Switching to IPS

Vendors tout competitive advantages with single operator systems


(click thumbnail)The KSNW Ignite training suite
Now that broadcasters have tackled automating their master control rooms, they're turning their sights upstream to their studio control rooms. They want to replace their conventional set-up with an Integrated Production System (IPS) that would enable switching, keying, transitions, graphics, titling, cameras, feeds, and other live production tasks to be controlled from a central user interface.

This means they can reduce the manpower in the studio control room from a team of people down to a single operator. They can also streamline workflow, ease into HDTV, and manage more without compromising the on-air product.

For newscasts, today's new IPS can leverage MOS protocol to promote a seamless, unified workflow that ties the station's graphics automation, newsroom computer, and news editing systems to the studio control room. And this integrated workflow will also make it easier to take video produced for air and distribute it to multiple outlets, like the Internet and mobile TV.


According to Alex Holtz, director of IPS for Grass Valley, in Jacksonville, Fla., there are intense market pressures compelling broadcasters to adopt IPS.

Holtz said Grass Valley's Ignite IPS offers an economical approach to producing live content for DTV multicast channels, such as 24-hour local news channels, sports, local shopping, and educational channels that leverage the broadcasters' digital bandwidth.

The Grass Valley Ignite HD IPS meets these goals while promising to pay for itself within one year at top tier stations, and within three years at mid-market stations. It integrates a Grass Valley Kayak HD compact video production switcher frame with popular third-party CGs, Grass Valley K2 Media Server, and robotic camera technology. Using MOS, Ignite integrates with AP's ENPS, Avid iNEWS, and Grass Valley Digital News Production equipment, including the NewsEdit nonlinear editing system.

Since Los Angeles-based KABC installed a Grass Valley Ignite HD IPS earlier this year, a single operator has been efficiently running KABC's daily morning and weekend newscasts. Based on this initial success, KABC will transition its afternoon and evening newscasts to Ignite HD as well.

"Until now, the control room has been the 'Holy Grail' that you don't touch because it directly affects the on-air quality," said Scott Matics, robotic camera product manager for the Grass Valley IPS product line. "But now large market stations like KABC are looking for a better cost structure; and smaller market stations want to cost-effectively produce an on-air product that has a higher market look. New Ignite SDC/HDC robotic camera systems, which work seamlessly with the Ignite IPS, enable small to mid-market stations to produce live content with on-air moves like the higher market stations."


KSNW-TV3 (NBC) in Wichita, Kan. installed an Ignite system in last Spring, and the system officially went live to air for the noon newscast in June. The system's on-air debut was preceded by four weeks of technical rehearsals without talent followed by practice run-throughs with talent.

"Due to the complexities of this changeover, we took it slowly. But the inaugural broadcast went very well with no technical failures," said Warren Kunkle, chief engineer of KSNW-TV3, which is owned by Montecito Broadcasting Group.

KSNW does have an HDTV channel, however the station's newscasts are produced in SD and upconverted. The station does plan to produce its newscasts in HD in the future, and plan to upgrade Ignite to HD.

KSNW integrated its Grass Valley Kayak switcher-based Ignite system with a Chyron Duet, Aprisa SSX still store, Leitch Nexio server, and using MOS, the AP ENPS newsroom computer system. According to Kunkle, the station's Vinten robotic camera system needed to be upgraded so that Ignite could automate the camera controls to the station's four Sony studio cameras.

Ignite has also been installed at two other Montecito stations-KOIN-TV, Portland and KHON-TV Hon-olulu-and personnel there are being trained in anticipation of taking the systems live to air at the end of the summer.

Over the past several months, Broadcast Pix, a Burlington, Mass.-based developer of broadcast production technology, has rolled out the Slate 100 and Slate 1000. These "studio-in-a-box solutions" integrate live switching, Inscriber CG, graphics, a single VGA panel displaying program and preview sources; robotic camera control; and uncompressed clip storage for about $13,000. The future roadmap for the Slate systems includes HD and integration with newsroom computer systems.

The Slate 1000 has a hard panel with a familiar Grass Valley switcher layout; whereas the Slate 100 only has a touch screen panel and mouse. However, both systems can be boiled down to a custom-designed "Slate" card set residing in the workstation's PCI slots. These card sets are powerful enough to support six SDI and analog cameras plus all the integrated functionality needed for the live show.

Slate systems have been purchased by ABC, CBS, Fox, and PBS TV stations, corporations including Microsoft, Cisco, Morgan-Stanley, and General Motors, as well as churches and schools. Broadcast Pix President Ken Swanton estimates that 30 percent of Slate customers use the system for Internet broadcasting.

"A decade ago, many of the dedicated proprietary black boxes in the production control room gave way to PC workstations," said Swanton. "Now all of that broadcast-quality functionality has been reduced to a single, low-cost workstation and that evolution is going to contribute to the democratization of live TV production."

While the industry has been focused on HDTV, Echolab, after conducting market research, determined that 60 percent of the market had yet to transition from analog to serial digital video. Among these were small broadcast stations, cable TV operations, churches, corporations, and small production companies.

"For this middle tier market segment, making the jump from analog to HD is very difficult and expensive, and they don't have either the budgets or the technical needs of top tier users," said Battista Remati, Studio Ensemble project leader for Echolab in Billerica, Mass.

To address the needs of this "gap" market, Echolab initiated Studio Ensemble, a new, pre-integrated compact studio solution that combines best of breed components from four partnering companies in a way that eases the transition from analog to serial digital, holds down costs while maintaining broadcast quality, and streamlines production of live news, sports, and special events.

The central component is the Echolab Opera 3408 dual-format (digital and analog), 10-bit NTSC/PAL production switcher, which through Echolab's "System on Chip" architecture is software-driven for easy upgrade. Echolab also developed integration protocol that allows the switcher to centrally control the other Studio Ensemble components. These include the Compix CG Media Aria2000 CG, the 360 Systems Broadcast Image Server 2000 3-channel media server, and the Avitech MCC80004dE Multi-Viewer which enables multiple video displays on a single LCD screen. Also through Echolab, Crystal Vision interface gear can provide SD widescreen aspect ratio conversion and SD to HD upconversion.

"Since we include the integration software worth $10,000 for free, the [under $45,000] Studio Ensemble represents savings by a factor of seven compared to high-end installations," said Remati.

Remati says future editions of Studio Ensemble will include MOS-enabled integration with news automation software and robotic camera control. Studio Ensemble's hardware and software can be traded-up to support native HD when the customer is ready. In addition, a new product, the Remote Ensemble, will take all the Studio Ensemble components and packages them into a pre-wired, turnkey flight-pack for ENG, among other applications, Remati says

To offer integrated news production and playout, Harris offers the Nexio NewsNet product line which works seamlessly with its Nexio server to form an end-to-end, MOS-enabled news production solution.

The newest addition to the Nexio NewsNet product family is a low-cost field editor called Velocity XNG, nonlinear editing software that runs on a laptop. Material acquired in the field can either be edited on XNG or transferred to the station's Nexio server, which acts as a centralized, shared database as well as a multi-channel playout device. Using Media ID technology, Nexio NewsNet systems and the Nexio server can intelligently manage storage resources by only storing one copy of each element. Rather than always moving video from place to place, the assets remain on the server and are accessed and composed using pointers and EDLs.

"Velocity XNG also connects to the newsroom computer system, and if the journalist has written a VO [voice-over] script, that copy and any video clips they may want to use, can be pulled directly into the timeline of the NewsNet editing system," said Kyle Cowan, product manager for news solutions for Harris Broadcast Communications Division in Burbank, Calif.

At $3,000 per seat software, Cowan said that there is strong demand for this editing solution, especially among smaller market stations that have been priced out of digital news editing until now. Velocity XNG will ship after IBC in September.