Beehive Systems’ isle’wiz allowed Sahara TV Network to create instant graphics depicting voting statistics during the 2004 Parliamentay elections in India.
When the elections are on, it gets the adrenalin flowing of more than just the candidates. It's an equally challenging task for the TV news channels that have to be on the leading edge of coverage to stay ahead of the competition and win the ratings race. They need to do this by breaking the news first, and by providing news that has depth in analysis and lucidity in presentation.
Sahara TV Network, a 24-hour, free-to-air national satellite news channel in India, is familiar with this challenge. Last spring, it was faced with providing exclusive live coverage and analyses of the 2004 Parliamentary elections in India — the largest democracy in the world, with a population of 1 billion. National elections in India cover 35 states and union territories with 543 constituencies and 70,0121 polling stations. In the fray are more than 55 political parties and more than 5000 candidates.
Considering this scale, region-by-region elections coverage for the channel using its existing system would have required the manual creation of hundreds of graphics and charts illustrating candidate profiles across India, statistics and facts on various political parties, historical data on each party from previous elections, data that compares various candidates and parties, and exit poll and final national and state-wide results in real time.
Once the news personnel would have created the graphics, the data would be manually fed onto hundreds of templates. However, the manual handling of data and graphics creation pose several problems:
- It blocks the manpower for the creation of graphics and entering data for days on end when otherwise they could be involved in more valuable projects.
- It is expensive.
- There is difficulty in creating graphics instantly to accommodate an on-the-spot analysis or a discussion.
- Manually created graphics limit the display of multiple zones of information at one time on the screen.
- It doesn't allow the flexibility to display data in a variety of ways.
- There is a need for multiple playout machines if multiple information is to be displayed on one screen.
- Manual work increases the scope for error and reduces efficiency over a period of time.
As a result, the channel needed a graphics system that would allow it to achieve first-to-air capacity, avoid the manual creation of graphics and feeding of data, enable the display of graphics as multiple video streams without using multiple playout machines and create instant graphics whenever there is a need during a live discussion or analysis.
The solution was Beehive Systems' isle-wiz, a graphics content creation and automation system. The system allows users to create full-frame graphics, bugs and lower-third crawls with 2-D DVE effects. Users then can link these elements to “islands” to be updated from anywhere in a network, either manually or from a database, and playout the graphics as a video stream.
The system consists of four modules:
- Island Designer: This module is used for the creation of templates for the display output. The on-screen location of islands of information is defined, and the on-air duration for each island can be specified.
- Program Designer: This module supports an integrated development environment, allowing the creation of islands of text, effects and their linkage to a collection as its data source. The text can be assigned to the desired x, y coordinates for on-screen location. The island fields can be linked to any standard database.
- Web Data Entry Module: The Web module allows users on the intranet or Internet for manual data entry option. This generates a rundown for the Playout Controller.
- Playout Controller: Playout Controller is the display output software.
Users can pick up programs created for any day and play the program for display. On selection of a program, the Island instance details along with the data embedded for a Zone are displayed.
To implement the system at the news channel, a Beehive team put together a historical database of all elections dating back to the 1950s. In addition, the team mapped the latest census information on to the Parliamentary constituency (PC) level, allowing for more than 300 fields on which queries could be made.
The team then created PC-level geographic information system maps and integrated them with the historical database for detailed analysis. It color-coded each of the 543 constituencies to graphically represent the statistical data reflecting their performance.
Next, the team fed the results from the field on to the database that, in turn, updated the latest score on the side band (used for state tallies) and the ticker, which showed the status of important candidates.
Other tasks the team managed were creating real-time, online graphics with gain/loss calculations; creating full-frame graphics with the latest results, both state-wide and national; and analyzing and dealing with large volumes of data.
The graphics content creation system helped the news channel's election analysts generate round-the-clock live graphics as video streams at the press of a button and integrate them in real-time with data sources — without any programming knowledge. It allowed the channel to set high standards in live and exclusive elections coverage and achieve first-to-air capacity. This resulted in increased viewers and, therefore, increased revenue generation possibilities.
Rashmi Jaju, manager of marketing-communications for Beehive Systems assisted Arup Ghosh at Sahara TV Network in the preparation of this article.