Production Automation for TV Shows and Broadcasting: The Ultimate Guide

Introduction to Automation

Automation is everywhere: at home, in your office, even in your car. Think about the automatic gear shifts, electric windows, headlights, or wipers. Automation simplifies actions and workflows immensely but is it part of your broadcast production flow yet?

Automation isn’t necessarily for the big boys only. In this guide, we investigate how, what, and who it is for. Maybe your small one-man band can benefit from automating more than you expect. The key process is to tie software and hardware together and collect the information required to build automated processes.

You can start small — with the playout, for example. The automation tool cues a clip and starts it on your playout software while simultaneously triggering the vision mixer to transition to the clip with the correct wipe. To cut to the next item, the automation tool would trigger the vision mixer again when the clip ends.

However, consider a much more significant change: automating the whole process in one go! It might be a big shift but trust us, this job is a piece of cake!

Once you get your feet wet and your confidence grows, you can move further. Before you know it, the whole production process, including the editorial and technical parts, is fully automated.

What Is Automation in TV Production and Broadcasting?

Automation in newsrooms

One example where automation is already being used is in the newsroom of high-end broadcasters. Think of BBC, CNN, and Sky News. Or more local — newsrooms of the Belgian public broadcaster VRT NWS.

These are often very complex shows, containing multiple story elements with local and remote sources, video playouts, graphics in many formats, audio segments, camera movements, and a lot of layering and effects in the video switcher. They all have to play along nicely and appear at the right moment.

You can surely manage this manually. In that case, the director is an orchestra conductor. He could be standing in the middle of the control room, giving cues and directions to all operators on set. Naturally, this is a perfect scenario for human errors.

However, by automating these shows, staff can produce a top-notch newscast every broadcast with fewer resources. Have a look at our interview with one of the technical directors of VRT NWS, Vic Dobbelaere.

Automation in gameshows, talk shows, and entertainment

Another example of shows with complex structures is gameshows. What happens when a contestant gives the wrong answer? Which audio and video elements should play? What about the scoring system and graphics? The list of questions for the production of entertainment shows goes on.

Despite the complexity of such shows, these shows, to this day, are still only partially automated. Only the scoring system or graphical elements are automated, but the whole show remains a product of manual input that is prone to mistakes.

Along with shows, plenty of other shows can benefit from automation. Check out our complete guide about automating TV talk shows.

Why Should Teams Switch to Automated Production?

Simplified workflow

If you look back at the car and home examples, the idea of automation makes everyday life easier. You don’t think about shifting gear and turning on wipers or headlights in your car. So why do you still have to think about telling the playout software operator to cue and start a clip?

Automating these processes can make the whole workflow easier. Take a look at our case study of the world’s most advanced graphic overlay platform — Singular.Live.

Reduced stress and errors

What happens when you add new content to the show during the recording or broadcasting live? How does everyone know this is happening? Do all crew members have the correct and most recent information about a new piece of content? Does everyone know where it will air, how long it lasts when it ends, and what comes next?

Automating shows reduces stress in the control room. Will that operator play the correct clip or the right graphic without typos? Will you get an accurate countdown to the end of that clip? Automating ensures everything goes as planned, with less stress and fewer errors. Here’s an interview with the director’s assistant of the gameshow ‘De Dag Van Vandaag’ to give you an idea of the job and how to cope with stress.

Better overview

Automating your content creation process and control room will not only reduce manual input but also give the crew members a better show overview. That enables a centralized and real-time collaboration through a cloud-based platform.

Let us explain. When the producer starts drafting scripts for the on-screen talent, the text remains synced with the autocue software. Don’t panic if the producer, host or autocue operator wants to make changes: those will appear in real-time for everyone connected to the platform.

We chatted with an autocue operator about her job on the ‘De Dag Van Vandaag’ set, a Belgian game show that uses automation.

Moreover, you can give your host a small tablet instead of paper cue cards. That reduces paper waste and eliminates an excessive number of printed-out sheets. Instead, it offers a single tool where people and operators work together in real-time.

Higher speed and lower costs

Speed and the cost of production are other reasons to consider automating your broadcast processes.

When errors get out of the way, repetitive human input is no longer needed, and the end-to-end process gets a speed bump. As a result, your production runs smoother, starting with writing and brainstorming, and ending with shooting and editing afterwards.

Along with the production speed, the total cost of content creation remains the primary concern. Employing talented people costs money. The time spent in editing rooms and the studio requires quite a budget as well.

Luckily, automation can optimize the workflow and reduce the cost of production by decreasing the number of people required on set. Isn’t it great that you can produce the same shows for less money and in less time?

Management and crew can take it one step at a time and automate a single part of the process. But a crucial part of the mental switch people have to make is having confidence in technology.

To automate or not to automate?

Although the benefits of automating seem obvious, why are production companies and broadcasters, big or small, not making the switch? Why do they keep using these tedious manual processes? We believe the most significant obstacle holding back the adaptation of automation is the mindset about technology.

A mental switch

First and foremost, broadcast production automation demands a mental switch for every team member. Everyone has to adapt, and it’s human nature to fear what’s new and unknown at first. That requires time and energy to educate the staff properly but, naturally, it will benefit your production in the long run!

Moreover, people often fear losing their jobs to technology. But we know there is nothing to worry about. Let’s illustrate it with two examples.

  • The Technical Director (TD)

    The Technical Director (TD) is the one pushing all the buttons on the vision mixer. TD has to know hundreds of keys and menu settings by heart.

    During the rehearsals of a regular production, TD is occupied with pushing the buttons and setting up all the scenes for each part of the show. When the director asks for another shot, TD has to press a button when a clip ends, the assistant counts down, and TD then has to recall a setting or push one or more keys to transition to the next element,…

    It’s a lot to manage in a high-paced TV show. We all know the stress this brings! And we haven’t even considered potential mistakes and surprises: what if something goes wrong or pieces in the rundown change places? Will TD cope with that? You can try to manage all these high-risk variables OR you can automate a large part of the job for your TD.

    Ask yourself this question: will your talented TD be out of a job now or will he have more time to be part of the creative process? He could help the director keep an eye on the show’s flow, confident that the automation will assist him in time a clip ends. The automation counts down the clip and triggers the correct transition, graphics, and other elements when moving to the next item.

    The result is a show where your TD has more time to work on the look of the show instead of the execution. In other words, as the end product, you have a show with fewer errors and less downtime to correct mistakes while saving on your production budget!

    • Scripting

      Most shows have multiple script versions, rundowns, and cue cards for the whole team. They usually come on paper or in Word, Excel, or Google Sheets, … And, of course, there is always ‘Version 1’, ‘Version 2’, ‘The final version’, ‘The final-final version’, … and so on. The script supervisor, production assistant, hosts, and autocue operator have a tough time keeping up with the latest correct version each time a change takes place.

      Different versions among team members pose a risk of errors and loss of control. Additionally, rectifying mistakes by interrupting the recording process results in wasted time and financial resources.

      But what if every crew member on your team has access to the same files? What if one makes a change, and it is automatically synced for everyone? Think about how much stress and worries this workflow can reduce!

      Does this mean these valuable people are out of jobs? No. Automation will simply make their jobs more straightforward and give them more confidence. Along with that, it will reduce errors and save production money. Have a look at our article on how to automate a TV show here.

      People will not become redundant by automating. Instead, we believe automation can assist them in their jobs, leaving room to be more creative and productive. It comes back to the analogy we made earlier: a driver does not become redundant in an automatic car. He’s still in control and decides on the important — the route and destination.

      The crew can take it one step at a time and automate a single part of the process. But a crucial part of the mental switch people have to make is having confidence in technology. It will no longer be a human pushing that button, moving that fader or cueing and starting that clip. The software behind the scenes will do it all.

      Once you get your feet wet and your confidence grows, you can move further. Before you know it, the entire production process, including the editorial and technical parts, is fully automated. Automation is highly recommended to simplify the work of the editorial and production teams.  Check out what An Toeloose, editor-in-chief at VRT NWS, had to say about the challenges of online news production.


      Another reason why automation hasn’t been adopted yet is technology. All the different hardware and software need to communicate properly to allow for automation. It’s not enough that there is a serial port or GPIO present to make automation work. Take a look at the back of your machines, and see what connectors are there. Chances are big you’ll find BNC and XLR connectors for audio and video, possibly USB ports for a mouse and keyboard, and serial ports or GPIO ports. Most of the time, they allow you to control some aspects of your hardware. But do they give feedback on the current state of your hardware? Most often, they don’t.

      If your equipment has an ethernet port, it’s better to consult the manuals. Ideally, your hardware manufacturer didn’t opt for an RJ45 port as a cost-cutting alternative to a proper serial port. If it is an IP port indeed there may be some good news. What functionality does it offer? Hopefully, it’s not limited to firmware updates only. Let’s hope there’s an underlying API! API stands for Application Programming Interface, which means that your hardware (or software) can be monitored and controlled by other software or hardware.

      Such an API, since it works over IP, works bi-directional. You can send commands to it, and it will communicate back with an ‘OK’ or information about what happened. Or it will continuously output information. Unfortunately, while many software suppliers have a well-documented and powerful API available, many broadcast equipment manufacturers do not. If they do have it, they restrict the use by making you pay for it separately or have you sign NDAs to use it.

      Popular brands like vMIX, Blackmagic Design, or Newtek offer free and extensive APIs, creating a whole ecosystem of developers around them. With the availability of these APIs, developing software to control, monitor, and enhance functionalities becomes remarkably easy. This is how Cuez integrates with vMix.

      The true magic lies in software that can communicate with and receive information from multiple devices on your network, creating the ultimate goal: real automation.  By ‘real’ we mean that now you can actively monitor the state of your hard- and software in real-time and take action accordingly. This level of automation opens up a realm of possibilities for streamlined operations and enhanced efficiency.

      When you buy new hardware or software, make sure it has an API available, free of charge and with proper documentation. Don’t be afraid of IP, either! If your kids can set up a network at home, a seasoned engineer with basic networking skills can do that, too. The biggest hurdle is to get your IT and networking departments in there.

      Make sure they become your best friend and learn their lingo! Terminologies like ports, routing, subnet, and protocols should not hold you off. They might fear hacks, intrusions, and other doomsday scenarios. Start collaborating with them and grow confidence on both sides. Most broadcast companies have completely separated office and production networks. While this seems expensive and counter-intuitive, it provides extra security and stability. Obviously, you shouldn’t connect your copier to the same network as your vision mixer. But once that’s out of the way, a lot becomes possible.

      Which elements of the production process can one automate?

      That brings us to the key question: what can you automate?

      Did you think automation couldn’t help an audio engineer? We’ve seen it done: audio levels being corrected live, human-like by software. Did you believe a cameraperson together with the Director can’t be automated and broadcast a round-table discussion with five people as if humans were calling the shots? Again, we know it is possible. The only things holding you back are the technology at hand and your trust.

      Firstly, have a look at your broadcast production. Where do you see many repetitive tasks burdening the smooth flow of your show? Depending on this, you can talk with your team and investigate how to automate this task. We’ve seen plenty of examples worldwide, and we can assure you that everything in broadcast production environments can be automated.

      Secondly, if you want to automate audio mixing to assist your audio engineer, many audio mixing consoles, even the cheapest ones, contain an ‘AutoMix’ feature. It correctly levels the microphones in a panel discussion so your engineer can manage other tasks or audio sources. Or you can also have a look at Artisto by On-Hertz. It’s a fully software-based audio engine containing all the levellers, mixers, inputs, and outputs you might need. Then, build your audio pipe with it and automate everything via their Rest-API.

      Audio Automation with On-Hertz Artisto

      Lastly, if you want to assist and automate your PTZ camera operators, some brands (PTZ Optics, Panasonic) have their own people-tracking software. When the camera sees a face, it starts following it according to the framing parameters you gave it. It might also be worth checking third-party solutions from brands such as Seervision or MrMoco.

      Examples of automation in TV production and broadcasting

      How we can help you automate parts of your production or even the whole show, depends on what you want to do. Therefore, we lined up some tools which can help in specific parts of your production or even go all the way. In the end, the choice is all yours.

      Your current vision mixer

      It might surprise you, but why not start there? Many new and even older vision mixers have tools like e-mems, macros, and scene settings. The naming might be different, but once you dive into the manuals and menus, you might dig up some helpful automation tools.

      The majority of modern vision mixers allow us to save the current state of the whole mixer or parts of it and recall it later. That simple process is already automating aspects of TD’s job. Make a simple note of the corresponding scene number on the rundown for each part and you’ve already made the first steps.

      But that’s not all. If your vision mixer incorporates media playback features, you can go even further. It could have ‘still-stores’ or even ‘clip players’: import show openers, stills for on-set screens, animation for stinger-wipes in your switcher’s media players, and include them in your macros.

      To top it off, many recent vision mixers allow you to assign such macros to any button. Your button number ‘1’ doesn’t have to be camera 1. It could very well be your show opener. Hit that button, and your opening bumper plays with audio, transitioning into a wide shot and, after 3 seconds, fading into a close-up shot of your host.

      At the same time, it could open up the keyer to show the lower third with the name of your host. All this magic is possible with your current vision mixer. We have a whole list of different integrations for Cuez.

      Bitfocus Companion with Elgato Streamdeck

      That is one nifty tool! On the one hand, Companion is an application that installs on Windows and is free to download. On the other, Streamdeck is a box with 6, 12, or 32 buttons. List prices are around 200 Euro or USD, depending on the model.

      The configuration utility allows you to program each button for a specific action. Since this is open-source software, many manufacturers began developing plugins for this. That means, out of the box, you can control a lot of hardware and software using different protocols. Moreover, if no plugin exists and your tool has a documented API, you can build your commands and buttons.

      In addition, you can add different commands for various tools under one button. Consequently, you can set delays between each command. Taking our earlier example, you could create a button that controls your playout software, vision mixer, and character generator to build your show opener. One key to starting your intro is wipe to your wide shot and cut to the close camera of your host after some seconds.

      But that’s not all. The Streamdeck buttons are little video screens in themselves. Each button can get your icons, colours (depending on the state of the software), or even thumbnail previews.

      For example, a button to cut a camera on air can show a live video preview. Or it can be red or green, depending on the tally state. We’ve seen many examples where very complex shows with vMix as a vision mixer and playout software were fully controlled using Bitfocus Companion and Streamdeck by a single operator.

      Central Control

      This software is not free (49 – 149 USD, depending on the version) and is similar to Bitfocus Companion in many ways. However, where Companion is limited to using a Streamdeck as a user interface, Central Control allows you to use many different hardware panels with keys and faders.

      Many midi-controllers are supported, as are the hardware panels of Newtek Tricasters. Each button on these can perform many more functions by using them via Central Control. For instance, use faders on these midi controllers to control your cameras’ shading or build slow motion functions to your playout software.

      The limits are only what your creativity and tools’ API allows. Also, take into account that Central Control listens back to your software. That in itself can be a new trigger to perform a new action. It allows you to build pretty useful automation.

      Consider this example: if your graphics software API supports it, you can build automation where a lower third only comes on when a close camera of that gameshow participant is on air. Only when the lower third animates ‘off air’ the vision mixer can change sources.

      VizRT Mosart

      That is an entirely different tool. It takes schedules from News Room Control Sytems and visualises them in a powerful user interface for your control room staff. When set up right, it only takes one button (F12) to step through the different steps. Each step will control the associated hardware and software. And this is where the real power of Mosart lies: it can still control much older hardware and software using serial protocols and GPIO commands, together with newer protocols.

      You build your own templates for the news show, representing each possible look and feel. You can control camera robotics from the likes of Ross Video and Vinten, so your cameras, which drive freely in your studio or rails, will position themselves automatically.

      Furthermore, when you load the rundown, every element will be mapped to these templates. Seeing this in action is the ultimate form of automation. Keep in mind that this is for high-end facilities with a matching price tag. Companies such as BBC use this for their main TV news.


      Another approach to the same solution is Skaarhoj, a Danish company producing all kinds of very sturdy operating panels. They all connect over ethernet to your network. Inside, they developed their own software to handle a massive list of devices and software. Oftentimes, they come preloaded with presets for specific appliances, but you can change any button, fader, knob, or even T-bar to perform other actions or a combination of actions.

      Director’s desk with Skaarhoj panel at gameshow De Positivo’s

      It’s really powerful once you dive in. The buttons can give feedback, as do the little displays found near most buttons and knobs. Use these to have physical buttons to control your software-based vision mixer, playout software, audio mixer, etc. Give each button or fader-specific function, and you’re automating your production!


      Cuez originated from a multicamera director in Belgium, Erik Hauters, who saw the need to simplify games- and talk show productions.

      In a web-based environment, fully cloud-based, researchers and journalists can collect information (text, pictures, video files, …) around a given topic and place it in the platform. This information is available to all staff working on the show in their own specific views. In addition, that content can now be used to start creating items and added to a rundown and a script for a particular episode.

      When you arrive in the studio, you load that rundown in the Cuez application. It connects to your studio hardware and software. From now on, it’s simply a matter of clicking the ‘card’ (item) in the rundown. It will perform the actions you assign to them. You choose how far you want to have Cuez building your automation: it can simply be a matter of controlling your playout software or going as far as ‘one-man-band’ production.

      Only one journalist operates the whole studio single-handedly, using Cuez. No need for a technical crew!

      But it doesn’t end there: behind the scenes, they have a so-called ‘Automator’. It is the key feature of Cuez. With Cuez Automator, you can build the integration between Cuez and other hard- and software yourself. With little technical knowledge, you can integrate Cuez with different protocols over IP and determine what you want to control and which information you need to trigger new actions.

      Challenges, problems and the future of production automation

      We do hope you enjoyed this guide to help you get started with broadcast automation. Whether you’re a big-budget broadcast setup or a one-man-band streamer, automation is possible for everyone. The only thing that limits you is your own doubts. And sometimes technology 😉 .

      We see technology evolve very quickly. New products often come with an API now. When it’s well documented, any broadcast engineer can start exploring and tinkering and with the solutions we suggested, start automating.

      The future is undeniably dominated by video. From print media to social platforms, everyone is increasingly embracing and prioritising live video content. However, producing good quality video demands skills. Directing a show, framing a shot, and capturing pristine audio from a microphone are still crafts that are mastered by crews in TV studios. Nonetheless, we believe technology is rapidly catching up to bridge this gap.

      There are already impressive tools available that can automate nearly every aspect of the production workflow. In fact, in some cases, it becomes difficult to discern whether a show is fully automated or not. The future lies in automating repetitive tasks related to audio and video production. The arduous job of operating a camera at the back of an auditorium to track a presenter all day? Technology will take the reins. The same goes for tasks like vision and audio mixing, among others.

      While the future of video production may lie in technology, it is essential to acknowledge that people will always remain the creative force behind great content. Technology serves as a powerful tool, but it is the human touch and ingenuity that bring forth great productions. We look forward to seeing your automated production!

      Content Marketeer

      Rundown and Automator for Live Broadcasting


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