Checklist for Robotic Council Cameras

  1. Arrive approximately one hour before airtime. The actual setup only takes a few minutes, but if there is trouble of any kind it may take time to sort out with the on-call tech. As well, if the trouble is with the feed, techs may have to service one or two locations along the path.
  2. Confirm with Toronto Master Control (TMC) that they are receiving bars and tone from you. Please leave the on-screen clock running in the bars. When digital links fail, they usually freeze. The running clock is assurance that this has not happened.
  3. Fire up all the equipment. Start the camera control software. Confirm that you have the proper number of cameras! If a camera is not present during the software startup, the next available will take its place. In other words, if camera three has no power for some reason, camera 4 will become 3, and so on (5 becomes 4, etc). Common causes for “missing” cameras have been circuit breakers turned off, and the green data plug on the camera vibrating loose.
  4. Start the VT4 Toaster software. Your last configuration should appear. 
  5. Confirm that the cameras are correct on the switcher, and that you can switch.
  6. Confirm that the shots listed on each camera are what you expect. There is no need to confirm all nine shots on each camera, two will do.
  7. Confirm with TMC that they are getting council audio and video from you. Playing a DVD on the slim DVD player on the desk checks the Toaster system’s audio, but a small portable radio near one of the council microphones will allow you to check the entire audio system, and to observe the levels on the Toaster’s audio mixer and the led-based VU meter. Use the “VU” setting on the meter, not the “peak” setting. If the chamber is close to the control room, consider taking the Mayor shot, and running in to talk to TMC from that chair.
  8. Confirm the DVD/VHS recorders that you are using to record the show with the four-by-one switcher. To hear the audio, use the Tape Return button on the Behringer mixer. The video comes in through the “B” side of the program monitor. The audio return from the DVD recorders is lower than the program audio, due to the nature of the recorders themselves.
  9. We recommend that the Character Generator (CG) not be used to put graphics to air, as this has been unstable under some circumstances. The DDR (digital disk recorder) is a safer alternative.
In Case of Trouble

Take a deep breath and try to see what is wrong. It is rare to have more than one thing wrong at a time, but in the heat of the moment it can seem like there are several things broken. For instance, if the power is off to a camera during startup of the camera control software, the cameras after it are re-shuffled as described above, BUT they are still “correct” on the switcher. This makes it look like the system is controlling one camera and taking another erroneously. It’s a serious mess, but in most cases, finding the problem with the missing camera and re-starting the software fixes the problem.

If there is “Toaster Trouble”, like weird noise in the audio, bizarre stuff happening on the dual computer monitors, etc., we will be asking you to shut down the system and pull the power cord out of the back of the Toaster computer for 15 seconds. This is the only way to do a full reset of the Toaster card, and the dual-monitor video card. It’s worth a try before you call. Note that this full reset doesn’t cure camera-control issues, just Toaster/computer issues. 

The following  is a real-world example from a long-time robotic system operator…

Reaction Of A Successful Operator To This Document

Note: This operator’s system has a “crashy” Character Generator is in the above point #9 

This looks pretty good as far as it goes. However 1 Hour before air time would never work in our system. 

I arrive @ approx 2:00 pm on Council Day (7:00 o'clock airtime)

I fire up the equipment, load the VT4,then the character generator and input my graphics. I do this first because I can not have my cameras loaded when I'm using the CG. It is very important as you're doing graphics to save the project on a REGULAR basis. The system will often decide it's encountered an error and shut down. 

After I'm done inputting my graphics and transferring them (takes about an hour, depending on the number of changes needing to be done) I exit the VT4 software, load my cameras, reload the VT4, turn my chamber lights on and call Master to do a feed check. 

After the feed check is done, I test my DVD player to make sure that I can play my intro and make sure that the DVD recorders are functioning. I also check the audio outputs from Council Chambers. 

When all this is complete I leave the system up, leave council chambers and return 3/4 of hour to 1/2 prior to airtime.