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The Boston Red Sox aren't the only ones in Beantown offering up a triple play. Master control at WBZ-TV, Boston's CBS owned-and-operated station, also operates WSBK-TV in Boston and WLWC-TV in New Bedford, MA. In January, WBZ moved to a tapeless workflow, giving staffers the ability to get content on-air with greater speed and efficiency.

From the field to the station

Soon WBZ hopes to go tapeless in the field with Sony XDCAM HD units that will operate in SD mode. For the time being, material is shot on Panasonic DVCPRO portable cameras. Footage is then brought into the station on tape, or via satellite or microwave, and ingested into an Avid AirSpeed ingest system. From there, content is transferred into a 64TB Avid Unity ISIS shared storage solution, which is capable of storing 2200 hours of fully protected video content.

Within 20 seconds of ingest, the content is available for use by all producers, reporters and editors working on the station's nine Avid NewsCutter Adrenaline editing systems, five Media Composer editing suites and 10 iNEWS Instinct journalist editing systems. Forty Avid Interplay Assist systems allow reporters and members of the production staff to log and mark shots for projects that will be edited on the other systems.

Any video asset can be pushed from the shared storage to the ingest system for immediate playback to air, even while the file is transferring. Transfers are faster-than-real-time as files are pushed across a dedicated gigabit network. Video content is also repurposed to support the WBZ and WSBK Web sites.

Telestream FlipFactory exchanges content seamlessly between the shared storage and other formats such as Discreet-, Mac- and Omneon-based graphic systems. Five Media Composer Adrenaline systems flip promotions for the three stations seamlessly into the Omneon Spectrum servers for on-air playback.

Building a more efficient newsroom

According to Jack Barry, WBZ's director of broadcast operations and engineering, the implementation of the new nonlinear workflow is an ongoing process that began in September 2006, when the station first expanded its use of the Adrenaline systems into the newsroom. Previously, these systems were used only for promotional and long-form editing projects.

The planning for a tapeless news workflow system began three years ago. Internally, the station segmented its LAN structure to add fiber and GigE interconnects for an iNEWS system. The station's bureaus in Worcester, MA, and New Hampshire are connected via fiber and telco.

Both bureau locations now use NewsCutter editing systems. The move was prompted by potential workflow improvements and reduced risks of tape-based editing and on-air playback.

Now, with all editorial content stored on a centralized server, producers, reporters and editors can access all media assets at any time. Graphics created on Adobe After Effects and Photoshop can also reside on the server, without the need to run a CD or tape with a graphic or animation from one suite to another. Currently, editors retrieve graphics from an Apple Xserve server.

The end result is a quicker, more efficient pace of work where many people across various departments can access material at the same time, without having to wait for another person or a tape. This is an invaluable feature that allows, for example, reporters and producers to write and view a story, while the promotions department builds teasers for the newscast at the same time. With the need to generate news content for WBZ and WSBK simultaneously, as well as promotional spots for WLWC, flexibility and easy access to footage across the enterprise is important.

In addition, stories can be easily updated. Video included in a package for the 5 p.m. newscast is quickly swapped out and replaced with unused shots to freshen the story for a later newscast.

Managing workflow, managing change

With so many users and so many video, graphic, animation and Web-based files, Interplay provides a single management layer across the Unity ISIS system and all applications in the newsroom. The system supports more than 100 file types, both media and non-media, SD and HD, allowing the station to move multiresolution video, Microsoft Office documents, After Effects and Photoshop layered files, MPEGs, TIFFs, spreadsheets and other content. For end users, that means a single application can be seen as a control point.

An iNEWS Instinct journalist editing system is fully integrated with the Interplay engine. The system was designed to allow journalists and other nontechnical newsroom staff to contribute to the production process. Reporters and producers can easily select video and link it to portions of a script as they write, bridging the gap between text and video and between the newsroom and production workflows. The newsroom staff creates rough cuts at their desktops, lessening the amount of time needed for editors to finish the story at their workstations.

Both new staffers and newsroom veterans are adjusting to working without videotapes and to using the new tools to continue producing high-quality daily newscasts. Each employee is given a slice of server space. It takes time to adopt a new mindset, as employees had to learn, for example, that a mirrored backup server means there is no need to dual-record incoming feeds.

The nonlinear production system has ended the days of inserting and ejecting videotapes in multiple VTRs. Once content is aired, the file is then moved over to a StorageTek robotic data tape archive system managed by redundant SGL FlashNet and Interplay archive servers.

But, videotape is not in the past at WBZ — yet. At least for the foreseeable future, Sony Betacam decks and DVCPRO decks will be available in the edit suites for accessing older material that isn't archived in the StorageTek system.

While it may be impossible to archive the hundreds of thousands of hours of videotaped material already on premise, the goal is to move as much future content as possible to a tapeless production and archive system. All on-air news material is archived on a daily basis, making it easily available for the future.

WBZ's IT manager, Greg Raso, was heavily involved in the tapeless transition, providing expertise for integrating the broadcast equipment into the IT infrastructure and also enforcing corporate IT policies. Raso ensured that the network topology of the tapeless production solution was able to sustain the necessary bandwidth to all users while maintaining a secure and fault-tolerant environment.

The next step: Full-scale HD news acquisition

The evolution toward a tapeless newsroom will continue in 2007 when WBZ moves to an HD tapeless acquisition. Sony XDCAM Blu-ray disc-based camera systems will be put in place as part of a corporate move to transition the stations over to the XDCAM system. Within a year of the move, the station expects to embrace HD throughout the news production process. Avid's DN×HD codec allows the Adrenaline systems to transition to HD with a simple addition of a DNxcel board.

The eventual move to HD will build on the steps the station has already taken. In late 2005, WBZ, with the help of Beck Associates, overhauled its control room with a Sony MVS-8000 SD/HD production switcher, Samsung flat-panel LCD monitors and an Avitech multiviewer. The station also added five Sony HDC-910 HD cameras.

The impact of the transition to HD is small, however, when compared with the move to an all-digital nonlinear workflow. The successful switchover, in terms of impact on the news production efficiency and the way staffers go about creating multiple newscasts as well as promotional spots for three stations daily, has meant a remarkable transformation for WBZ and its sister stations.

More importantly, it has transformed the way viewers consume the news, as they receive more timely and informative reports that can make the difference in a morning commute or emergency situation.

Ken Kerschbaumer is an industry consultant for the professional video and broadcast technology industries.

Design team

Jack Barry, director of broadcast operations and engineering
Manny Ferreira, engineering crew chief
Greg Raso, IT manager
Robert Yankowitz, RF systems manager

Technology at work

After Effects graphics software
Photoshop graphics software

Apple Xserve server

AirSpeed ingest system
iNEWS Instinct editing system, ControlAir and Command
Interplay Assist archive
Media Composer editing suites
NewsCutter Adrenaline NLE
Unity ISIS storage

Avitech multiviewer

Omneon Spectrum media servers

Panasonic DVCPRO cameras

Samsung flat-panel LCD monitors

SGL FlashNet archive

StorageTek robotic data tape archive system

HDC-910 HD cameras
MVS-8000 production switcher
XDCAM Blu-ray camera systems

Telestream FlipFactory automation