Discovering a Graphic Solution

By having a group of experienced designers able to collaborate and share ideas continually, we saw opportunities present themselves that hadn’t occurred much in the past.
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

A breaking story has developed and your personnel are responding. The priority quickly becomes management of time. This story has the potential to become your lead for the evening.

You need an open. You need maps. You need over-the-shoulders, lower thirds and a host of images.

Open an application on your workstation and you suddenly have resources. As you enter a simple work order detailing your needs, a group of experienced artists wait for you to click the submit button.

The request is received within seconds and you have the right personnel needed to get the job done, in an impressive manner, without impacting your local resources—allowing your folks to concentrate on the local needs.

Placeholders for the graphics appear in your rundown—and you watch the rundown as they begin changing colors, notifying you that the graphics are in place and ready for air.

Welcome to Media General’s implementation of MGFX.


(click thumbnail)MGFX personnel providing solutions for its stations from their new facilityFUTURE VISION

The scenario above isn’t too unusual for any television station. In fact, it’s not unusual that situations like this occur that will affect multiple Media General stations in a regional, national or international situation. We’ve all seen it: each station going through the same scenario, duplicating efforts over and over.

We devised a team involving all areas of expertise, including local newsroom, promotional, marketing, artists and journalists. We started with a blank sheet, determined to devise a plan of action that would lead us into the future.

Our vision was a team of talented artists at our Richmond, Va., headquarters, ready to respond to our stations’ needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We also wanted a solution that enveloped our changing world and could provide benefits for our print, multimedia and Web-based operations, as well.

By having a group of experienced designers able to collaborate and share ideas continually, we saw opportunities present themselves that hadn’t occurred much in the past.

Our divisional marketing experts are always involved in helping to create an appropriate image for local stations and work to ensure that the image is maintained and utilized. This concept permitted us to guarantee that our marketing efforts are continuously applied. Anything new that is requested maintains the approved look.

We looked at system capabilities from a variety of vendors. We selected Miranda and their Xmedia line of systems providing template-based graphics creation.

From an IT perspective, we realized that our infrastructure wasn’t going to support the demands that would be necessary to deliver graphics over our wide area network. We run lean. Intentionally. Most of our sites have a single T1 providing basic business-related connectivity back to Richmond.

Of course, we have backup and Internet circuits in place, but the primary pipe for business-related traffic is a single T1. Internet and other special requirements are handled through other circuits. The single T1, with some quality of service (QOS) policies, serves us well.

We opted, initially, to install two additional T1s, bonding them together with the existing T1 and providing about 4.5 Mbps of bandwidth. We reviewed our QOS policies to ensure that business-critical traffic (Citrix sessions, sales and traffic systems, e-mail, HR and financials) would not be impacted. In fact, this actually permitted business traffic to take advantage of some of the additional bandwidth when not being utilized for graphics transfers.

The epicenter of the projects takes place in a newly allocated area in our Richmond headquarters. About 15 high-end graphics workstations, with requisite applications, were placed into production in a room that was designed with a flair any artist would appreciate. The artists took control immediately and began creating stunning still and motion graphics.

The general manager of our MGFX operation is Jim Doyle. He is intimately familiar with what we’re building and is excited about the flexibility and future of MGFX. His team, including an art director, coordinator and a team of outstanding artists provide the response needed to fulfill the demands.

As a station creates an online order entry, that electronic request, with necessary attachments (photos, videos, etc.), is automatically routed to the MGFX coordinator. The coordinator determines the complexity and timeframe and assigns that project to one of the designers.

Once the graphic is complete, the project is automatically saved and processed locally in the format desired by the station. The Miranda system allows our designers to create and flip high-quality graphics in SD, HD, 4:3 and 16:9.

We also have the capability of quickly producing Web and print pieces, along with attractive multimedia packages ready for immediate posting. The project is converted, stored locally, and then automatically propagated to the requesting station. Notifications of completion are provided as well, ensuring that all parties are kept informed.

The receipt of the graphic locally automatically populates within the ENPS placeholders and rundown… and it’s ready for air.

Within MGFX, we developed a large real-time status display that shows the requests submitted per day, by station, those completed and those pending.

The template-based automation provides additional benefits and efficiencies. As content and resources are delivered locally, producers will be able to utilize and customize graphics without ever needing to submit a request. Those types of efficiencies will continue to grow as the content-base increases.

To date, we have five stations live. By mid-year, we’ll have over 15 stations online.

The stations will see immediate advantages… these designers are good!

UNIQUE SOLUTION

We’ll realize divisional benefits in a variety of ways. As I mentioned before, we have better opportunities to implement the proper look and feel each particular site requires. In situations of breaking events, whether regional, national or international, our designers can very quickly create packages for all sites, using this template-based system. One designer is capable of completing this task as opposed to more than a dozen sites and staff attempting to do this on their own. As our base of templates grows, so do the possibilities!

The solution is working. As we grow this system and expand its capabilities, we’re ready to react and be flexible.

This is a unique solution being closely monitored by numerous IT systems and personnel to ensure proper operation. As we continue to monitor, it’s expected that we’ll make some adjustments, and that’s fine. Our goal, from the IT side, is to allow MGFX the opportunity to grow, succeed, and provide solutions to our stations, while we work quietly in the background. Count on IT!