KMOV-TV, the Belo-owned CBS affiliate in St. Louis, transitioned from a linear tape-based workflow to an IT file-based approach in August, leaving behind the six tape machines and heart-pounding chaos ENG control had to deal with on a daily basis.
While the conversion to file-based news editing, storage and playout has affected the entire newsroom, said Walt Nichol, station director of technology, it is ENG control where the new approach has had the greatest impact.
“Before BitCentral, there were six tape machines, one operator and chaos every newscast,” he said. Managing incoming satellite and ENG feeds, recording them to tape or directing them to air was an extremely intense responsibility, he said. Since installation of the BitCentral Précis news production system, the ENG control operator can identify incoming feeds, ingest them onto its ingest server and make them available to the entire newsroom and control room from a Web-based graphical user interface displayed on a vertical LCD monitor. “We’ve gotten rid of the headaches of sharing tapes from the shelf,” Nichol said as he pointed to nearly empty wooden tape shelves adjacent to the ENG control area.
The system has affected other areas of news operations as well. Reporters and producers no longer simply write stories at their desks with Avid iNews. They share ingested content and edit stories directly from 23 Thomson Grass Valley Edius nonlinear editing stations on their desks. For more sophisticated editing, the station relies on six craft editing stations — four for news, one for sports and one for an isolated investigative reporting unit — running Apple’s Final Cut Pro.
Down the hall from the ENG control center inside the equipment room, a set of redundant ingest and playout servers reside quietly in the station’s equipment racks. According to Nichol, these BitCentral servers are the beginning for KMOV on a track that will leave tape — whether video or data — behind. The station’s director of technology said he had no plans to add a data tape robotic system to store aging material offline. Instead, the cost of the off-the-shelf IT hardware — specifically hard drives — making up the BitCentral Précis is such that KMOV will henceforth maintain its archive on spinning disk. “Why not?” Nichol asked. “For under $30,000 I can add another 18 months of storage and never go offline.”