from hi. For example, parameters ‘Contrast Y’ and ‘Brightness Y’ are assigned to Source ‘PROC 1 OUT’ and are now displayed directly on the control panel.
To change the value of one of the parameters, we tap on the clock of the round meter and begin to drag the finger or the mouse.
A very good feature of the hi system is the viewing of the path that any signal follows within our systems, something that would be impossible without a centralized control system like this one.
This is better understood by means of a specific routing example.
Now, we route source ‘CCU 1’ to destination ‘MV ENG 1.1’ and click the Signal Path button at the upper end of the destination area.
hi will show the path for destination port ‘MV ENG 1.1’. The diagram shows the first signal source; ‘CAM 1’. The signal then passes through a CCU, a video matrix, until it reaches the multiviewer. This view also contains all other destinations in the system that receive the same signal. In this instance, the video mixer’s first input also receives the same signal, for example.
We have just seen an important concept of hi: topology simulation. hi can show all the devices of the installation in the software, and not only matrices, vision mixers and multiviewers, but also cameras, CCUs, Glue, etc. These device representations are called nodes. A node carries information about the physical device, for example its inputs and outputs, which are called Ports.
In the control panel itself we find the tag control, as well as the filtering and search that we can perform on them.
The source and destination areas now show all the sources and destinations in the system. If we choose tags for the source and destination areas, we proceed to filter the list of sources and destinations in the system. For example, to find ‘Multiviewer Production 3 PIP 1’ we select ‘MULTIVIEWER’, ‘PRODUCTION’ and ‘3’ on the right-hand side.
The buttons used for filtering represent tags. A tag is another important concept in hi. By creating tags and assigning multiple tags to ports, more information about the meaning, purpose, or properties of a specific signal is provided. The information from the tag is then used to filter ports on the control panel.
We can also use the text filter on the source or destination sides to find a specific signal in the system.
After this short tour of the operation and hi, we hope to have a clearer idea of the system’s capabilities and features that make it different from other existing control systems.
The first thing to highlight is its ability to be configured in a hybrid way, either on a server, in the cloud, or virtualized or in any combination of these in order to achieve greater redundancy.
The second thing is that access to the system is 100% web-based, which makes it possible using it on any device. The use on a tablet was especially useful to me, since its interface is designed for such purpose. This UI offers a much better experience than a keyboard and mouse.
Finally, the third distinct feature of hi is its representation of the signal path through the different systems in a visual manner. Knowing where a signal is going from/to at all times and in a graphic way makes it much easier to avoid operating errors.
hi is a step forward in existing control systems, making it easier to configure and use, friendlier and much more reliable, whether for mobile units, fixed installations, or large production centers.