Digicaster QuickStart Guide


i. The following applies to current versions (as of 12.09.00) of ShowMaker Pro 3.0 (SMPro) and MPEG Works Pro (MWP) ONLY.  Much of the following may not apply to earlier versions of any software, hardware, or operating system.

ii. Devices and resources such as live feeds, routing switchers, MPEG players, VTR's, have been pre-programmed (often at the factory - see the configuration guide for details) before using this guide.

iii. The D.Co Shop Standards for the Digitizer are:  Windows 2000; MPEG Default location (for temporarily storing videos) is E:\MPEG.

iv. The D.Co Shop Standards for the DigiPlay are:  Windows 2000, MPEG Default storage location is F:\.

v. The MediaPlay unit, if present, has been established to be a live feed according to its input to the switcher for SMPro.  

vi. This guide has been designed to get users up and running on a previously configured system.

Getting Started

Congratulations on the installation of your new Digicaster!  We here at D.Co believe that we have created the most powerful and affordable automated broadcast system on the market today, and we are proud to welcome you to the D.Co family.  We have created this QuickStart Guide in order to help you continue the exciting journey you began when you selected the Digicaster as your broadcast system. Since you may be slightly unfamiliar with your system, perhaps a review of the various components which comprise the Digicaster might be helpful.The first component which we will be discussing is the Digitizer.  The Digitizer is the unit which takes your analog feeds & tapes (of whichever format you select, whether Betacam, SVHS, 3/4", etc.) and, working with our custom-designed hardware and software, converts your tapes into broadcast-quality digital video (the current NTSC standard for which is MPEG2).  You can digitize straight from previously edited tapes, or you may use the Digitizer as a linear editor (provided your source deck is frame accurately controllable).  This is because the Digitizer features a very powerful deck control system, much like a proprietary outboard edit control system. The second component of which you need to be aware is the DigiPlay.  The DigiPlay is the brawn of the Digicaster, a very powerful system that communicates with and controls all the major components of your automated playback system.  These include: routing switcher, VTR's, MPEG videos, the digitizer, hard disk storage, and the software modules. The brains behind that brawn is D.Co's ShowMaker Pro software.  The ShowMaker Pro is capable of running your entire operation for weeks with barely a few hours' worth of setup. The ShowMaker Pro software is the one which you will be using most frequently, and so we will be spending quite a bit of time on it, in order to allow you to get the most utility out of your system. You likely also have a unit that is known as a KVM switch, which is shorthand for Keyboard-VGA (Monitor)-Mouse.  This unit allows you to use your computer monitor, mouse, and keyboard with all of the various components in your system:  the Digitizer, the DigiPlay, and a D.Co MediaPlay unit if you have one.  If you desire, you may also hook the KVM up to other, external computer systems and run them from the same monitor interface that runs the Digicaster. So let's get started!

Using the Digitizer

1.  Introduction

The first process we need to cover is digitizing tapes.  What is literally going on during this process is that the visual and aural images presented on your analog source tapes are converted, frame by frame, into packets of digital information, specifically MPEG video.  This offers significant advantages over traditional analog tape use:  no tape decay, minimal physical storage space, less deck wear, infinite image repetition, and of course, automated playback on the Digicaster!   Most often folks have one or more decks dedicated as a source from which to copy from tape to MPEG.  A high-quality dedicated source deck ensures reliability and discourages confusion during the encoding process.  The first step towards digitizing your tapes is to select the tape deck (and the source tape) which you wish to use.  Depending on how your system is configured, you may have either an external control switcher, such as a Route 4, or an internal control switcher.  For now, we need the KVM (Keyboard-VGA-Mouse) to be controlling the digitizer. 

2.  Establish KVM control of the Digitizer.

Turn your computer monitor on.  Your Digicaster equipment should already be on -- you should never have reason power it down.  Check to see if you are controlling the Digitizer unit with the KVM switch.  You should see the Digitizer screen with the words "Digitizer" written in gold.


If you do not see this, press the button on your KVM switch labeled "Digitizer" (depending on your KVM, this may involve cycling through various screens).  Once you have the Digitizer background, confirm that the mouse and keyboard are responding.

3.  Establish control of your VTR.

On the left side of your screen, you should see an icon for MPEG Works Pro.  Double-clicking on that icon should bring up the following screen:


In the top section, there is a box labeled Encode Type, located right next to the Video Playback Window (which is now black).  Set the Encode Type to VTR.  (For further information on ECL and Manual modes, please see your Owner's Manual.)  Below this, in the middle section, you should see a box that will enable you to select which VTR you wish to control.  If there is only one option here, you either have only one VTR you may control, or you have an external controller.  Select the VTR you wish to control.

4.  Define your edit clips.

During the installation of your system, at least one NTSC monitor was probably designated to be the playback monitor for the encoding process.  (It may be referred to as the Encoder Preview Monitor, Encode Monitor, VTR Monitor, or something similar.)  Look to this monitor now.  If your system requires actively routing your VTR's signal to this monitor, do so now.  This will enable you to see the video you are about to encode.

To perform your edits, you may use either the mouse-based drag-and-hold interface, or, if you prefer, you may use the "button method" by clicking on the icons traditionally designated for that purpose (triangle is "play", square is "stop", arrows are "fast-forward" and "rewind", etc.).   
The drag-and-hold interface operates like a jog wheel; dragging (and holding) the marker icon further to the right of center causes the deck to shuttle forward with increasing speed, while dragging the icon further to the left of center causes the deck to shuttle backward with increasing speed. If you know the exact timecode of the video clip you wish to digitize, you may type it in by clicking on the timecode buttons for the inpoint and outpoint; otherwise, you will need to play and/or shuttle the deck to the appropriate points.  We encourage you to take a little time to get used to this interface; you will need to become very familiar with it! Once you have selected the appropriate inpoint from which to digitize, go ahead and mark it by clicking the "In" button.  Repeat this procedure for your outpoint.

5.  Configure the ECL.

The ECL, or Edit Control List, is the bottom section of the software, and it is very powerful.  This is where all of the parameters are defined for controlling the conversion process.  Many of these you will not need to change, as they control very specialized aspects of the conversion algorithms which have been pre-set for you.  Some of these parameters, however, you will need to know how to manipulate. Click on the "Source" tab.  This should bring up the following screen:

Click on the area entitled "Output File".  This will enable you to name the clip you are about to encode.  Keep in mind that this will be the name by which the Digicaster system recognizes your clip, so make sure you will be able to remember it later.  Type in "E:\", followed by the name of your clip.  This will place your encoded clip on the E: drive, which is the default for your system.  We strongly recommend against changing your MPEG default drive, as this will create difficulties when looking for files in the future.

6.  Encode your clip.

In the top section of the MPEG Works interface, confirm that the Encode Type is set to VTR.  (You should have already performed this function in step 3.)  If not, do so now.  To begin the encoding process, click on the red circle immediately to the left of the black window.  The red circle should become "grayed out".  Your VTR should now begin to shuttle towards your in-point, as the VTR control (the middle section of the MPEG Works interface) is now automated and responding to the in- and out-points you marked in step 4. 

When the Digitizer begins recording, you will see the encoded image show up in the screen window (which has here-to-now been black) or on a designated TV monitor.  Do not be alarmed at the delay between your external preview monitor and the internal screen.  A delay (latency) of roughly three seconds is normal and demonstrates that the system is functioning correctly. At the end of the recording process, the "Record" button will return to red, and the system will return to "Ready" mode.  If you wish to view your encoded clip on the screen window or the designated TV monitor, click on the "Play" icon (the black triangle).

7.  Record more clips. 

If you wish to record more clips at this time, return to Step 4 of the process.  Make sure to change the name of your output file; otherwise, you will overwrite the clip you just created!  Note that you may change the output file without engaging the ECL by opening the Encoder menu in MPEG Works Pro, then clicking "New Output Stream".  When you have digitized all the clips you want, proceed to Step 8.

8.  Establish KVM control of the DigiPlay.

Switch your KVM to the DigiPlay.  (Your KVM should have a button labeled "DigiPlay".)  The DigiPlay screen features a white background with "DigiPlay" written in dark blue.  Confirm that the mouse is operating with this screen by wiggling it around.

ShowMaker Pro may already be running on the DigiPlay.  If it is not, proceed to Step 9.

If ShowMaker Pro is running, you should see the ShowMaker Pro screen come up as soon as you switch the KVM, in which case you will not see the DigiPlay background.  If you are familiar with ShowMaker and it is already running, skip the next steps and proceed to Step 12.  If, however, you have not performed Steps 9 and 10 before, now would be a good time to acquaint yourself with this process.  To do so, close ShowMaker Pro by clicking on the "X" icon in the upper right-hand corner, as in any Windows program.  Proceed to Step 9.


9.  Launch the Power Modules.

Assuming that ShowMaker is not currently running, check to see if the modules that power the software are running.  These are indicated by a series of boxes located in the taskbar (located on the bottom of the Windows 2000 screen). 

  To launch the Power Modules, simply double-click on their icons on the right side of the DigiPlay screen.  Note that the icons "ShowMaker Pro" and "ShowMaker Pro Config" do not refer to Power Modules.  The order of launch is important only in regard to the first module:  you must launch ShowMaster before the others.  From this point on the modules must always be running to keep your DigiCaster on the air. Note:  Do not be confused by the similarity in name between ShowMaker and ShowMaster.  ShowMaker is the module that runs the Microsoft® SQL Server query that controls the internal hardware of the DigiPlay.  ShowMaster is the scheduling software that will be the primary interface for your broadcasting.  You will not interface with ShowMaker other than to launch it. Launch the other modules by clicking on them.  Be careful not to hit "Enter" while a module is the active screen; this will cause it to shut down.  Once launched, you may minimize each module; you will not need them further.  Minimizing the modules also prevents you from shutting them down accidentally!  One other note:  you may see an icon labeled "Cfc MessageServer".  This module will automatically launch when needed by "ShowMaster" or any of the other modules, and you do not need to launch it separately.

With your modules running happily in the taskbar, it is now time to configure your system.

10.  Configure ShowMaker Pro.


Double-click on the "ShowMaker Pro Config" icon.  You should see a series of tab fields with names like "Media Types", "Device Types" and "Channel Input".  Most of your system will have been configured beforehand by D.Co's installation staff.  You may, however, have certain system changes that you need to update.  For example, your onsite switcher inputs and outputs may change.  You will need to update the "Devices" and "Channels" configurations for your system in this case. 

Please be careful here, as even the slightest configuration difference can cause significant systemic errors.  Do not hesitate to contact D.Co Technical Support to assist you in this process.  You may also refer to our Technical Specifications and Troubleshooting Guides for further assistance. When you have finished configuring ShowMaker Pro, close "ShowMaker Pro Config".

11.  Launch ShowMaker Pro.

Simply double-click on the ShowMaker Pro icon on the right side of the DigiPlay screen.  Your screen should now look like this:


12.  Import your MPEG files. In the upper left-hand corner of the ShowMaker Pro screen, there is a pull-down menu labeled "Tools".  Opening this menu should present you with the option to "Import MPEG Files".  Select this option.    


A box entitled "Scan for new MPEG files" should now be open. You want to click "Scan for Files".  You should now be looking at the MPEG Show Data Entry screen.  (See below.) Find the lower left-hand corner:  you should have two buttons, "Save and Continue" and "Skip and Continue".    


If you wish to convert a particular MPEG file into a clip, click "Save and Continue"; if not, click "Skip and Continue".  Repeat this process until done.  Note that you have the option to "Delete Source Clip".  Checking this box will delete the original clip from the hard drive.  This is an option primarily used in those systems for which disk space is a prime concern. When the above process has been completed, click "Cancel".  You should now see the original Import screen again.  Now click "Move Files".  (Before you scanned for files, "Move Files" was not available to you.) You should see a window pop up while the computer engages this process. This may take a minute or two, since large quantities of data are being moved to different areas on the RAID.  A single small clip, such as a 30-second ad, may take only a few seconds. 


13.   Confirm Device Control is working.   NOTE:  ONLY PERFORM THIS STEP IF YOU ARE NOT CURRENTLY BROADCASTING OVER THE AIR USING SHOWMAKER.  YOU ARE ABOUT TO OVERRIDE THE DEVICE CONTROL COMMANDS, WHICH CAN CAUSE A BROADCAST TO FAIL. When the import process is complete, you should be able to see your clips listed in the lower right-hand frame of the ShowMaker Pro screen.  Go up to the same pull-down menu we just used to import your file, and select "Device Control".  A separate window will pop up in the center of your screen.

Here should be listed the input and output channels as installed by your authorized technician.  Select a convenient output channel -- the preview monitor we used to encode your MPEG files will be fine -- and, as an input channel, select "MPEG Player 1". Type in the name of one of your recently encoded clips and click "Play/Switch".  You should see the clip you just encoded playing on your designated monitor.  You may watch the entire clip, or click "Stop" if you are satisfied.  Repeat this process with the other MPEG Players in turn to confirm they are all working properly.  When you are done, close the screen.

14.  Begin scheduling clips.

Hang on, we're almost done!  This is the easy part.  In the left-most section of the ShowMaker screen, you should see the schedule.  Since there is probably nothing in the schedule, you should see only one entry, which should say "GAP".  Drag-and-drop one of your clips from the Clipboard in the lower right-hand section of the ShowMaker screen over to the Schedule, making sure that you drop the clip above the GAP.  When your mouse is in the right place, you should see a black bar appear above the GAP.  This is where your clip will be inserted into the Schedule.

Repeat this process a few times.  (You may use the same clip as many times as you like, or new clips each time if you prefer.)  Drop your clips on top of GAPS each time.  You will notice that if you drop a clip on top of another clip, the word OVERLAP will appear.  This is ShowMaker's way of letting you know that you have schedule conflicts.  Keep in mind that partial overlaps may only be for a few seconds. 

15.  Fine-tune your schedule.   Well, you've scheduled a few clips and nothing seems to be happening.  Notice that the timecode associated with each clip is probably only slightly after midnight. (ShowMaker defaults to a 24-hour clock, so 00:05 equates to 12:05 AM.)  In order to get your clips to play now, or to set them to play at a certain time later, double-click on your already scheduled clip.

You should see a Properties Window open, with the date and time that the clip is scheduled to play. 

Click on the "Fixed" time that is currently listed, and another window should pop up.  Click on "Reset to Now", click OK, and close out of the window.  Now click "Submit".  You should see the Schedule refresh itself to accommodate your newest submission.  Now check your Program Monitor.  Congratulations!  Your clip is playing.

Notice the schedule now.  You should see that there are now two GAPs around the clip currently playing, one telling you how much time there has been in the schedule up until this current Schedule Event, and the last GAP telling you how much time is left in the broadcast day.  You will also see a countdown clock below the schedule, telling you how much time has passed in the Current Event and how much time is left until the next Event.

Now that your clip is playing, you can reset the times on everything else.  To do this, re-enter the same Properties Window (by double-clicking on the clip you wish to move) and click, once again, on the "Fixed" time.  Instead of Resetting to Now, however, look at the rest of the interface. You should see now that you can control the time property of the clip by clicking on the appropriate boxes under Hours, Minutes, and Seconds.  In order to play a clip at, say, 13:42, you will need to click the "13" box under Hour, then the "40" box and the "02" box under Minute.  While this may be a little strange at first, you will get used to it in no time!


16.  Complete your schedule. Now you are ready to begin to schedule your entire broadcast day.  You have a lot of decisions facing you -- not the least of which is how you are going to fill those obnoxious GAPs.  One possibility is, of course, to schedule in more clips, including possibly encoding more clips.  You should consider yourself fairly proficient with this by now.  Other possibilities include adding in your live feeds, which will have been pre-set by your authorized technician in accordance with your requirements.  Your live feeds are listed under the Live Feeds tab in the lower middle of the ShowMaker screen.  Unlike clips, these do not have a pre-designated duration, since for the Digicaster's purposes, the only aspect of a live feed that is automated is the switching interface.  You determine the length of a live feed when you insert it into the schedule.  The window that pops up allows you to type in whatever length of time you desire.  You may also begin to experiment with your ad insertion and show creation.  For more on these and other features of the Digicaster, we encourage you to consult your Operations Manual.  As always, if you have any questions or concerns, we love to hear from you.  Feel free to call us if we may be of any assistance. Congratulations!  You're now a fully-fledged member of the digital broadcasting world!

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