When it comes to broadcast paint and still graphic creation tools, there are certainly several choices available. Most of these applications feature a large selection of image composition tools and are relatively easy to work with. However, most of the real issues facing today's broadcasters tend to be workflow-related. Content acquisition and supporting file formats from a wide variety of sources, processing this content into daily graphics and then distributing to playout devices has become a challenge for many broadcasters. HD, of course, introduces a whole new set of issues. Higher resolution means more detail. This makes previewing graphics in context with programming more important than ever.
Six years ago, New York-based VDS acquired the Liberty Paint product line along with the respective development group from Chyron. The goal was to develop the Twister HD PaintStation, a simple-to-use, SD/HD graphics creation and distribution system with strong content creation tools. It was designed from the ground up to streamline the process of creating daily news graphics and getting them to air.
The system is loaded with workflow tools such as the ability to drag and drop content from any local or remote source to layers. It also supports direct file and metadata exchange with current and legacy broadcast systems. This ability to integrate and file share with so many different industry platforms solves many common and non-typical workflow issues.
From a workflow perspective, artists simply access their graphic content material through the system's browser. From here, graphic content can be dragged and dropped from virtually any source or location directly into the layer stack. The graphics system automatically generates thumbnails of most image formats, making it easy to view source material before selecting. In addition, file information and supported metadata is also displayed. Because the browser supports Windows Network Neighborhood, as well as Quantel, Chyron and Aprisa FTP protocols, the system can be configured to browse and access content from wherever there is local or remote connectivity.
Once content is recalled into the layer stack, individual layers can be created or modified using the paint and image processing tools, all accessed through the tab-based tool system. Masking and cutting out images is easily accomplished using the mask tools section. Plug-ins are accessed and applied through the plug-ins tab, and so on. In fact, all effects are accomplished by selecting a layer, and then selecting and applying an effect. Layers can be individually or group selected in the stack with a cursor, or interactively on the canvas as objects.
The system features quick keys that allow fast access to more commonly used features like move, pan, paint, cut, fill, transform, shapes, text and grouping. Many of the advanced effects such as text, shapes, paste effects and shadows are dynamically applied and can be changed or adjusted at any time without having to recreate. All of the effects have previewing modes to allow for adjustments before committing the effect to the layer. All layers have their own undo libraries, making it easy to step back to certain states on an individual layer basis.
Once the final graphic has been completed, it can be saved as a template-type layer file for daily updating and use, or composited to a single layer and distributed to a playout system such as a character generator or still-store. A wide variety of file formats and database systems are supported, making the transfer of images and metadata from the system to industry storage and playback devices simple and straightforward.
It can operate in any resolution and comes with real-time paint I/O, supporting all SD and HD formats. This includes the ability to grab on-the-fly to layers and real-time view of canvas on an SD or HD monitor. A linear keyer allows continuous live viewing of graphics keyed over video stream. This is particularly vital for previewing HD material to ensure ramped transparencies and other blended elements are smooth and clean. Selection between SD and HD working modes is almost instantaneous.
The system is also compatible with Photoshop. Photoshop files can be opened in Twister and turned into templates that can be easily updated daily and distributed.
The Twister HD PaintStation is a product that improves the workflow of daily news graphics production. Its easy to use, rich feature set allows it to be used as a complete graphics design system, or as a front-end solution to update and distribute daily templated graphics. Full SD/HD compatibility and real-time previewing make the system a great addition to any broadcast environment.
David-Ray Worthington is the director of marketing and product development for VDS.