Simian Automation Folder Architecture

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kkiddkkidd
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Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by kkiddkkidd » Fri Nov 23, 2018 9:52 am

Hi all,

Sometime after 01/01 I will be embarking on a major studio rebuild / consolidation and will be installing an updated BSI Simian system. All of the stations are currently running BSI but 2 are still running the last version of WaveStation which was last updated in the early 2000's... 2 of the studios to be consolidated are running a very recent version of Simian on good computers. All other old (many 10+ yrs old) PC's will be replaced with nice Dells or custom built and the latest Simian.

Right now, the 2 old WS computers have a veritable hodgepodge of crazy folder names that no one can seem to explain but have continued using them for years just because. This is not going to be a trivial undertaking...

Over the years, I have used numerous folder structures for audio folders with generally good but varying and sometimes unpredictable results. This system expand to 4ea full air studios serving 5 transmitters, 2 production rooms (one of which will be an Aux air studio for the simulcast TX), 1ea traffic system, 1ea (or more) music sched systems and probably a large NAS of some sort.

One twist to this client is that they operate 1ea owned commercial AM (with xlator), 1ea owned commercial FM, 1ea owned non-commercial FM, 1ea LMA'ed commercial FM simulcast with the owned commercial FM and 1ea LMA'ed commercial FM programmed independently. All have different formats and at times (ballgames) the simulcast LMA FM is split away and operated independently from a prod room. The commercial stations typically share some commercials but of course they have to be very careful with the non-comm "underwriting". The stations are currently scattered between 2 different studios 30 miles apart.

I absolutely do not want to play the audio real time over the network except for possibly news cuts or an occasional late recording... We typically use 2nd Copy or Free File Sync to sync folders between prod rooms, studios, NAS, etc. BSI now has a sync utility included but have not used it thus far.

What folder architecture have you found to work well? I have typically used mapped network drives on a large shared drive or NAS for each station / prod room with similar folder names on each local machine and then use 2nd copy or FFS to sync from those folders back out to the Air and other prod machines.

IE, network mapped Z: on all automation computers to a drive on an NAS or central shared "server" is Wzzz with

Wzzz= Z:
/music
/ids
/jingles
/VTs
/spots
/christmas music
/recordings
/news
/long form programs
/junk
/etc
/etc...

Wyyy = Y:
/music
/etc

Wxxx= X:
/music
/etc

Prod1= P:
/Wzzz
/music
/ids
/jingles
/etc
/Wyyy
/music
/etc


Each automation (production and air) computer then has an Audio only drive in it with the exact same folders that is then synced back and forth to that stations mapped NAS/server drive.

I know that some systems separate the music out into numbered categories but have never really seen anything but confusion coming from that.

Any suggestions or other schemes that work well for a multi studio, multi prod, multi TX systems?

Thanks,
--
Kevin C. Kidd CSRE/AMD
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Re: Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by TPT » Fri Nov 23, 2018 11:41 am

Remember Simian doesn't work well over a network, so as you outline, you will need separate folders on each air machine for all the audio files used on that station--even if some material is duplicated. Of course the Simian air computers can be networked, and audio files simply dropped in each computer over the network from the production room.

We have three stations, two mostly satellite in one location, one live music on hard drive at another site 20 miles away. We use both Natural Log and Natural Music for traffic and music scheduling. Natural Music, at least the version we have, has the ability to separately schedule up to 99 "stations"--e.g., on the live music station, one "station" is the regular AC programming, the other is Christmas music. We also use Natural Music to schedule a college non-com, where part of the day is classical, but mid-days are jazz. Traffic logs are generated in our main office and transferred down to the other studio; the music log for our live station generated on site, while we use Team Viewer to generate the logs for the non-com at that air computer, which is ten miles from our live station . Afternoon guy is in charge of that chore, along with downloading their various syndicated programming into that system.

You could create separate folders for different music on a particular air computer, but in the end neither Simian nor Natural Music would care so long as there is some coherent file naming or numbering system for the music scheduler. Which means the music scheduling system would be the place to start--especially since you may need to have the same song on two different stations. Avoids confusion.

For traffic, we simply have a commercial folder on each air machine. A lot of the production is down at one location, and the spot sent by drop box to the other location. We also use TeamViewer to insert spots into that system when there is no-one at that remote studio. Remember that you need to use the local Simian's tools to enter the title, cues, end dates etc. on each spot--our music station has real live announcers part of the day who can do this; at the main studio for the two stations we just drop the spot into the commercial file for each station then walk over to that studio to add this information.

Since we started with a traffic system for one station, then added stations later (splitting off a simulcast on one, and buying the third station) a trap we fell into is having different numbers for the same spot on two different stations. Part of the problem is that Natural Log generates spot numbers separately for each different traffic log. You can manually assign numbers but once the system is up easier to go with the flow.

We also have WaveCart on each machine, which we use for live sports. Three--some weeks four high school football broadcasts each week--then basketball season. Here a separate folder is useful for the opening and closing billboards and rejoins--makes it easier for the board op to find. Also avoids having old copy end up on air since there are only a few files in this folder--old stuff deleted, new bill board added each week. Having a separate folder for jingles and ID's can be handy if you have live assist and need to find an ID or jingle quickly to get in or out of something live that isn't part of the skeleton log.

Going from WaveStation to Simian you may find that the files are MP2. We ran into this when we bought our third station...they set up the music library this way in 2000 when the station was built. There is (was?) an add-on to Simian handle MP2, but once we took over we rebuilt the music library from scratch in .WAV format.

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Re: Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by Shane » Fri Nov 23, 2018 1:13 pm

Simian may or may not be different from WaveStation in this regard — and I have no experience with Simian yet — but I found WS would play files from a network drive if UNC paths to the folders were used rather than mapped drives.

I had one station with a lot of long-form (block) programs with all files on the local hard drive (and most dropped in over the LAN from production machines not necessarily running WS), with a second station of mostly satellite talk programming, which played all short-form material, such as spots, over the LAN from the other station’s local hard drive with few if any problems for over a year.
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---Omaha---

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Re: Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by kkiddkkidd » Mon Nov 26, 2018 7:20 am

TPT wrote:
Fri Nov 23, 2018 11:41 am
Remember Simian doesn't work well over a network, so as you outline, you will need separate folders on each air machine for all the audio files used on that station--even if some material is duplicated. Of course the Simian air computers can be networked, and audio files simply dropped in each computer over the network from the production room.

We have three stations, two mostly satellite in one location, one live music on hard drive at another site 20 miles away. We use both Natural Log and Natural Music for traffic and music scheduling. Natural Music, at least the version we have, has the ability to separately schedule up to 99 "stations"--e.g., on the live music station, one "station" is the regular AC programming, the other is Christmas music. We also use Natural Music to schedule a college non-com, where part of the day is classical, but mid-days are jazz. Traffic logs are generated in our main office and transferred down to the other studio; the music log for our live station generated on site, while we use Team Viewer to generate the logs for the non-com at that air computer, which is ten miles from our live station . Afternoon guy is in charge of that chore, along with downloading their various syndicated programming into that system.

You could create separate folders for different music on a particular air computer, but in the end neither Simian nor Natural Music would care so long as there is some coherent file naming or numbering system for the music scheduler. Which means the music scheduling system would be the place to start--especially since you may need to have the same song on two different stations. Avoids confusion.

For traffic, we simply have a commercial folder on each air machine. A lot of the production is down at one location, and the spot sent by drop box to the other location. We also use TeamViewer to insert spots into that system when there is no-one at that remote studio. Remember that you need to use the local Simian's tools to enter the title, cues, end dates etc. on each spot--our music station has real live announcers part of the day who can do this; at the main studio for the two stations we just drop the spot into the commercial file for each station then walk over to that studio to add this information.

Since we started with a traffic system for one station, then added stations later (splitting off a simulcast on one, and buying the third station) a trap we fell into is having different numbers for the same spot on two different stations. Part of the problem is that Natural Log generates spot numbers separately for each different traffic log. You can manually assign numbers but once the system is up easier to go with the flow.

We also have WaveCart on each machine, which we use for live sports. Three--some weeks four high school football broadcasts each week--then basketball season. Here a separate folder is useful for the opening and closing billboards and rejoins--makes it easier for the board op to find. Also avoids having old copy end up on air since there are only a few files in this folder--old stuff deleted, new bill board added each week. Having a separate folder for jingles and ID's can be handy if you have live assist and need to find an ID or jingle quickly to get in or out of something live that isn't part of the skeleton log.

Going from WaveStation to Simian you may find that the files are MP2. We ran into this when we bought our third station...they set up the music library this way in 2000 when the station was built. There is (was?) an add-on to Simian handle MP2, but once we took over we rebuilt the music library from scratch in .WAV format.
As far as I know, all audio on the 2 stations running WS is .wav however in my short time engineering these stations, I have found quite a number of files with differing sample, mono/stereo, etc criteria that sometimes, not always, but sometimes causes WS to lockup or get weird.

I have installed quite a number of seats of Natural Log but know very little about it's operation or setup. I believe that the 2 WS logs are being generated by NL but the others are being done by hand... They very likely have different versions of the same spot due to one being Comm and the other non-comm. However they are definitely wanting and planning on doing the traffic for the other 2 stations all out of Natural Log when the studios are consolidated. I will talk to the traffic lady(s) about spot numbers, etc.

I have actually had fairly positive experience with playing audio over networks but it always seems that if it is going to puke, it is going to do it 3 minutes into a 15min program segment. OR a minor network problem causes half a nights log to X out. Hence my almost phobia level dislike for the practice.

Thanks for the points. I have built many studios and built or added numerous studios with Simian and other brands but this is the first time that I will be actually starting from scratch and am trying to keep the self inflicted wounds to a minimum.
--
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http://www.amgroundsystems.com
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Re: Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by kkiddkkidd » Mon Nov 26, 2018 7:36 am

I just found an old instruction list written in my own cryptic hand that sort of spells out what we did on another build that worked well as far as I know.

It looks like we set the systems _local_ audio drive to a letter (Wzzz = Z:/audio, Wyyy = Y:/audio, Wxxx = X:/audio, etc) using Disk Management (or subst) and then network mapped all of the other computers to those drives using the same letter to keep drive mappings consistent. I think that we discovered that this was better than network mapping Wzzz local D: to Z: and then having the network crash and take down the automation.

Does anyone see any problem doing that?
--
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Re: Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by kkiddkkidd » Mon Nov 26, 2018 8:00 am

Shane wrote:
Fri Nov 23, 2018 1:13 pm
Simian may or may not be different from WaveStation in this regard — and I have no experience with Simian yet — but I found WS would play files from a network drive if UNC paths to the folders were used rather than mapped drives.

I had one station with a lot of long-form (block) programs with all files on the local hard drive (and most dropped in over the LAN from production machines not necessarily running WS), with a second station of mostly satellite talk programming, which played all short-form material, such as spots, over the LAN from the other station’s local hard drive with few if any problems for over a year.
I think that now the modern Simian is recommended to NOT use UNC pathing due to changes in how winders handles network drives. At one time, UNC was about the only way that WS would talk computer to computer.

As I said else where, I have actually had reasonably good luck with playing audio over a good clean network (of which there are few) but it always seems to puke about 3 min into a 15min segment or a cable goes bad about 15min after the afternoon guy leaves and the log X's the rest of the night....

Back in the late 90's, I installed an Enco DadPro system that played ALL audio over the network and it worked surprisingly well. It ran on WinNT over Novell. Enco never gave me a good reason why not to run the audio from the local HD other than that is just how they wanted to do it... I kept a backup copy of a number of cuts, jingles and ID's on the local machine that came in handy a few times when the network crashed.
--
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Re: Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by TPT » Mon Nov 26, 2018 9:09 am

My ops manager has been with us since high school--that's 18 years. He's very familiar with the ins & outs of Simian, Natural Log and Natural music. If you would like--pm me & I'll give you his e-mail.

He's a millennial--likes $$. :) He presently consults for a small station in southern WV, as well as a Mississippi LPFM. Alsov very familiar with the new WWOne version of Storq (which is a flavor of OPt-X embedded in a satellite receiver). We have a beta version on-air here.

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Re: Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by kkiddkkidd » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:33 pm

TPT wrote:
Mon Nov 26, 2018 9:09 am
My ops manager has been with us since high school--that's 18 years. He's very familiar with the ins & outs of Simian, Natural Log and Natural music. If you would like--pm me & I'll give you his e-mail.

He's a millennial--likes $$. :) He presently consults for a small station in southern WV, as well as a Mississippi LPFM. Alsov very familiar with the new WWOne version of Storq (which is a flavor of OPt-X embedded in a satellite receiver). We have a beta version on-air here.
Thanks. When we get a little closer I will try to get the station in contact with him.

I have a station running the old version of Storq and although I know absolutely nothing about it, have been very impressed with how stable it is.
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Re: Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by TPT » Mon Nov 26, 2018 7:59 pm

That rack-mounted STORQ computer will be going away shortly. The "new STORQ" is a Wegener satellite receiver with an imbedded automation system. We're running a beta version. Interesting device...easy to use during remotes, for example. The one we have supports four different program streams, though in our configuration the main 24/7 program has the automation interface while the other streams can be conventional satellite feeds (we have Mike Harvey's Saturday oldies shows as one of the feeds).

There are several relay connections to trigger external switching or other automation, and 4 opto-isolated inputs to talk back to the system--so it can be set-up to operate without other external interface just like a conventional satellite receiver/ automation combination. Unlike the older STORQ there is neither a monitor output nor keyboard/mouse access directly to this new system. Instead, you access the internal automation system through a browser on your local network.

What we did for one studio is buy a little $100 mini computer and used it's keyboard/mouse and monitor connections to run the STORQ when needed.
In the other studio we had a second computer we used for a variety of purposes (Wavecart, and simple production) which we use for STORQ as needed.
I understand that the system can be set-up to import a station's traffic log & local spots but we kept our existing Simian systems in place because we run a lot of syndicated/network programs from other sources.

For example on the AC station, Delilah and the Mike Harvey weekend show--later this winter a weekly show on high school basketball coming in on a Barix. On our classic rock station Alice Cooper, and a morning show which also arrives by Barix. During normal programming a net-cue relay from the Wegener provides the next event command to Simian, then a Simian relay command re-starts the STORQ out of the stop-set.

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Re: Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by Shane » Mon Nov 26, 2018 10:52 pm

Yeah I’m sure Simian is way different today than WaveStation was then.
Does anyone see any problem doing that?
No. I think that’s exactly what you need.

In that previous WaveStation installation of mine, the studios were moved while I was on what turned out to be a sabbatical. Someone else set it up and they used the UNC paths for the local drive - unwittingly, I hope - causing what you referenced, Kevin, where local drive audio played across the network and defeated the purpose of having the audio on the local drive! I discovered this the hard way, unfortunately. But it was easily fixed.

They also tried to use the Turtle Beach sound cards from the old Win98 unit on a then-new Win2000 unit. That didn’t work (T Beach gave up after 98 for some reason) so a third individual installed a SoundBlaster on it and that worked but minus some of the T Beach awesome flexibility.

We could mix .mp3s with .wavs - even of differing sample rates - and WS and WaveCart would just chug along. Not so with the SoundBlaster or any kind of high-end cards. By that point we had standardized on mono 44,100 so it wasn’t an issue.
Back in the late 90's, I installed an Enco DadPro system that played ALL audio over the network and it worked surprisingly well. It ran on WinNT over Novell. Enco never gave me a good reason why not to run the audio from the local HD other than that is just how they wanted to do it... I kept a backup copy of a number of cuts, jingles and ID's on the local machine that came in handy a few times when the network crashed.
I feared that, too, so I made ENCO set us up with Gateway instances that would copy all files to local hard drives as well as to the backup server, so we could go to Local mode if necessary. The only times we really needed to, it didn’t work for some reason. (Found out much later it was a missing .dll file or something like that which we were able to copy and paste into the machines that were missing it and Local Mode started working again.)

The network NEVER went down except ten years later while we were trying to isolate some problem in the rack and I accidentally pulled the AC plug to the network switch. OOOOOOPS! 3 stations came to a screeching halt! Good thing we weren’t running a nuke plant.
Mike Shane, CBRE
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Re: Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by RodeoJack » Wed Nov 28, 2018 6:23 pm

BSI has always been fairly conservative about how you use / connect their products.

Years ago, when I first spotted them, I noted Simian's purported ability to run multiple instances of the software on a single computer. Asked how many the system would tolerate, they wouldn't give me a fixed answer. Instead, their response was "as many as your computer has resources to handle". Great!, says I... I want 4. At that, BSI had a total cow. No guarantee it would work... no confidence that 4 instances wouldn't crash any computer on the market. Well, I say... you marketed it this way... let's see what happens.

It took some swearing, coaxing, adjusting switcher timing and a couple of software patches, but eventually, 4 instances it was and I've been running that system for over 10 years now... not so much as a hiccup. Once I set up the system, BSI got behind making it work. Their main software engineer (now passed) was skeptical at first, but he eventually became more enthusiastic and the system turned out really well. Right now, I have one system operating 3 stations, one serving 2 and the original, a 4-instance system controlling the show at my 3-screen drive-in theatre.

Back to the subject. BSI doesn't like talking about Simian pulling content from a network, not because it cant do it, but because it can't control anything outside the computer. When running audio from the network, I found there's more of a delay from start-to-sound, and the delay isn't consistent and predictable. If you run a tight format, that could matter. Regular Simian also doesn't care a lot for dodgy networks, so if it goes out and asks for a file off a network drive and doesn't find it, due to network issues, results can vary, but my experience has been they range from moving on to crashing the system.

BSI tells me their "OP-X" product was developed for a multi-station, server-client configuration. In that sense, that might be more-suited for network content than Simian, but that's about all I know about it. I haven't had an opportunity to be in the same zip code with "OP-X".

As for directory architecture: I've never seen Simian care much. Do what makes sense. Personally, I refer to break my music up into major categories, and have even broken that down further into up/down tempo folders, when it mattered. Christmas is definitely separated, as are commercials and, possibly, PSAs. I would also separate out jingles, promos.... etc. Like socks and shorts... if you want that stuff in separate drawers, then there's not much reason not to do it... other than maybe going so crazy you have to think about where a particular file would be best placed.

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Re: Simian Automation Folder Architecture

Post by TPT » Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:12 pm

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should....

Local cluster uses a server based automation system for all of the stations. Story around town that a fired employee got back in on a weekend and pulled the plug on the server.....no-one noticed until Monday morning!

We mostly use refurb computers for our air machines with Simian--the ASI sound cards cost about twice what the computers cost. One computer for each station. I am a firm believer in Murphy's law--we had a problem with every other spot garbling on the Simian computer for one station (music came in off STORQ--different box) which developed right after one of those notorious windows updates. Turned out the problem traced back to a missed 2015 update to some tiny program that the ASI card relied upon--which was then compounded by the new update messing up some other routine. Had to take the computer down for a while to reload the missed updates.

Imagine if there were four stations running off that computer.....

Back to the original question. As long as Sound Hound is set up to search all the folders that are going to be used, one could use one folder, or a dozen.
Depends on how you are going to use Simian on that station...if you set up to run mostly unattended everything could be dumped in one folder. On the other hand, with several stations in house it makes sense to have a consistent file structure, especially where you are dropping in spots over the network.

If you are setting it up for live-assist with live jocks; then you might want to have separate folders set-up for special files so talent can find what they need quickly. For example--we have a 360 system at our live station, but absent such a device you could set-up a special folder in Simian with all the little drop-ins talent might want to use..so they could easily find the one they want & drop it into the automation.

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