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Grass Ignite Keeps WRTV's News On Top

Kurt Swadener operates WRTV's new Grass Valley Ignite HD news automation system.
WRTV is owned by McGraw-Hill Broadcasting and is the ABC affiliate here. We've been a long-time proponent of automated production for our newscasts, having been the first station in the group to use the ParkerVision PVTV system in 2002.

Stations in markets such as ours have to remain competitive in these challenging times, and one way to do this is in rethinking newsgathering and the production of newscasts.

When we made the move to producing and broadcasting all of our newscasts in high definition last year, it was clear that Grass Valley's Ignite HD system was going to be our first choice. It just made good sense, as we're producing four and a half hours of news each weekday and an additional three hours on the weekends. The system provides operating cost benefits, as it now requires fewer people to handle all of that content. One person now can perform the same tasks as a traditional three or four person crew.

Our technical crew has embraced the Ignite HD system, as you aren't limited in the amount of elements (graphics, audio, camera angles) that you might see in a newscast run by several people.


Another advantage is that the director has complete control over the newscast, and doesn't have to rely on other operators to perform special moves or effects. Using the system's Transition Macro Element (TME) technology—which establishes news segments and transitions as "events" on an event timeline—all segments of a live newscast can be pre-programmed and previewed prior to a show going on-air. Directors like being able to know what's going to happen (and how fast).

We look at Ignite as another tool for our news gathering efforts and we always try to take advantage of everything it can bring to our coverage—that's what matters most to our audience and us.

This includes late-breaking, live news stories, which the Ignite system is especially good at handling. When a hot news story breaks, the director simply adds the live feed to the rundown and it becomes part of the newscast.

As we've had seven years experience with an automated production system, training our staff on the new system was very easy. Everyone found the new Ignite GUI to be very intuitive, and we've had people operating the system within an hour after first sitting down at the keyboard.

Judging by our on-air look, I would challenge anyone to notice that we're using news automation. We're very competitive in our market and are proud of the news product we produce.

If a station isn't into automation, there's a big culture shift in rethinking how a newscast is put together and how it gets on air. There's also a lot of planning and careful organizing needed to make it work. But once you understand how the system works and what it can do, there's no looking back to the way things were traditionally done. In all the time we've used Ignite, we've never felt that we were compromising in any way or held back creatively.

We have no doubt that the Ignite system is the future of local news production. That's why, for us, the future is now.

Brian Vetor has served as director of engineering at WRTV since 2005. He may be contacted

Kurt Swadener has been news operations manager at WRTV since 2006. He may be contacted

For additional information, contact Grass Valley at 800-547-8949 or