When you last bought a new piece of equipment, did you accept the manufacturer’s
word that it would work OK when you installed it in your studio? Probably you
did, and relied on goodwill – and ultimately sale of goods legislation – that
if there happened to be a problem that it would be sorted out quickly and efficiently.
But a mixing console is large and complex, and especially in a custom built
or adapted console there is a lot that could potentially not be quite as right
as one might wish. For broadcasters, pre-delivery acceptance tests are vital
to make sure a new console is up to scratch.
“The acceptance test has two purposes. Most of our customers in broadcasting
will issue a very detailed specification for the desk when they come out to
tender and we will either reply to that specification or we will quote our own
specification. This would be both an operational and performance specification.
When the desk is complete and ready for delivery the customer will come along,
and the first thing he will do is check that the desk functions to his specifications.
The normal functions of the desk are not much of a problem because they tend
to be fairly standard, but what the customer will be checking are all the special
panels and the extra facilities that have to interface with other equipment
that he owns. He will do a functional check and make sure that absolutely everything
does what it is supposed to do and then he will do a performance check on the
desk. This used to be a very lengthy process but nowadays we provide the customer
with a full set of test results from the automated test equipment and they will
tend to spot check these. It is very important for our Independent Television
customers, who have their facilities inspected by the IBA, to make sure the
desk meets Code of Practice. Similarly the BBC have very high standards of performance
that have to be met.”
Testing a desk fully and ensuring that it meets the specified standards can
be a very lengthy procedure.
“For a standard product we are looking at two or three days for the
customer to do his acceptance test. If it was a desk with a lot of special facilities
or if it was a new type or particularly large then the customer would be here
for two or three weeks testing absolutely every single facet of the product.
A mixing console these days has many thousands of paths that all have to be
checked, or certainly a representative sample. They need to feel comfortable
with the desk because by the time it’s installed it will be the end of
a long and expensive period for them. They could have had a television studio
out of service for nine months with all the attendant expense of that and they
will be working towards a deadline for going back into service. This process
ensures that the only thing that you are likely to get is a very minor component
failure, and that there are no faults in the system.”