Control Rooms to Computers: Integrated Production

Creative Video of Washington uses a Broadcast Pix Granite Integrated production system for a variety of live event productions around the Washington region.

CAMDENTON, MO.—Productions that once required a costly large truck or control room can now be produced and controlled with a relatively tiny computer-based package, allowing more opportunities and abilities for producers to provide more value. Users and uses of integrated production systems are as varied as the systems themselves.

Based in McLean, Va., Creative Video of Washington, Inc. produces live events across the Washington, D.C. area and recently upgraded from a Broadcast Pix Slate— which it had been using since 2006—to a Broadcast Pix Granite integrated production system. CVW President Kirby Whyte says it has been in “almost constant use” since its October 2012 launch.

When upgrading from SD to HD, CVW chose Granite and built a complete mobile production package around it. Whyte said that’s when they realized how powerful the Granite was. “It was the best decision we ever made,” he said.

“The advantage to the Granite Server is that you can build it into your engineering rack and do all the wiring permanently,” said Matthew Eidemiller, CVW vice president of production. CVW loaded a laptop with Chyron Lyric PRO 8 so graphics can be pre-produced independently. The production truck usually includes an engineer and two operators, one for the switcher, the other to handle clips and CG.

Lloyd Lively operates Rushworks’ A-LIST and VDESK for the city of Baytown, Texas.

“No two jobs are the same,” Eidemiller said. “Having a system that you can customize for each individual job makes our lives a lot easier.”

For-A continues to introduce integrated production products, including two new video production switchers with multiviewers, the HVS-XT100 and HVS-XT110, designed for live in-studio or OB news or sports events. Other For- A products for integration include a sophisticated turnkey real-time CG, a variety of virtual studio systems, signal processors, color correctors, frame syncs and routing switchers.

For-A also makes SmartDirect, a complete video production system that allows a single operator to easily create an entire show.

In the TV news industry, Grass Valley’s integrated production solution clearly launched a revolution in local broadcast news show production. More than 120 Ignite Automated Production Systems are on the air worldwide, including a recent Ignite sale to ESPN for its new HD Digital Center 2 broadcast facility in Bristol, Conn., which should be complete by this spring.

A complete link between the control room and newsroom, Ignite enables broadcasters to produce tighter, cleaner, more consistent productions with fewer technical errors. It integrates all the sources of the control room, such as the switcher, audio console, camera control and graphics stations, and puts it all at the control of a single operator.

Ignite can tie multiple systems together, including audio mixers, video servers, graphics and camera robotics, giving the operator full control of all the mechanical elements of a show. Ignite can also be scaled, allowing users to choose the level of automation that fits a station’s workflow and environment.

Some say that NewTek invented integrated video production with the introduction of the Video Toaster in the late ’80’s. The “Toaster” integrated live switching, amazing digital video effects, titling, keying, video paint, still store, and 3D animation with LightWave software, all running on a Commodore Amiga. Although the Toaster won a Technical Emmy in 1993, Commodore discontinued the Amiga a year later and NewTek regrouped. Today, NewTek continues on the leading edge and has grown a large and passionate user base that provides valuable feedback.

Ellen Camloh, senior director, worldwide product marketing and sales enablement for the San Antonio-Texas based company, sees three trends driving the integrated production market. One is live access to local and remote media assets, from streaming to IP cameras. Second is the freedom to create multi-layered compositions with live video and effects normally only available during video editing. Third is multichannel video delivery. Many users need separately branded simultaneous live streams and the trend is growing, according to Camloh.

“The TriCaster can set up macros for template production and can use MIDI for control,” she said. “Macros can be set up so anyone can use it.”

Founded in 1697, Manhattan’s historic Trinity Church recently upgraded to a For-A HVS-390HS video switcher to be used for 450–500 productions annually.

NewTek’s products fall in three categories: A broad line of TriCaster production switchers, 3Play slow motion, and instant replay system and LightWave 3D animation and visual effects software.

Ross Video in Iroquois, Ontario, which recently added the tagline “Production Technology Experts” to an updated logo, entered the integrated production market with its Carbonite Studio Systems.

“The Carbonite Studio System can include integrated graphics, a production switcher and video playback,” said Les O’Reilly, Ross Video’s marketing product manager for technical, switchers and openTruck. “Carbonite is unique because its view-control system is built in.” The built-in view control system can be a touchscreen controlled by Ross Video’s Dashboard, which can be programmed with custom GUIs to make custom user interfaces, accessing the power and effects of the system without having to know how to set them up. The user simply touches the picture on the Dashboard screen to make it happen.

O’Reilly said many customers are “looking to integrate production with flexibility.” At Ross, that includes the flexibility to add inputs. One client embracing the Ross Video approach is ESPN3, which carries many collegiate sports events, most originated and produced by the school providing home field. For this purpose, “Inputs can add up fast,” O’Reilly says. Many collegiate sports conferences have standardized on Carbonite, according to O’Reilly. Graphics consistency and visual branding is provided by integrating XPression, Ross Video’s 3D HD CG and motion graphics system.

Rushworks in Flower Mound, Texas, is known for its VDesk integrated PTZ production system that simplifies multi-camera production with no camera operators required. Rushworks’ A-List Broadcast Automation System is a “powerfully simple” low cost, high performance solution supporting up to four channels of SD/HD. Many users create and edit schedules remotely, sending files via FTP to the A-List system.

As Rushworks owner Rush Beesley explains, “The very definition of automation is to reduce the number of humans required to perform a task. As evidenced by post-recession economics, many companies learned that they could indeed operate well and profitably, with reduced headcount, without sacrificing productivity.”