New FTP hosting service helps ENG freelancers sell footage

A veteran transmission and production company with locations in Los Angeles, London and New York has begun offering a new service for freelancer stringers in the NYC area that facilitates the sale of breaking news footage via FTP file transfer. Pacific Television Center (PacTV), which opened its first facility in Los Angeles in 1974, has now made it possible to upload a five-minute SD clip to PacTV’s server in close to real time and make it available to a variety of outlets simultaneously.

Using FTP technology eliminates the need for a microwave truck or other form of RF transmission to get news back to a station. In addition, the file is now available to multiple outlets simultaneously, eliminating the need for making duplicate copies and sending them to separate sources.

Using the new PacTV Pool New York newsgathering service, reporters and other independent operators equipped with a laptop can now upload their breaking news footage directly to PacTV Pool New York from wherever they are, resulting in an expedited distribution to broadcasters and other buyers of news footage. PacTV will host up to 15 minutes of footage for 24 hours at a cost of $50. It’s up to the individual reporter to contact each individual outlet within the pool supported by PacTV at The Switch New York, an independent switching facility, and let their clients know how to retrieve the video or audio file. PacTV will soon transmit to Ascent’s Waterfront facility, providing access to more broadcast outlets.

After a reporter edits his or her story, the final content is exported as a compressed MPEG-4 file. One minute of video footage can take less than five minutes to upload from hotspots or wireless cards. Files delivered to the PacTV FTP servers are then played in a continuous loop throughout the day via The Switch New York.

The service recently hosted footage shot by an independent producer of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and made it available to stations across the country as B-roll footage for inclusion into news segments on the environmental crisis. Without PacTV Pool New York, that producer would have had a much harder time getting the footage to stations in a timely manner.

“We’re trying to help the independent producer or freelance reporter make their business more successful by allowing them to use our service to get the footage into news directors’ hands as quickly as possible,” said Nick Castaneda, New York branch manager at Pacific Television Center. “As we all know, the news business is all about time to air. Everyone in the New York area we've spoken to thinks it’s an idea that should have been implemented a long time ago.”

As part of the PacTV Pool New York newsgathering service, the company uses a simple naming convention for the files, allowing them to identify who uploaded the file, date and slug information. This allows PacTV to use this information for its automatic logging, which is important for the master control room staff, which can then easily identify and organize the files.

In addition to enabling faster turnaround, the FTP server is also a more cost-effective option. Having reporters upload footage direct to PacTV Pool New York allows for the implementation of a new, pay-by-the-minute system.

Finally, by offering a file-based delivery system that is accessible via the Internet, PacTV has now made it possible for footage to be used not only by television, but also by other media outlets, including newspapers that post video to their websites. It’s also given local reporters global exposure.

Thus far the new PacTV Pool New York service has been slow to catch on with NYC professionals, but has been successfully used by dozens of reporters in Los Angeles for several years. “We think that LA camera operators can't bare to sit traffic while having to visit numerous broadcaster sites, so they took to it a lot faster,” Castaneda said. “With stations relying more and more on freelancers and stringers in New York, this service has come about at the right time, and we think it will really help stations stay competitive by still being able to get the news to viewers quickly.”

In addition to the new file delivery service, Castaneda also oversees a 1300sq-ft production facility in Midtown Manhattan, where all types of interviews are taped for use by outlets in the United States and around the world. (A recent taping saw the stars of the new Fox network action-comedy cop series “The Good Guys” being interviewed by various Fox stations via phone as the actors sat in a small HD insert studio with single Sony PDW F355 XDCAM HD camera and conducted interviews one after the other for two hours.) The company also tapes wireless remote standup positions from the street.

The control room area features a Grass Valley Indigo A/V mixer, Grass Valley Encore (64 x 64) router and a Harris Videotek VTM-4100 HD vectorscope for analyzing transmission signals into and out of the facility.

As its mainstay business, PacTV also provides transmission services and flexible bandwidth options for a number of broadcasters and content delivery clients, such as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)’s international feeds, which originate from WWE’s main production facility in Stamford, CT.