Recently Thoroughbred Racing Productions (TRP) commissioned Sony Australia to design and build a replacement for the company’s flagship OB unit. Part of this new build involved an Australian first the Axon Cerebrum control platform supplied and installed by Magna Systems & Engineering.
Solutions Sales & Proposals Manager Sony Australia, Tom Garvan, explained, “A key requirement for the new TRP OB van was to provide a scalable and modular solution that could be adapted to cater for various production requirements. To achieve this we needed a control and monitoring solution which could connect to the core system hardware using various protocols from different manufacturers to create a single unified control layer to the operators. We were looking for a proven solution which would meet our system needs at a competitive price with local support in Australia. Fortunately we were able to obtain the Axon Cerebrum control platform after discussions and consultations from their reseller and partner Magna Systems & Engineering.”
During the pre-sales phase, the system was set-up at Magna HQ in Sydney and training was provided for the evaluation.
Sony and TRP already had some experience of using Axon equipment from when the companies came together to build TRP’s original OB van in 2008.
Garvan continued, “At that time we used Axon peripheral equipment which came with their Cortex software for configuration and control of the various Axon cards in the original system. We therefore already had confidence in Axon, but at this point had no experience of Cerebrum.”
As Cerebrum provides the main user interface within the OB van, Sony and TRP needed confidence that the system would work reliably. They also needed guarantees that the level of local support and training would be comprehensive, so their relationship with Magna was critical.
TRP Engineering and Technical Operations Manager Charles Cole said, “We had demonstrations of a number of control systems which would match the requirements from a technical perspective. We started with the basics including tallys, UMD, router control, multi-viewer and monitor set up, PIP allocation and system monitoring, ticking them off one at a time. Cerebrum easily made it on the shortlist pending confirmation of local support and competitive pricing from Magna.”
The Cerebrum control system has an extensive library of supported control protocols, which included all the key equipment Sony and TRP had chosen for the system. In fact, their library was so extensive they were able to expand monitoring and control to additional systems, including environmental monitoring and power and UPS systems, which were not included in the original scope.
Garvan added, “Magna and Axon were then also able to provide commitments to providing config and commissioning services, as well as training and ongoing support to give Sony and TRP the confidence that the system would be well supported not only at install, but on a longer term basis.”
TRP uses the Axon Cerebrum Control System to control the core functions of the OB van. It monitors the video systems, power systems and the environmental systems. Cerebrum also gives TRP a simple, user-friendly interface to control their Riedel MediorNet router and can also control the vision in and the destination of the multi-viewers created in MediorNet. Cerebrum in turn supplies the UMDs and the tally systems as well as controlling the vision switcher mnemonics.
Cole continued, “Touchscreen control gives TRP the ability monitor the UPS status, the incoming power status and the temperature of each of the workspaces as well. The CCU overrides are also programmed by Cerebrum. With all the core systems under Cerebrum control, system snapshots for multiple equipment at multiple levels can be recalled at the touch of a button. Furthermore from an engineering perspective the system will monitor and alert error conditions, greatly easing the trouble shooting of issues caused by hardware or signal failures.”
According to Cole and Garvan the fact that this an Australian first isn’t the most impressive thing about the Axon Cerebrum system, that honour goes to its ease of use and customisation and how smoothly the sale and install went.
Cole said, The biggest wow factor is the simplicity of the end user interface. It can be made as graphical as required to make the experience as simple as possible. The ability to make snapshots of the truck status, then save and recall it at a later date makes reconfiguring the truck very easy. Various emergency fail-over scenarios are also programmed into the push of a series of buttons, so that in a complex failover of the vision switcher for example, one button performs the failover of a router panel to the emergency switcher, resets the monitor wall, ensures all tallies are fully functional and that the correct feeds are still assigned to the correct outputs.”
Garvan agreed adding, “The wow factor comes from the customised user interfaces that can be designed for the system. The initial touchscreen user interfaces were designed on-site by Bob Ahlers from Axon as part of the system commissioning process. With the power of the Cerebrum toolbox, you can design almost any interface imaginable.”
During the early part of the commissioning it became apparent that the Cerebrum Modbus and SNMP control and monitoring support would allow Sony and TRP to tap into the OB van’s environmental and power monitoring systems. As a result Bob Ahlers quickly developed a GUI which showed environmental conditions in various areas of the truck with triggers set up to provide alarms if over-temperature conditions occurred – something that impressed all concerned.
Garvan said, “The way controls and information are presented to the end user are restricted only by the designer’s imagination. New panels and interfaces can be developed off-line using the Cerebrum Designer tool before being applied to the system. Unique interfaces and button layouts can be developed depending on operator roles and responsibilities.”
According to Charles Cole as a result of integrating Axon’s Cerebrum system TRP’s new flagship OB unit has been an unqualified success as he explained, “The Director, EVS ops and audio op can all route and change layouts of their monitor walls themselves. CCU operators now can have a fully flexible layout in both monitor and RCP panel assignment and the senior vision operator can customise the complete layout to best suit the operational conditions on any given day. I was quite nervous about jumping headfirst into an overall control system for our new facility but I am pleased to say I could not be more delighted with the result. We have been able to deliver more to our stakeholders with little or no effort during the Spring Racing Carnival this year and this is a testament to Sony, Magna, Axon and the Cerebrum platform.”
The enormity of this statement is not lost on Charles Cole and neither was the amount of research and consultation with Magna and Axon that went into making the Cerebrum platform their choice for a control system.
He added, “TRP reviewed the various control systems from the all main manufacturers, some were eliminated during the demonstration and the standouts were from Axon and Lawo. As this would be the first Cerebrum platform deployment in Australia, we relied on several factors to underpin our decision. Our excellent and long-standing relationship with Magna and their level of expertise in this area together with their close relationship with the Axon factory in the Netherlands played a big part. Then there was the unrivalled power, flexibility and functionality of the system which was so impressive. Finally the significant and continued take up of the Cerebrum system worldwide got us across the line.”
For this project the Axon solution provided by Magna gave Sony and TRP key advantages including very competitive pricing for the software licences and hardware required for the system. With the Axon Cerebrum control system providing TRP with significant savings in their set-up times on-course before a race meeting starts and stress-free operations, there was only one thing both Tom Garvan and Charles Cole felt they had left to address and that was the role that Magna Systems played throughout the project.
Charles Cole said, “TRP’s relationship with Magna and especially Lucas Bohm, has been long and successful. With Cerebrum being a new product to the Australian market it was an interesting learning curve for everybody involved, including Sony as the truck builder and systems integrator. Magna did a great job of managing the delivery of the system and having the factory being very responsive throughout the entire setup and commissioning of the system.”
Tom Garvan concluded, “Support from Magna for this project was key for the sale. To be honest, without Magna’s support we would not have been able to proceed. Magna were able to get the necessary commitments from Axon to provide commissioning, training and support which was vital. Magna staff were integral during the initial system configuration commissioning and training both pre and post-delivery of the completed OB van.”