As visual and interactive expectations of audiences grow, studios are faced with the challenge of creating and delivering news productions that adapt to and incorporate forward-thinking innovations. These may include such things as 3-D graphics and streams embedded with live video content, as well as interactive, in-studio video walls. The challenge is to produce real-time motion graphics and incorporate 2D/3-D graphics with live or archived video content, Web content or various other real-time streams — all while providing the talent with easy-to-use, multi-touch functionality to deliver compelling content.
This complex broadcast environment requires a tool that offers an open framework to seamlessly integrate with a newsroom graphics production infrastructure. This challenge also requires a graphics engine that delivers a nonlinear and high-end authoring environment paired with control functionality for a wide range of external components.
One such tool is Ventuz Broadcast, an on-air graphics and virtual design tool from Ventuz Technology. This open and flexible authoring environment provides the building blocks for the integration of 2D/3-D content (graphics, video, objects and text) and animation. Its nonlinear nature allows news production teams to make changes during any point of the news production cycle, in real time. This software is built around a concept that allows it to interact with any interface — whether it be touch screens, interactive video walls, USB devices or different control devices.
The software runs on standard Windows hardware and integrates seamlessly with other software. Therefore, creative boundaries and complex newsroom presentations are limited only by hardware power.
Ventuz Broadcast graphics creation software is designed around Microsoft DirectX, a collection of APIs for handling a variety of multimedia tasks. The software development team chose this platform due to its ability to provide facilities with the freedom of individual hardware choice, thus removing technology barriers.
Each broadcast facility is able to take full advantage of the functionality of its existing professional equipment, while incorporating an updated broadcast graphics pipeline. Custom hardware options, bundled as a turnkey solution, are also available, depending on the size, desired capacity of power and scalability of the newsroom presentation. This type of software offers a wide range of possibilities to further modernize the way newscasters interact with each other, with their content and ultimately, their audience.
Broadcasters can offer viewers more breadth and depth of news by integrating real-time content of local, national and international news into their on-air programming in addition to interactivity. The Ventuz tool allows the easy combination of common broadcast graphics with interactive technology. The nonlinear approach of the software provides the newsroom presenters the freedom to choose topics and corresponding imagery or video clips; they are not dependent on the control room personnel to make changes.
During news delivery, a news anchor now has the ability to use a newsdesk touch screen, which can be a mirrored version of what is visible on the video wall. This use of the touch screens in the newsroom enhances an already profitable business model for broadcasters, enabling them to introduce new forms of programming as they adapt content to provide viewers with a more immersive experience.
The complexities of a content-rich news production and presentation are reduced with software features. Production capabilities and composition tools integrate 2D or 3-D elements, fonts and multi-layer textures and text effects; import content (2D/3-D, audio, video, graphics); and crawl/roll/ticker elements. Also, real-time data imports of databases, live RSS feeds and time code are possible, as are asynchronous updates of images and XML.
In addition, the software allows reporters to state logic for creating animations: Instead of defining the animation on a timeline, this software enables users to create states of an object. For example, in state 1, the object is in position 1, with a scaling of 1 and opacity of 1; in state 2, the object is in position 2, etc. Users can create as many states as needed, and then link the states to certain triggers. Thus, complex animations can be created that work well with interactive setups.
The software also offers reporters keying, remote, export and publishing functions. It is configured with an SDI fill and key signal to perform live key creations routed to a digital switcher or external keyer. It also has the ability to pass content, commands, assets from external applications or data sources to the graphics software engine. This is ideal for use with standard templates — a regular occurrence in a news production. Its export and publishing functions can be used for preparing backup and runtime archives of newsroom productions. Additionally, a scripting feature grants access to a comprehensive scripting environment for newsroom engineers, editors and programmers to develop unique components or properties for their specific facility’s newsroom presentation requirements.
The tool offers straightforward setup of interactive presentations in all its forms: single touch, multi-touch with as many touch points as the hardware can handle, touch translation and live drawing for telestrators. Multi-display on the product allows users to display content seamlessly across as many monitors as are required, and the software is resolution-independent for use on video walls of any size and any format.
The Ventuz broadcast software is available in two versions — The Designer, which is an authoring and design tool, and Runtime, which serves as a player for 3-D graphics. Additionally, with the next software generation, to be released in the first half of this year, Ventuz
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Director will be introduced. Director is a content authoring and show control tool using timelines, templates and pages to enable established broadcast graphics workflows.
Software tools such as Ventuz Broadcast offer a wide range of possibilities to further modernize the way in which newscasters interact with each other, their content and the viewing audience. With a more flexible approach to the delivery of information comes the possibility of including viewer participation, such as text messages and social media feeds. With control over the graphics and imagery at their discretion, newscasters can easily cater to the audiences’ interests, resulting in greater viewer engagement and retention.
—Erik Beaumont is product manager at Ventuz.