Engineers familiar with Zetta’s extensive feature-set all agree that Zetta’s Hot Spare, or Zetta Hot Sparing, is an efficient redundancy that allows users to customize how they can automatically or manually switch from a primary source to a secondary source. However, we’re not moving machines like a traditional radio automation setup, instead Zetta focuses on pivoting the Play Devices, or Stream Groups, from one destination to another. In this video, we break down what Zetta Hot Spare is, how to configure it and then we offer some tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your Zetta Hot Spare.
Here at RCS, we joke that it would take longer for us to describe Hot Sparing than it would to set it up. Now that we know that Zetta Hot Sparing is the process of moving play devices and not computers, let’s take a look at exactly what happens when we activate a Hot Spare. If you recall, Zetta is built upon the concept that we start with a blank slate and begin to add on pieces or features available in the Zetta environment to your station’s requirements. Doesn’t matter if you’re analog or Audio over IP, AoIP, a user would define these play devices that are grouped together to be assigned to a module. If you’re looking for a review on how to setup Zetta Play Devices, check out our previous Zetta Back to Basics video here. You can define the Play Devices via Configuration | Computers | Play Devices, then assign them via Configuration | Stream Groups (Formally Play Containers) and finally attach them to station’s modules Configuration | Stations | Playback. These are all pre-defined configurations and don’t feel like you need to constantly be adjusting these play devices, it’s a “set it and forget” during the initial Zetta installation. Of course, if you do ever decide to move play devices, it’s an easy switch if you follow these settings.
Once we have these play devices established, you’ll notice there are options for Sequencer Hot Spare play device(s). So we’re creating two audio playouts, one default and one for the Hot Spare. These play devices can be anywhere on the board or studio, especially if you have Axia or Wheatstone’s AoIP. For example, one of our clients has two Stream Groups on their on-air studio control room board. Let’s call pots 1, 2, and 3 the default Stream Groups and 7, 8 and 9 as the Sequencer Hot Spare Stream Groups. This way, when the user needs to activate a Hot Spare, they can arm the Hot Spare to preview the audio out of pots 7, 8, and 9, change the air route, and then activate the Hot Spare, potting up and on the 7, 8 and 9 faders. When we’re ready to return to the default Stream Groups, they would change the air route and activate the default Stream Groups, potting up and on channels 1, 2, and 3, turning off pots 7, 8, and 9. Why would we want to activate a Hot Spare? It could be for a number of reasons, both mission critical or simply maintenance. Users can run Windows Updates, update audio drivers or virus software, or perhaps a server or studio goes down, Zetta can easily switch to another play device and instantly, you’re back up and running.
Let’s breakdown how to properly configure your Hot Spare by going to Configuration | Hot Spare. Here is where you’ll find each computer that is part of the Zetta environment, as well as the Stream Groups, already preconfigured, available for Hot Sparing. Starting with the Audio Hot Sparing section, here is where you’ll define what modules utilize which Stream Groups. Note some of the Arm settings, then a further section that handles Live Metadata (Now Playing Export) and GPIO Hot Sparing. We didn’t spend too much time talking about these two because most sites have a dedicated machine to handle the Live Metadata and GPIO Zetta Services, so that if a main sequencer machine does go down, Zetta will maintain these two services, while moving the play devices because we need proper board access to control the on-air product. Think of Live Metadata and GPIOs as automatic behind the scenes vs. Play Devices that require manual user interaction.
To the right of the Hot Spare window, we have Assigned Stations. These are the stations that can utilize the Audio Hot Sparing featured on the left. Most studio configurations will have a sequencer server in the rack room, with each on-air control room as the Hot Spare machine. Think of it as a 1:1 ratio for the Hot Spare profile with an on-air control room. In that example, there would only be one Assigned Station. Or, some users will define their Production Studio as the Hot Spare for all stations in the Zetta environment. In a 5 station cluster, you may see 6 different Hot Spares, one for each station and then the Production Room that has all 5 of the Assigned Stations. There’s no right or wrong way to configure your Hot Spare.
Once a Hot Spare(s) is configured, we can look at the Hot Spare Manager (Tools | Hot Spare Manager) to actually implement the Hot Spare. You’ll see the stations on the left hand side, single click and the Hot Spare configuration will appear on the right hand side. Note that if a station has multiple Hot Spares, then users can select their desired Hot Spare. There are three steps in activating a Hot Spare. First, you’ll want to Arm the Hot Spare so that users can preview the audio, knowing that it’s playing out correctly within the board. Second, don’t forget that we need to address the on-air route. If channels 1, 2, and 3 are sent to air while we’re moving to pots 7, 8, and 9, we need to define / make sure that 7, 8, and 9 are also being sent to the air feed. Finally, we Activate the Hot Spare. To review: Arm, change air route, and Activate.
Now that we know how to manually activate a Hot Spare, let’s discuss how to automatically switch over to a Hot Spare. If we go to the Macros window (Configuration | Macros), we have the option to utilize an Execute Command to Activate the Hot Spare and then adjust the air route. You might notice that we skipped the Arm step and that’s because if we’re automatically switching over, there really isn’t a need to preview the audio before we switch over. In fact, many users will keep their Hot Spare armed at all times, so they can always make sure the Hot Spare is ready to go. After automatically activating the Hot Spare via a Macro, we simply create a second Macro that re-activates the default stream groups. There’s no concept of deactivating because we’re really only activating the Hot Spares we care about. Of course, once users have Macros created, we can insert those Macros into Hot Keys to play out on Zetta2GO or insert them into the Clock structure for automatic Hot Sparing.
Are you a News / Talk format and want to know how to get the most out of your Zetta system? We’ll be hosting a News / Talk RCS Live session on 4/15/21 at 11am ET with Brian Willard, head of RCS’ Field Technician Services, and Jeff Zigler, Senior Sales Engineer. On 4/8/21, Asst. GSelector Product Manager John Bonou will join us to discuss some advanced scheduling techniques. As always, we’re still looking for Beta users for Zetta 5.21.1 and don’t forget to catch RCS Live every Thursday on Twitch, YouTube and Facebook.