XETV's Interoperable Newsroom System

XETV, a Fox affiliate owned by Televisa, provides English-language programming to the San Diego market, with transmitter and master control in Tijuana, Mexico.

Fox network feeds have landing rights to be downlinked by satellite directly to Tijuana, but syndicated programming and commercials are bicycled across the border from San Diego. The live news and sports broadcasts are uplinked by satellite to Tijuana to be integrated with commercials in the master control.

A live newscast such as XETV's - with fast-paced graphics, animation and sound effects - can only be done with tightly integrated systems. That is exactly what XETV has installed in its new facility, a brand new building constructed on its San Diego property.

Design considerations XETV wanted to expand its programming lineup in the San Diego market, but had neither the facilities nor the staff to produce live newscasts. Both had to be developed from scratch. The station chose TV Magic as its systems integrator because they had previously worked together on the construction of edit and graphics suites in XETV's existing facilities.

After studying several options, the project team determined that the most expeditious and cost-effective plan was to build an additional facility on the station's existing property. Basic design philosophy for the new building included a primarily digital and server-based news and production system to be integrated with XETV's existing combination of analog and digital production equipment.

XETV desired a tapeless facility since they felt this would provide flexibility, minimize obsolescence and provide a better return on their investment. It could also be constructed with significantly less square footage.

Another important criterion was bandwidth scalability. XETV records in both DVCPRO25 and DVCPRO50 and desired a system that could scale up to HDTV in the future. They also wanted the ability to browse low-resolution video and form low-resolution proxy edits.

The project team chose the iNEWS (formerly Avstar Systems LLC) NRCS as the front end for journalists' workstations and the core of the newsroom production system. Grass Valley Group Profiles were chosen for the backend production side and the iNEWS BCS provided connectivity between the two.

XETV felt that these systems would allow an efficient newsroom workflow, from ingest, editing and rundown creation to storage and playback.

The new building The first floor of the new 25,000-square-foot facility houses areas related to news production, including the news studio, production control rooms for video and audio/camera shading, central equipment room, news and technical operations centers (TOCs), and tape library. The second floor contains the newsroom, three news and one sports edit suite, weather office, sports office with a small Sports TOC, and small active tape library. All of the areas on the second floor were configured and designed to show on-air. The third floor holds the graphics and operations and promotions/production edit rooms.

Technical facilities The news studio uses five Hitachi SK-2700 digital cameras. Three of the cameras are set up as full studio cameras with QTV WinQ Pro teleprompters systems. A weather area equipped with a large chromakey screen is located to the side of the main set in the studio.

Central to the video control room is the Philips DD35 digital video switcher, which controls the Pinnacle DVExtreme effects unit, integrated router control, edit controller interface, tally system and router assignable RS-422 machine control. It also triggers the Profile play-to-air server and a Pinnacle Thunder server. The automation control system sequences the Pinnacle FX Deko CG and Pinnacle Lightning still store. The video control room also doubles as an edit room.

In the audio control and camera shading room a Wheatstone TV-80 audio console outfitted with 22 mono inputs and 10 stereo inputs is used for live news mixing in stereo. An analog console was chosen since most of the sources are still analog. Audio DAs and A/D converters were integrated to allow easy interfacing with digital audio devices. The audio control room also doubles as a news edit room.

Sennheiser UHF wireless mics are used, and processed through Symetrix 528E mic processors for consistent sound quality.

The central equipment room houses the Philips Venus routing system, which routes parallel paths of digital video and analog video as one. Digital audio and analog audio follow. Assignable A/D and D/A converters are used to exploit the routing system's path-finding capabilities.

The video control room can function as a virtual edit suite by assigning any combination of machines, video, audio, machine control and TBC control to that room. With the Profile servers set to BVW-75 control protocols, as many as 10 available channels of Profile can also be utilized in this capacity if desired.

Three Profiles with DV codecs are used - one for play-to-air of the finished news pieces, and another as a news edit and ingest Profile and as a mirrored backup of the first. Both of these have DVCPRO50 codecs and nine hours of recording storage. Another Profile, with a DVCPRO25 codec, is used to record satellite, microwave, fiber and off-air feeds on a 12-hour continuous loop. Before it reaches the end, the material is transferred to the editing system or moved to tape, depending on the material.

Manual Profile control is handled by a VDR remote control panel located with each Profile in the central equipment room and in News TOC.

The TOCs manage incoming and outgoing feeds from the facility. News TOC handles incoming feeds from ENG microwave, off-air, off-satellite, fiber and network. Sports TOC manages the sports feeds, while Operations TOC manages syndicated programs and incoming commercials.

Production Control Rooms A, B and C on the third floor are used for promotion/production and graphics and were relocated, expanded and re-integrated from XETV's other facility. All of these can share resources from each other and the rest of the plant.

Integrated newsroom workflow The second floor newsroom contains eight pods, each with four journalists' workstations. Additional iNEWS computers are located at the assignment desk, sports and weather offices, and in the news director's office. Adjacent to the newsroom, edit suites employing NewsCutter editing systems are used for news and sports.

The station's ENG trucks use Panasonic DVCPRO50 ENG camcorders for field acquisition. When feeds are microwaved to the station, they are received in the News TOC and recorded onto the newsfeed Profile or DVCPRO50 and transferred to NewsCutter if needed. Feeds can of course be taken live as well.

In addition, San Diego is heavily wired for fiber optics, allowing feeds to be sent to the station via fiber. ProChannel and cell phones provide IFB communications from the newsroom to the ENG trucks.

Tapes brought back to the station can be inserted directly into storage for editing or into the news edit Profile for low-res browse and then to storage. Voice-overs are usually done right in the edit rooms.

After a story is edited, the DV file is pushed to the play-to-air Profile via copper and optical Fibre Channel. At the same time, the clip name created in the editing system is carried through to the Profile and to the automation system, where it is available to be entered into and controlled by the show rundown.

Meanwhile, in the newsroom, the journalists write their stories on PC workstations running Windows NT, all connected via LAN to the news server, a Compaq Unix server and the automation server.

During the newscast, BCS is used to control the playback of the play-to-air Profile clips and maintains a dynamic link with the news rundown. If there are any changes in the rundown (including story deletions), the clips are automatically re-ordered.

While BCS can be used to control the Profiles to actually roll the clips, XETV employs a clip operator for that purpose. The clip operator works in the News TOC and can use a remoted Profile VDR control panel there to manually call up and play clips if needed. Three channels are used from the play-to-air Profile and two from the mirrored Profile.

The system also controls one channel of the character generator and is controlled by the CG operator. In the future, it will control the still store using MOS protocol.

The Sunday Sports Show uses the same setup as news. The sports rundown and associated playlist are loaded during a 90-second break after news, facilitating a seamless transition into the sports show.

The live newscast is uplinked by satellite to the Tijuana master control room, where commercials are inserted. During the news, XETV uses the intercom to make an international telephone call between the news control room and master control room to coordinate commercial insertion. The ENG/SNG truck is being used for the satellite uplink until other arrangements can be completed.

Expansion plans The functionality of the iNEWS system will be expanded with the addition of Media Browse 2000 and new NewsCutter software later this year. This will allow the journalists' workstations to function as cuts-only editing stations for simultaneous browsing of incoming feeds, raw footage and field coverage in real time. An upcoming Media Browse release will allow XETV to stream edited news packages to the Web.

The success of the integration of XETV's newsroom systems has allowed the station to expand its news offerings. Additionally, the station was future-proofed, allowing for expansion without additions to the core infrastructure.

Although most of XETV's news staff have had no previous experience with server-based newsroom and nonlinear editing systems, their creativity and the flexibility of the overall systems and design enabled them to quickly start pushing the system capabilities.

The system's flexibility and interoperability continues to result in the creation of exciting and unique newscasts.

XETV's news edit work center supports four Avid NewsCutter suites. A router control station and complete patching of all related signals enables integrated or stand-alone operation.