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DVIDS project to put U.S. military into ENG business in Afghanistan, Iraq

Sometime in May, the U.S. military plans to get into the satellite newsgathering business.

Seeking to provide local stations with access to video footage they otherwise couldn’t get, the military has decided to equip existing public affairs units in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan with much of the same news gathering equipment reporters embedded with military units used to gather and transmit reports from the frontlines of the Iraq War.

The military’s $6.3 million foray into satellite newsgathering is called the Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS). According to Lt. Col. William Beckman with the Third Army in Atlanta, DVIDS will rely on five mobile news crews equipped with portable news gathering technology, including Sony PD 170 camcorders, a Nikon D2H still camera, laptop computer with Avid Express DV editing software and the compact Norsat NewsLink 3200 satellite terminal from Norsat International. Initially, one unit will be based in Afghanistan, another in Kuwait and three in Iraq. The Kuwait-based unit eventually will be moved to Iraq, said Beckman.

DVIDS-generated footage, including interviews and B-roll, will be transmitted to a commercial teleport in the Atlanta area. Currently, the military is negotiating for those services. From there it will be distributed to U.S. broadcasters daily.

The DVIDS roll out, which has a tentative target of May 15, will happen in two phases. “Initially, before anyone comes to our Web site, we have to prove to them that we have decent products to use,” explained Beckman. “We will send daily updates via e-mail to the media to let them know these are the things (raw footage) that’s available.” In the second phase of the project, Beckman envisions local stations and networks requesting specific footage. For example, a broadcaster near Fort Riley, Kan., may wish to interview soldiers from the 24th Infantry Division but lack the resources to send from a news crew abroad. The station could contact DVIDS and request the footage be shot. Additionally, the military will build an archive of footage the media can search and download from video servers in Atlanta.

“Bear in mind that this is nothing new,” Beckman explained. “It's no different than what the Pentagon does, distributing military imagery products and coordinating interviews. We are just doing it remotely using advanced technology.”

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