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WLS-TV Chicago newsroom automation

When we were looking for new automation technology for our newsroom, we decided early on that the selection criteria had to be determined jointly by the news and engineering departments. We had several requirements for the new system in order to improve workflow. It had to handle 12 record channels for microwave and satellite feeds, eight channels of tape ingest for tape-based acquisition, six channels of news playout and four channels of auxiliary playout for satellite uplinks. The system also needed to be able to accept file transfers of ABC NewsOne content delivered by Pathfire to servers in the facility, and provide journalists with low-resolution, browse-and-edit capability at their workstations.

In the end, we chose a Thomson Grass Valley system that incorporated an Avid layer for ingest and playout control and low-res edit/browse. Avid Capture Manager controls 20 channels of both low-res and hi-res recordings. Twelve channels are used for general-purpose recordings, like microwave feeds and satellite feeds.

The hardware for the low-res side consists of 20 channels of IPV SpectreView 1.5MB encoders that feed 3TB of low-res SAN. Two additional channels provide scavenge operations. Three SQL database servers and three video playout servers form the core of the system.

The high-resolution side consists of two 13TB Thomson Grass Valley MAN systems for redundancy. There is an X side and a Y side. Each side is connected via Fibre Channel to 30 I/O channels of Profile XP spread over five XP units. Twenty of these channels are used for ingest.

More than 300 pieces of ABC NewsOne content are received each day via Pathfire and automatically sent to a Telestream FlipFactory transcoding server. The transcoder seamlessly and automatically converts the files to Thomson Grass Valley MPEG-2 format and deposits the media and metadata in a folder in the MAN, making them immediately available to the news editing team.

Desktop low-res editing is done via MediaBrowse. The high-res editing is done on 10 NewsEdit platforms. A typical edit room will have an SX playback/record VTR for tape-based acquisition. Rough-cut low-res material may be OMF'ed to a NewsEdit room for finishing.

News playback is controlled via Avid Control Air servers. We use six channels, with one of the channels left in reserve for late breaking stories. The system integrates with the rundowns, and a news show is “reserved” to a particular rundown. Changes in the rundown are then reflected in the Control Air display.

The new file transfer automation technology has enabled WLS-TV to replace cumbersome handling of tape with a faster, more convenient LAN-based media transfer solution.

Kal Hassan is director of engineering for WLS-TV in Chicago.