Editing close to air

Beyond traditional craft editing, fast turnaround technology is available for news and sports.
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Many people associate the word editing with post production. The majority of programs and all commercials go through the traditional sequence of shot-logging, offline and online editing that is post production. The workflow has evolved with the transition from tape to nonlinear, but the tasks remain within the gift of the craft editor.

However, for many broadcast operations, other considerations are more important. It could be speed of turnaround with news and sport. For a busy promotions department, it may be the need to make simple cuts-only edits without calling on a fully-trained craft editor. For traffic, a program may need cuts to remove unsuitable sequences, or segmenting for commercial breaks.

The power of PCs means that many basic editing functions can now be done from the desktop. In the drive to improve efficiencies, broadcasters expect a wider group of their workforce to perform simple editing tasks. For these other tasks, the requirements are different. News and sport need to edit on a shared storage, and they require a range of user interfaces from simple logging up to craft editing — all with a common look and feel.

The simpler tasks of traffic and promos require an editor with limited functionality. It needs to be something that anyone can use without in-depth training.

Skill level

Any operation that involves cutting video was once the preserve of the craft editor but the next generation of new workers to the industry grew up editing short movies as a hobby or at school. A basic knowledge of picture editing is now just as much a part of education as is learning to use a word processor. This Web generation enters the world of work feeling absolutely comfortable with technology.

Older staff come from a background where there was greater division between roles. Although a major network will still find it more efficient for staff to retain distinct roles — reporter, journalist, producer and craft editor — smaller operations need their staff to be multi-skilled. A video journalist at a local TV station may have to shoot and light their interviews, then return to base to edit and voice the story.

The realm of options

Many rapid-turnaround edit system vendors sell a range of edit workstations to suit a variety of skills.

The basic workstation may operate at browse resolution and support cuts editing. This can be used for metadata entry, rough cuts, shot selection and logging.

At the next stage, a journalist station again uses a proxy, but supports simple dissolves and voice-over.

The fully featured workstation edits full-resolution video and can add multi-layer effects. This would typically be used by a craft editor. A key design feature is that all the workstations have a similar look and feel, enabling staff to move freely from one station to another. (See Figure 1.)

Many current program styles feature fast production turnaround. Sport, reality shows and games shows use highlight packages as an integral part of the program. These must be cut while the action is taking place, often to show in a wrap-up at the close of the program. These applications need powerful editing platforms, but they also need features like the ability to edit on a SAN and simplicity of operation so that multi-skilled production staff can edit material without calling on a specialist.

Logging

Shot logging was a traditional task that took place before the offline edit. With fast-paced reality shows and sport, shot logging is all part of the condensed workflow that can deliver edited packages while a live event is still on-air.

Workstations may be manned by production (rather than post) staff that may lack the skills of a craft editor. They will, however, be familiar with the program content and will know which clips to select for a package, so what they need is a cut down editor with an intuitive user interface.

Server-based editing

Given a high-bandwidth network and a high-performance server, media clips can be edited on the SAN or server. Using this architecture means no local copies of media are stored on workstations, which would conflict with the goal of collaborative working. The edit workstation renders dissolves and effects from server files and records the file to the server ready to air. By avoiding file transfers between workstations and the server, valuable time is saved.

Fast editing needs careful design of the relationship between the NLE and the storage to ensure proper allocation of resources.

Proxy editing

Editing a proxy is the basis of offline editing, with the EDL forwarded to the online editor. Modern media management systems can automatically edit the full-resolution material to conform to the cuts made on a low-resolution proxy. In a manner similar to offline editing, operators can edit proxy video at a desktop PC, with the resulting EDL used to auto-conform the broadcast resolution file directly on a video server. Only if necessary do the final broadcast files need to be finessed by a craft editor.

Vendors implement the process in different ways, but typically an EDL or AAF file is sent to the auto-conform server, and the source clips are assembled with rendered effects and dissolves to form the edited segment. If handles are left on all the source clips before and after a transition, a craft editor can pick up the job and enhance the segment, or add effects.

News and sport

News and sport editing have much in common. The editing is a collaboration, and the turnaround time is short. A job may be passed between several operators, and there may also be a final stage of craft editing if effects are needed.

The close collaboration dictates that the editing workstations all access the same pool of material on shared storage, generally a SAN. To get the best performance, the editing workstations and the SAN must operate together as a unitary system. This generally rules out third-party storage.

The system resources should allow live recording without frame dropping. Playback of full-resolution video again must be in real time without frame dropping. The data network needs to support the full bandwidth requirements of all the attached workstations without the packet loss and variable latency of a congested network.

For rapid-turn stories, the storage must support play while recording. That way as soon ingest starts, the operators can start viewing and editing the material. Generic IT storage does not support read-while-write. This is the domain of specialist video storage. Vendors have different ways to provide this functionality, often by splitting files into short chunks so that an index (which is required to read the file) is available soon after recording starts.

Not all editing needs to be at the full broadcast resolution. Much of the shot selection can be made at a lower browse resolution. This saves network resources and local workstation processing capabilities. (See Figure 2.)

News

The demands of 24-hour news mean that the luxury of craft editing is reserved for special stories. For most news items, the journalist is expected to cut his or her own story. Usually a reporter must be able to select shots, cut and voice a story from his or her workstation. The terminal may also run the newsroom computer system (NRCS), or an adjacent workstation can be used. Stories may be forwarded to a craft editor if effects or graphics need to be added.

There are two approaches to implement such a system. One is to use basic journalist editing stations, often part of the NRCS, with third-party craft editors. The other is to use the graded features approach, where the vendor provides a range of workstations from cut-only browse through to full-resolution SAN-based craft editors.

This wide variety of architectures allow for a choice of NRCS, a choice of workflows and the differing needs of the broadcaster from a major newsroom down to a local news provider.

Sport

Sports highlight and package editing has similar requirements to news, save the need to integrate with an NRCS. Unlike news, which is concerned with illustrating a story, sports coverage follows an event. The task is to identify the highlights as the action unfolds.

The relevant highlights need to be tagged so an editor can assemble the package quickly. A sports logging terminal is used to annotate the action as it happens. Some broadcasters have written their own applications for this task.

Another approach is for production personnel to tag live content with sports-specific metadata. As the event unfolds, operators can select highlights by player, goal, scores — whatever criterion is appropriate — and assemble a cuts-only package for editing. For fast turnaround sports coverage, the cuts-only edit may be dispensed with and highlights delivered straight to a craft editor.

Once the clips have been logged, the editing processes are then similar to news: cut, voice and air the segment as fast as possible. For this reason, sports highlight programming is often cut with similar equipment to news. Again like news, the alternative is to use a cuts-only system with third-party craft editing equipment.

Playout

Away from the world of fast-paced events are the processes of transmitting programs. The need is efficiency and minimal cost. Promos must be created from programs, and the programs may need segmenting or editing. For many channels, craft editing is too expensive, so much of the work must be undertaken my multi-skilled operators using simple proxy editors.

Essentially, many of these tasks can be performed on the same systems that have been designed for sports and news. The editing workstations have intuitive interfaces, which can be learned in a few days. The range of workstations — from browse to effects editing — means that, if needed, content can be finished by a craft editor all in the same environment.

A different approach can be taken, where a browse solution, perhaps linked to the media management, is used for rough cuts and an EDL exported to a conventional craft editor.

Summary

Close-to-air editing for sports and news has a different set of requirements than post production. Speed and ease-of-use is more important than the number layers that can be composited or the range of effects that can be applied. To deliver the required performance for collaborative editing on the SAN, the storage must be an integral part of the design. The user interface should be simple to learn and operate to support the multiple skills necessary to deliver improved operating efficiencies.

For playout applications, proxy editing from an office PC is key to cost-savings in promo creation and general program preparation for air.

Many products now exist that allow editing outside the traditional craft editing environment. Exploiting a combination of proxy video, metadata exchange and high-performance storage systems allows a wider production workforce to perform simple editing of material.