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NYI News goes tapeless with Panasonic's P2 recording system

At last summer’s Republican National Convention, NY1 News used Pansonic’s P2 recording system to move material back to the station quickly and get it on-air.

Last spring, NY1 News, Time Warner's 24-hour, all-news cable station in New York City, announced a large investment in Panasonic DVCPRO P2 solid-state recording system equipment. The station's goal was to convert its news operations to tapeless acquisition in its progression to an all-tapeless, multichannel 24-hour news facility.

The purchase included 22 AJ-SPX800 camcorders, eight AJ-SPD850 studio decks, nine AJ-PCD10 drives, and several P2 cards and accessories. Based on its feature set, the station saw P2 as the critical next step in giving it the ability to FTP files from field shoots into its main server faster than real time, getting pictures on-air with greater speed and efficiency. The format is a logical next step for the station, as P2 series products are fully compatible with DVCPRO, the station's house format since 1996.

In addition to the nonlinear acquisition, instant access to material and high-speed file transfer, the format offers laptop field editing without requirement for proxy videos, compatibility with off-the-shelf data storage drives for low-cost archiving, and the elimination of traditional digitizing and ingesting operations. The system's absence of any moving parts that can break down or wear out from repetitive use has the potential for significant maintenance cost-savings.

Further, the products are resistant to environmental extremes, including shock, vibration, cold, dust, moisture and humidity — in short, exactly the conditions the station's videojournalists encounter day in and day out on the streets of New York City.

The station took delivery of most of the equipment last summer. It chose a world stage for the format's debut, the four-day Republican National Convention (RNC) at Madison Square Garden. (The station also used the P2 system for the convention coverage of its 24-hour Spanish news channel, NY1 Noticias.)

Throughout the convention, the station was consistently impressed with how versatile the gear was, continuing to find useful features. Its staff adapted to the equipment quickly, citing its ease-of-use and flexibility. Its videojournalists were able to mark clips and do a rough edit as they shot, a huge benefit when dealing with the late-breaking stories typical of such a major event as the RNC. All told, the equipment performed successfully over the course of four high-pressure days, with the constant imperative of moving material back to the station quickly and getting it on-air.

Throughout the fall, the station broadly implemented the P2 format. It has rolled out most of the cameras, which have performed well — certainly to the satisfaction of the station's shooters, who like the cameras' functionality, versatility and such accoutrements as the color viewfinder. As one-person crews, they like being able to see their stand-ups on the built-in, high-resolution color LCD display. The ability to move the files around and feed clips in a specific order is terrific.

Although the station is not yet working at an optimal transfer rate, the workflow model it established during the convention has worked out better than it anticipated. The station can use the P2 drive to ingest material into its Pinnacle Liquid NLE system in the field. It is able to ingest MFX files at 2X real-time into the Pinnacle NLE, edit locally and feed back the stories to the station as complete packages.

The station replaced its 2GB cards with 4GB cards, giving it 80 minutes of DVCPRO recording (25Mb/s) each.

The ability to prioritize all those thumbnails and ID what it wants to feed is beneficial. The station uses the AJ-SPD850 decks in the field to feed material back to the main server, or they can be used off- or on-site as viewing stations.

Before the end of the year, the station swapped out its 2GB cards for 4GB cards, giving it 80 minutes of DVCPRO recording (25Mb/s) each. Presently, the station has approximately 210 4GB cards. Given the cost of the media, operations is being vigilant with the cards, making sure that the videographers go out with five cards in the camera, and come back and do a five-card swap-out.

As is almost always the case with new acquisition formats, there's some lag time before the editing systems catch up with the technology. That's been true in this case. The station is waiting for Pinnacle's upgrade to its Liquid system so that it can ingest FTP files versus baseband. So far, it has been ingesting material at 2X real time, but it expects much quicker transfer rates with the upgraded system. (It is already ingesting FTP files at NY1 Noticias, as its Liquid system is on a DV platform, versus M-JPEG for the English-speaking station.)

Since committing to P2, NY1 has launched two new bureaus in Staten Island, NY, and Bergen County, NJ. It is poised to convert these new local bureaus to P2 acquisition as soon as Avid issues new releases for integration with P2.

While the station has been waiting on very, very fast ingestion versus very fast ingestion, it has conducted many tests off-site (for example, from Time Warner facilities in Albany and Syracuse) to establish some benchmarks for the FTP to FTP transfer a day's worth of material from the field. The station is anticipating considerable cost-savings once it eliminates all the uplink and fiber chargers.

Another P2 component it is eagerly awaiting is the optional DVD-R/DVD-RAM drive for the studio recorder, which offers optical disc backup for economical video archiving and international “air courier” field-to-studio data transfer. According to Panasonic, the station will have this by April.

While NY1's transition to P2 continues, it has been impressed with the new-found speed and efficiencies of the format. The speed of getting material onto the server is already greatly accelerated, which can only support breaking stories faster.

Joe Truncale is the NY1 news director of operations and engineering.