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KRON move to file-based workflow, VJs ushers in cultural, organizational changes

The move from a tape- to file-based workflow and an associated change in newsroom organization and culture punctuated the transition to Video Journalist at KRON 4 in San Francisco as traditional news acquisition and editing were replaced with one-man-bands equipped to take full advantage of new digital realities, according to a paper presented at NAB2006.

In their paper, “Files to Video Journalists, a Case Study of Organizational Change At KRON 4 in San Francisco,” KRON chief engineer Craig Porter and Fred Fourcher lay out the tape-based methodology of news production formerly used at the station and the new file-based approached introduced in September 2005.

KRON, which airs 8.5 hours of news every weekday — more than 50 hours per week — has successfully reorganized how it uses its news resources, moving away from a traditional newsgathering setup with eight vans and 20 two-person crew to 45 VJs or video journalists with “everyone having electronic contribution capability,” the pair said in their paper. That translates into an abundance of content submitted daily — so much, in fact, that about 30 percent of the stories don’t get aired. “By selecting the top 70 percent each day,” the paper said, “KRON is delivering its viewers the highest quality content available.”

The station’s VJs acquire footage with a variety of cameras and edit stories on a laptop. Stories are saved as 8Mb/s MPEG-2 Long GOP files and submitted via broadband connection to the station. SD stories typically take from 3x to 6x the story duration to transmit, the paper said.

KRON currently is testing WiMax (IEEE 802.16) to achieve higher data rates and possibly provide part of the solution for HD file backhaul, the paper said. A local ISP is rolling out a WiMAX network and has 20 pickup towers, according to the authors.

The maximum working distance between the user and the WiMax towers is 20 miles. Customers can buy fully duplex transmission rates of up to 7Mb/s, and a VJ using this approach would set up a 1sq ft antenna on a tripod and point it at one of the 20 towers, according to the paper.

Raw video resides on an editing server that can support 20 simultaneous DV 25 sessions or 50 8Mb/s MPEG-2 sessions. Video is organized by the day of week, and as footage ages, it’s automatically moved off the editing server after seven days. According to the authors, archived material is available via the Bit Central Précis system. Journalists have access to all content since late September 2005 when the station made the transition.

According to the authors, the biggest change to manage was organizational and cultural, not technological. However, after four months, the authors report that none of the station’s VJs said they would prefer to revert to the old news acquisition and production system.

After the transition, the station operates in the field at a lower cost and in a way that allows news to be filed faster. Reliance on wireless broadband connection for most filing means the station “is not constrained to locations served by their microwave and can contribute from anywhere with bandwidth,” the authors said. The change to a file-based workflow fueled by VJs has been a “quantum change” over competitive approaches and transformed the station’s news operation, according to the papers.

To read the NAB2006 paper in its entirety, visit www.bitcentral.com/documents/KRONOrganizationalChange4.28.06.pdf.

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