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KIRO-TV’s automation of news

automation of news

KIRO-TV in Seattle has long known the value that quality technology brings to its viewers and news staff. So, the station made a commitment early in 2003 to bring full digital automation to its newsroom.

Its informal research became serious right away and, after several months, it produced a short list of vendors. The station chose a solution based around its existing Avid iNEWS newsroom computer. It replaced its tape editors with Avid’s NewsCutter, added Avid’s Unity and AirSPACE for a server/airplay system and brought in Sundance Digital’s NewsLink automation to tie them all together, handle playout and assure a growth pathway.

One issue in selecting the news automation was KIRO’s history with Sundance Digital’s FastBreak automation in master control. Another was NewsLink’s highly efficient playout control. A third factor was the range of devices NewsLink could automate into iNEWS: video servers, editors, graphic devices, camera robotics, audio and switchers. KIRO settled on automating playout of its server, still stores, and CGs and elected a staged rollout to begin with its AirSPACEs.

Efficiency was an important requirement. Previously, as many as five devices operated before an assigned story was ready for air. Now the edit moves from each stage while remaining inside the same system.

During the news program itself, adding and dropping stories required many steps to remove old video and insert new video. Even KIRO’s crew could not wrangle tape at this level of competitiveness without the occasional airing of black or wrong content. Now, the producer simply revises the rundown, NewsLink immediately re-stacks clips for the AirSPACE and the right video is always cued and ready. With so much riding on the success of its news, KIRO insisted on physical redundancy for its playout. NewsLink assisted by automatically cuing the same ID in both primary and backup AirSPACE channels, then by gang-rolling them in locked sync.

A key part of KIRO’s look evolved from using taped bumps to break. After the installation was underway, the station realized that the fourth AirSPACE channel it was dedicating for bumps and teases must always appear at the same switcher channel rather than automatically checkerboarding across channels after a rundown change. It was discovered that this capability was already available by using a NewsLink control initially designed for managing moving backgrounds.

What surprised KIRO was the detailed understanding of station operations it found in the Sundance developers and code writers. KIRO has been pleased with the responsiveness Sundance has shown handling the issues that inevitably arose. The result has been a system that exceeds its specifications, and pulls all devices together in a tight, unified operation.

With NewsLink as the automation umbrella over its news workflow, KIRO’s newsroom operations have become streamlined, and it is on-air reliable. In a testament to KIRO’s confidence in the stability and capability of its new system, the station actually took it on-air midway into the November 2003 sweeps. And an unanticipated benefit they all noticed is a new-found quiet in the control room during commercial breaks. Instead of the traditional chaos associated with the urgency to align production devices and cue stories, the producer and technical director are able to discuss quality, content and effects issues.

Design Team
John Walters, dir.of eng.
Ray Maker, sr. broadcast eng.
Scott LaPlante, news op. mgr.
Walt Farley, news dir.
Sterling Davis, VP eng., Cox Broadcasting

Sundance Digital:
Fred Schultz, VP, news automation
Chris Simpkins, sr. developer, news
Equipment List
Sundance Digital NewsLink news automation
Avid: iNEWS NRCS, AirSPACE and Unity servers, NewsCutter NL Vote Now!