Skylla Operations And Engineering Detail

Overview

Skylla was designed to handle the complex integration of both Satellite and Music on Hard Drive automation, not favoring one method over the other, while also providing different levels of live control. Skylla was designed to be your second digital automation system--to "adapt" and "adopt".

Skylla does all this from within one easy-to-understand interface that allows for drag-and-drop insertions, log editing and "hot button" playback. Quickly sort and search the audio database for cuts to drag on to the log or a button. The entire inventory is only one click away.

Skylla close up. Click image to enlarge.

Skylla is designed to replace aging automation systems with the least amount of disruption to your operation. Toward this end, Skylla supports up to 16 alpha-numeric characters in its cart numbering scheme, allowing Skylla to "adopt" nearly any already-existing cart numbering system. That means much less hassle for both the Traffic director and the Music director since their preferred Traffic and Music programs need not renumber all their contents. Skylla also adopts most legacy automation systems' audio formats including WAVE/PCM, MPEG Layer 2, MPEG Layer 3 and APT-X. Usually, there is no need to re-record your audio files when upgrading to Skylla.

Skylla is programmed via a web-based interface program that is designed to pull information from Traffic and Music and merge that information with Skylla's own contribution to the logs. Skylla can be adapted to work with most major Traffic Log and Music Scheduler programs.


Skylla Producer

The Skylla Producer. Click image to enlarge.

Supporting Skylla is Skylla-Producer, a Windows-based utility suite that allows the user to control inventory, import and categorize inventory, record new inventory and Voice Track logs. You can also use Skylla Producer's "Segmenter" feature to insert breaks into into program-length audio, and to trim away unwanted audio. Have more than one location? Skylla Producer allows for remote Internet transfer of audio data two one or more remote locations (who also have Skylla systems).

Linux Operating System

Skylla runs in the Linux operating system. Linux is an operating system that is growing in popularity and for good reasons.

1. Linux allows greater access to those you want to control your system, and better security to keep out those whom you do not.

2. Keeping our "mission critical" applications in Linux helps to protect against most viruses.

3. Using Linux allows us to carefully craft and control operating system updates so that there will be no surprise side-effects to your operation.

While Linux is the perfect solution for our heavy-duty audio appliances, we believe that most production rooms are already equipped with Windows computers that run well-used, favorite digital editors. Once again, Skylla's philosophy is to "adapt and adopt". You do not have to give up your existing favorite Windows-based editor because Skylla Producer runs in Windows and communicates with Skylla's database via the LAN network.

Unattended Record

Skylla houses a web-based Unattended Record section that allows the system to record from any source. Records can be triggered by time and/or dry-contact relay closure. Records can contain a "start delay" which allows the recording of program-length audio into multiple segments, which allows spots to be scheduled between the recorded segments of the show during broadcast.

Switchers, Streaming, Satellite

Satellite Automation. Click image to enlarge.

Skylla can control On Air Digital's A4000 audio switchers, SMARTS Broadcast Systems' RIDZ switchers and many varieties of Broadcast Tools switchers.

Skylla supports RDS text output and Internet streaming text.

Skylla supports serial-based Satellite receiver control.

Skylla Buttons

Skylla contains user-definable pages of buttons that are "attached" to the QWERTY keyboard keys, turning your entire keyboard into a tactile button box. In addition to the button pages, Skylla can play the buttons back in sequence from one key, allowing a user to cue up individual sound files (say news sound bites) and play them back in sequence, separate from the program log. This is a perfect solution for local news programming.

Skylla Smart Touch

With the addition of the optional SmartTouch package, Skylla can be controlled remotely via a simple touch-tone phone. Interrupt normal automation for special programming, complete with pre-defined carts stacked up and ready to go at any time. This is great for ballgames and other scheduled remotes, but it is also excellent in the event of an emergency. Use SmartTouch in a flood or tornado to keep your listeners informed. Use it also for "on the spot" reporting.

Hardware

Skylla's hardware is rugged.

1. For each station/signal a "Skylette" is assigned. This it the audio appliance (and usually the closure-detection appliance as well).

2. In addition to each station's Skylette, there is one Skylla-Server for the entire site. The server houses all the audio in a central location on a RAID1 (disk-mirrored) system. If a data-drive fails, the server continues on (usually) without any disruption to the on-air operators. In the event of such a failure, an e-mail is sent to us and (optionally) to you and the server sounds an alarm via the server's speaker.

The Skylla main unit. Click image to enlarge.

3. Should an Operations drive on any Skylette fail, an off-line spare hard drive is provided. This "spare tire" allows the system to boot and grants remote access via Internet to Smarts Broadcast Systems' support technicians, who can then update software and return your station to normal operation while a new drive is prepared and sent.

4. Should the /Server/ fail entirely (say in a lightning strike), each Skylette contains yet another backup of all audio and database information. Smarts support personal via the Internet can make any Skylette perform "double duty" and act as Server until the real Server is repaired or replaced.

5. Optionally SMARTS offers an off-site backup Server for Skylla database and audio duplication. In the event of a major catastrophe at the station, your audio files, Skylla database and (potentially) your Traffic and Billing data will all be safe and sound off-site.

While we make every effort to design a system that will not fail easily, we're experienced enough to know that eventually any system will fail. We've designed our products to smoothly handle that eventuality with as little disruption to your operations as possible.

Live Operation

Operating Skylla in Live mode is as easy to understand as a LIVE mode. From there, the user can further specify what *kind* of live mode he or she wants to use.

1. Stop After (red) stops audio playback after each log item.
2. Stop Break (yellow) allows for continuous playback of audio for
the music set or spot set, then stops.
3. Auto Sweep (green) simply plays the log item by item forever,
ignoring all automation-oriented directions.

In Live Mode part of the screen becomes virtual "cart machines," each one individually programmable to separate physical inputs to the control board. Click image to enlarge.

Automation instructions may be included on your Skylla log in the event that your operator s unexpectedly detained and can't reach the studio in time to begin his or her air shift. In such a case, the system remains in AUTO mode and Skylla continues to follow its automation instructions.

But what if you want *total* live control, where the Skylla log is not in control of the system, but user is. In that case, we have an even higher degree of live control when the user clicks on the Carts panel. This pops up 4 "cart decks" and allows the user to populate each cart with audio from the log, from inventory* or* from an audio switcher source. The carts not only control hard drive audio, they act as switcher controllers as well.

Automation

Skylla's Satellite Automation mode is feature-rich because to Skylla, Satellite Automation is not an afterthought as is the case with some other automation vendors.

1. Always stay on the right break. Skylla knows how many breaks there are in the hour, when the approximate time is for those breaks and how long each break is. If a satellite source fails to send a break closure, Skylla automatically re-adjusts the next break to fire keeping your breaks in sync.

2. Always have properly-timed breaks. If traffic schedules 2 minutes into a 4 minute break, Skylla fills in the missing time with cuts you've designated as acceptable fill material.

3. Use Time or Temperature checks in place of liners to keep your satellite source sounding local.

4. Know in one glance your satellite stations' status. Skylla's top panel always shows what network or break is on the air, along with the current announcer. To the right of the top panel, you see your satellite clock, which shows local breaks that have already played as gray, and upcoming breaks in gold. 5. NPR affiliate? Skylla is fully-compliant with "Content Depot" and uses an easy and accessible web-based interface to manage your Content Depot options.

Music-On-Hard Drive

Music on hard drive automation. Click image to enlarge.

Skylla's Music-on-Hard-Drive automation's power and flexibility comes from the the structure of the log itself. Log instructions can come from Traffic, Music and Skylla's own interface. To keep your log on track, Skylla uses three ways to update (or "jump") to any position on the log.

1. Soft Update -- Update to this log position skipping over any disposable material, but do NOT skip over mandatory material. Continue playing the current event until its end.

2. Hard Update -- Update to this log position skipping over all material, including mandatory items. Continue playing the current event until its end.

3. Join -- Update to this log position skipping over all material, including mandatory items. Fade currently playing item and execute the event on the log immediately following the Join command.

Voice Tracking

The Skylla Voice Tracker gives easy to understand visual markers so that you can readily voice track any program segments in quick order. Note here how two songs are bracketing a voice track in progress. You hear the tail of one song ans the beginning of the next, and voice track the transition. It's simple and fast! Click image to enlarge.

Using Skylla Producer's Voice Tracker, you can voice track your Music-on-Hard-Drive programming. Skylla's Voice Tracker can voice track both to a fully compiled log (one that contains traffic material already) or it can voice track directly to the music playlist (without the spots). This allows an announcer to voice track into the future as far out as playlists have been scheduled, without having to wait for the Traffic department to merge and upload the fully-compiled log.

FTP Download

Skylla's automation (both Music-on-Hard-Drive and Satellite) support the ability to automatically download audio from FTP sites. Skylla uses a simple web-based interface to manage weather services such as WeatherEye (tm) to automatically download weather forecasts.

Deep Roots...

While Skylla is a new generation of digital automation, it is not the "new kid on the block." Skylla comes from a wealth of deep experience and was developed by a team of people every member of which has developed for (at least) one previous generation of automation system, Ultimate Digital Studio and Smartcaster among them. Have you ever told yourself, "if I could do it all over again knowing what I know now..."

We have. We did it. Skylla is the result.

Skylla is not only the hardware and software. It's the team of seasoned professionals that return your phone calls when you have questions. It's the company owners, Jan and John Schad, who have run a family-owned small market radio station for many years. Mostly, though, it's all our customers who've known us over the years. People we've come to know by name who've made the most valuable suggestions that contribute significantly to the Skylla philosophy.