Local New York Cable Station Shifts to Digital Platform
(click thumbnail)Time Warner Cable says NY1's newsroom is the most technically advanced in the country
At first glance, Manhattan's Chelsea Market building may not conjure images of a television newsroom. But the recently re-launched 24-hour local cable station NY1 News, a division of Time Warner Cable, began broadcasting Jan. 28 from the building's sixth floor, complete with state-of-the-art digital facilities that could serve as a model for newsrooms of the future.
The site, which formerly served as the set of HBO's Oz, offers about 55,000 square feet of workspace – more than twice that of its previous midtown location. But in addition to the increased workspace, new sets and new on-air look, is a digital newsgathering platform that greatly streamlines the production process.
"The goal was to have as much power at the journalist's or user's fingertips while making the technology as invisible as possible," says Harlan Neugeboren, senior director of engineering and technology for Time Warner Cable. "NY1 is now the most technically advanced newsroom in the country with the amount of automation and the level of integration we've put into it."
The advantage of a nonlinear system, says Jeff Polikoff, NY1's director of engineering and operations, is increased speed to air. "Now reporters can go back to their desks, edit the pieces themselves, publish them and they're on the air," he says. "They can take the process directly through rather than having to hand it off and take it to an editor to do the work for them."
IF THEY CAN MAKE IT HERE
The digital debut of the station is the first of seven planned by Time Warner Cable, with Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., scheduled to go digital this spring, to be followed by Syracuse and Albany, N.Y., Houston and San Antonio. "They will all be using the technology we're developing here, but the highest profile, with the most employees, biggest workload and heaviest load on the servers will be here," says Paulus. "The way to look at it is, if it works here, it will work there."
As with any newsroom launch, the NY1 project involved multiple vendors.
At the outset of the project two and a half years ago, the immediate challenge was sorting through the original field of potential vendors. Nottingham, England-based Omnibus Systems Inc. received an early nod for its news automation and asset and media management solutions.
That early selection proved to be vital, says Ian Fletcher, technical director and one of the founders of Omnibus, as NY1 continued to add new vendors to the project with input from his company. "Quite often, customers will choose technology and then want it all to work together, and a lot of the time it isn't possible. So it was good to be involved from day one."
Integrated with the newsroom system, the Omnibus Desktop Control gives users the ability to search, restore, browse and edit video, add graphics and use special effects-based automation commands. This was also the first deployment of the Omnibus Workflow Manager, which connects broadcast and IT-related issues and triggers discrete automated processes, such as archival decisions. "It will play a larger role as they add more workflow logic to the system," says Fletcher.
The Associated Press Electronic News Production System (ENPS) was tapped next. "About a year ago, we demonstrated the ENPS for Time Warner and they made their evaluation of our particular implementation of the MOS (media object server) open communication protocol," explains Bill Burke, ENPS project manager for AP Broadcast Technologies in Washington, D.C. "I think we convinced them that ENPS had to be part of what they were trying to achieve." The Omnibus platform integrates with the ENPS newsroom system via MOS.
DELIVERING THE GOODS
Mountain View, Calif.-based Pinnacle Systems was selected for several of its products, most notably its Vortex multi-resolution media servers. At NY1, material is stored and edited on the Vortex, leaving capture, archive and playout control to Omnibus. Office link-up to NY1 is via Pinnacle's Rochelle Park, N.J., facility.
"We provided them with a MOS-compliant, digital network news solution that allows them to work collaboratively," says Denny Peters of Team Vortex at Pinnacle.
Peters points out that the system will grow as NY1's needs grow, which impressed Neugeboren. "Pinnacle showed that it could deliver 25 megabit DV to the desktop over Ethernet. We said, ‘That's it!'" Neugeboren says.
Pinnacle also renders station graphics and titles with its live production Vertigo graphics builder products, which include Deko2200 2D character generators and the 10-bit, frame-based, four-channel DVE, the DVEXcel. Some character control, however, is maintained by VertigoXmedia, says Peters.
For Montreal-based VertigoXmedia, the NY1 re-launch represents the most significant deployment of its content automation and broadcast graphics production and delivery systems for the newsroom. Roi Agnetta, Vertigo's chief operating officer, had already worked with Neugeboren on three previous projects, including the deployment of the original NY1 studio in September 1992. "We felt that their template maker was the best solution for us to integrate with the Pinnacle Deko system, " says Polikoff.
In addition, Vertigo's data acquisition tools enable the collection of multiple data sources, including rooftop temperature probes, national election data server feeds, market updates and sports feeds. "We take that data and normalize it with XML and make it available to the rest of our system," Agnetta says.
Despite the new technologies, the new studio features an array of familiar names, such as its Thomson DD35-3 switchers, LDK 100 cameras and Ikegami monitors. "We still have Panasonic DVCPRO decks for ingesting, as well as Betacams for our archives," says Polikoff.
Originally, NY1 had hoped to re-launch with TARGA 3000 video editing boards and DV as opposed to TARGA 2000 motion-JPEG. The DV format would have provided four-times-real-time ingesting into the servers and full-resolution browsing at the desktop. DV will be featured in the launch of either the Raleigh or Charlotte station, says Paulus.
The station's debut was originally scheduled for Oct. 20, 2001, but the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center postponed the move. "We did nothing but Sept. 11 stories for weeks," says Paulus. "We could have moved it to mid-December, but that would've ruined everybody's Christmas. My bosses at Time Warner Cable were very amenable to a January launch. That gave us more development time and that made for a smoother launch as well."
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