Since launching in October, the Fox Business Network (FBN) has sported a visually dynamic presentation designed to attract an audience beyond business news junkies.
Currently available in more than 30 million households served by Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T, Charter, and DirecTV, FBN’s 720p HD operation features talent, live feeds, stock tickers, lower third supers, and HD graphics like stock charts—all on the screen simultaneously.
To accomplish this on-air look, as well as an efficient file-based news production workflow, FBN contracted with three systems integrators—Ascent Media Systems and Technology Services, in Northvale, N.J.; IBM Global Systems in New York; and Glendale, Calif.-based National TeleConsultants (see sidebar)—who worked together to design, build, and integrate the state-of-the-art in video and IT technology.
FBN’s new HD facility includes two production control rooms tied to two HD studios, as well as a master control room—all of which are located on various floors of the 1211 Avenue of the Americas Manhattan building which it shares with sister network Fox News Channel.
In its HD studios, FBN uses 11 Ikegami HD HDK-725P portable HD cameras to capture on-air talent. These portable HD cameras are equipped with an assortment of HD lenses, including six Canon Compact DigiSuper 22XS HD lenses (XJ22x7.3BIE-D). This new category of lenses was designed by Canon to have a compact size relative to HD portable cameras, making them better suited to studio use.
The sets are complemented by visual displays from two Christie HD projectors, four 103-inch Panasonic plasma monitors, a circular LED display that wraps around a structural column, and a wall of flat-panel displays. Multiple displays of video and graphics can be arranged onto the large-screen monitors on the set by a Vista Spyder video processing system for greater visual impact.
FBN has also enhanced the visual content on its HD presentation. FBN offers its feeds in two versions: a 4:3 SD feed, and a 16:9 HD feed. For the HD feed, a 4:3 HD picture has been situated against the left side of the screen and the “wings” or curtain panels which would otherwise be blank spaces around the picture have been moved together on the right side of the screen.
| Fox Business Network uses extra real estate on the edges of its 16:9 HD screen to provide stock updates and other financial data.|
“This HD ‘wing’ serves as a palette for offering complementary financial information to our HD viewers,” said Brian Jones, senior vice president of Fox Business Network. “The HD graphics display shown in the wing area is tied to the real-time financial information ticker that scrolls along the bottom of the screen. When a particular stock goes by on the ticker, the HD wing displays that stock’s information in greater detail.”
The complementary information includes intra-day and one-year charts, earnings per share, price earnings ratios, the volumes of trade for that stock that day, and the stock board showing how the stock’s prices have changed over time.
“With this innovative HD display, viewers don’t have to run to their computers to look up that information because it’s tied into the real-time financial stream and displayed right on the screen as graphs, charts, and other data,” Jones said.
|Team Effort Built FBN|
Fox Business Network (FBN) went from plans to plant in just six months largely due to a concerted team effort by three systems integrators contracted for the project.
“This team was assembled by Fox News to design and build FBN’s infrastructure, including the creation of a high-performance broadcast LAN; integration of a new tapeless ingest and editing system; and design of a live HD graphics system that makes a significant contribution to the on-air look,” said Tom Michales, senior project director of National TeleConsultants one of three systems integration companies that took charge of different aspects of the project in conjunction with Fox engineering. Ascent Media Systems and Technology Services was responsible for equipment integration within the production control rooms, studios, and master control rooms. IBM Global Systems supplied hardware and software from multiple third party vendors, such as Ardendo digital asset management, Pebble Beach play-out software, and Omneon’s Spectrum server. IBM also wrote custom software to enable these disparate systems to work as an integrated solution.
| Three systems integrators collaborated on building the FBN infrastructure.|
NTC documented and installed most of the IBM systems and integrated the Vizrt graphics engines enabling the unique live HD graphics. NTC also worked to tie that technology into the rest of FBN’s technical operations, including news and production.
Because this was a leading-edge ef-fort, NTC’s design team was repeatedly challenged to accommodate evolving techniques and technologies, and manage the interface of many new subsystems that comprised the whole infrastructure, according to Michales.
“This meant accommodating revisions even as systems were being built or tested,” Michales said. “It was also challenging to accommodate 16:9 aspect ratio feeds in a large, mature 4:3 plant, especially given the project’s aggressive 180 day timeframe.”
Video Design Software (VDS) worked closely with Thomson Financial—which provides the real-time streaming data—to write custom code to tie that data to FBN’s Vizrt graphics engines which deliver them to the screen. Ahlquist added that this real time, automated graphics capability will be critical in covering next year’s political conventions and presidential election.
“We have a large installation of Vizrt graphics engines which automatically render graphics as quickly as you can put realtime data in,” said Greg Ahlquist, senior network director for Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. “The producer in the control room can say ‘I want real-time numbers for a particular stock,’ and the second that information is retrieved, it can be composed into a graphic and put on the air within seconds.”
The control rooms can also bring in live feeds from the field, as well as from around the world. These live feeds can be delivered live to air as well as recorded onto the facility’s main Omneon Spectrum video server. The field footage is acquired in 16:9 DVCPRO50 quality using Panasonic AJ-HPX2000 and AG-HVX200 P2 solid-state HD camcorders; and that video is upconverted to HD at the studio.
| FBN’s new HD facility includes two production control rooms tied to two HD studios, as well as a master control room.|
“We had a very solid business plan to stay in the file-based newsgathering world, and Panasonic P2 cameras enable us to do that very effectively,” said Ahlquist. “The video is recorded in the field on P2 cards and those contents are fed directly into our newsroom server for everyone to share.”
FBN’s tapeless newsroom infrastructure consists of Omneon servers that ingest material and play back finished packages, as well as an IBM central storage system holding more than 4,000 hours of video. This server network ties in with an Ardendo digital media asset management system. (Ardendo is a Swedish company recently acquired by Vizrt in Bergen, Norway.) FBN also utilizes the Avid iNews newsroom computer system and Apple Final Cut Pro editing software.
The tapeless newsroom infrastructure also ties in with the Ardendo system as well as Pebble Beach play-out software. The entire newsroom system is linked to a scalable IBM robotic data-tape archive.
“We chose IBM because all of the components in their solution were best-of-breed systems,” Ahlquist said. “IBM integrated top third party systems into a single, reliable solution.”
The Ardendo asset management system allows FBN journalists to log and retain all metadata from video material; to look at low-res proxies of the images coming in; and to do desktop editing—also tied to IBM servers. Ahlquist said the solution is scalable, flexible, and upgradeable; and will likely be extended to Fox News, which plans to go hi-def next year.
Three integrators teamed-up to achieve the tight launch schedule. Ascent Media built the control rooms, studios, and master control. They also worked closely with National TeleConsultants which helped integrate the IBM tapeless newsroom solution and graphics systems into the technical facility.
The systems integrators also installed Evertz processing technology, including upconverters/downconverters, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters and other infrastructure gear; as well as Evertz VIP and MVP monitoring systems for control rooms.
A Thomson Grass Valley Trinix 1024 squared router is at the heart of the plant. The facility also has a Sony 8000G production switcher; Calrec Bluefin audio console the with Hydra audio networking system; Tamuz professional LCD monitors; Miranda master control software, and Harris Nexio servers, with DNF Controllers for graphics play-out. There is also a video network for sending high-resolution video between FBN’s bureaus, including Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London.
MAKING BUSINESS FUN
FBN’s broadcast day includes many regularly scheduled shows including “Money for Breakfast” at 5 a.m.; live financial news from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.; “Happy Hour” at 5 p.m., followed by “Cavuto” at 6 p.m., hosted by Neil Cavuto; “America’s Scoreboard” at 7 p.m.; and “Ramsey,” hosted by financial guru Dave Ramsey, at 8 p.m. FBN can also be accessed at M.FoxBusiness.com using Web-enabled mobile phones and Blackberry devices.
According to Jones, “We want to provide timely financial data to Wall Street, but we also want to provide it to every family on Main Street so that they can make and keep more of their money. We want to change people’s definition and perception of TV business news by making it fun, visual, and entertaining as well as informative.”