Tight Budgets, Tight Control

DALLAS—With abundant talking—sometimes screaming—heads, broadcast news epitomizes live television. As formats increase complexity while staffs downsize, distribution platforms proliferate and viewing patterns shift, newsroom vendors are challenged to better automate the "sausage making" process. Current offerings range from switcher-based assist to full-on workflows.

Monitors in Master Control show the Dalet playout on insertion channels, NY 1's local newscasts for CNN Headline News, and VOD. Avid product manager Bill Hadsell, product manager for Avid Technology in Burlington, Mass., describes the company's iNEWS Command as "an open interoperability tool for playlist management and a robust device control solution." It interacts dynamically with rundowns and standalone playlists from any MOS-compliant newsroom computer system (NRCS), manages a wide range of Avid and third-party devices, and "complements production control systems like Ross OverDrive and Grass Valley Ignite, giving the NRCS critical MOS inventory and status feedback."

Longtime user Ben Scripps, assistant operations manager at CBS affiliate WWTV in Cadillac, Mich., finds "everything I need as a live newscast director is there in a simple interface controlled by programmable keypad; it's just a matter of pressing 'Play.' A glance at Command's playlist ensures loaded clips match the story name—no more smiling celebrities while the anchor talks about an earthquake!"

Recent software upgraded support for third-party graphics and servers, plus AirSpeed Multi Stream interoperability. Hadsell hints at NAB offerings to help "deal with tighter budgets and an increasingly complex, open news environment."


Bitcentral's "field-centric workflow facilitates multiplatform news production and asset management," according to Fred Fourcher, president of the Newport Beach, Calif.-based news automation company. Precis handles ingest, central storage, editing, rundown management, and transcoder-free playout using their non-proprietary servers. Companion Oasis tackles news asset management and archiving, enabling Groups to share news packages and remotely contribute or pull stories from the field.

WCAX, the CBS affiliate in Burlington, Vt., recently integrated Bitcentral into its ENPS and HD newsgathering workflow. "Stories turn around faster; segments take less time to edit; and with file sharing, 'who has the tape?' bottlenecks are gone," said Jim Oliver, chief photographer and manager of the newsroom. "They integrated our tape library into the workflow... Oasis archives on-air stories and manages our extensive historical footage collection."

Oliver also notes subtle changes, including tighter cueing, more clips per newscast and a cleaner on-air look. Bitcentral's training "enabled on-the-fly insertion of two late-breaking stories during the first news block on 'go-live' day."

Ryan Hill (foreground) of WJ XT-TV in Jacksonville, Fla. operates the station's Grass Valley Ignite along with Gary Wilmoth (black shirt). For NAB, Fourcher predicts "the industry will see a significant workflow upgrade, enabling journalists to create finished versions for each platform as stories are ingested, rather than as they go to air."

Dalet Digital Media Systems' flagship Enterprise Edition offers advanced NRCS integration with "intuitive tools and versatile automation in a unified platform for end-to-end, story-centric workflow," notes Benjamin Desbois, head of business development for the company. Customizable views for operators, journalists, TDs and directors enhance collaboration; field reporters can remotely browse station content, place graphics as MOS script objects, and submit packages from their laptops. Desbois foresees enhanced collaboration and repurposing tools at NAB.

Jeremy Bitz, director of local news division operations at Time Warner Cable's newsroom says their Dalet Plus system "streamlines content management from source to archive. Everything's available at a click of the mouse [and] journalists are involved in every step of story production."

Grass Valley's Ignite IQ adds event automation templates that populate variable fields as the director marks-up a show, "so a single operator can manage complex effects and transitions... a significant advancement in control room intelligence," says Ignite/MediaFUSE product manager Scott Matics. Viewers expect their content to "arrive on [multiple] devices in all mediums, with video, text, graphics, associated links and searchable metadata." Using BXF technology, "MediaFUSE can auto-replace restricted content or ads while streaming." Coy about NAB, Matics teased to expect "something that's never been done before with live content" at their booth.

After two years with Ignite, Kirk Gordon, evening news show director for Post Newsweek independent station WJXT in Jacksonville, Fla., and a self described "super user" of the system says newscast production is very efficient. "What took four people in our old control room could be done just as effectively by two, with greater consistency and communication all around."

Nick Burgos, a Bitcentral field engineer works on a Precis during installation rehearsals at WC AX in Burlington, Vt.THE UMBRELLA APPROACH

Harris Broadcast senior product marketing manager Andrew Warman describes the company's NewsForce news system as an "umbrella," covering a sum of parts "centered on their 'format transparent' Nexio server and file-based workflow tools like MOS-enabled Velocity editors and multi-format shared storage."

Options include MOS Playlist Manager for mainstream NRCS packages and Ingest Control Manager which records up to 24 channels into four storage domains and has browsing, crosspoint switching, Harris proc amp, and VTR controls. Instant Online serves as a multiformat render farm for edit, effects or graphic system timelines, so editors can move to other tasks. Combined with Invenio Asset Management, global content browsing and proxy-based edits are possible; Instant Online gathers and compiles assets, regardless of location, to a target server for airplay. Velocity recently gained templates to simultaneously output multiple resolutions/formats; coupled with forthcoming DNxHD and H.264 Nexio codecs, "NewsForce applications will have the widest range of formats, from the lowest to highest data rate," Warman said.

Ross Video's switcher-based OverDrive "offers a tight MOS interface to popular newsroom systems—NRCS changes are immediately visible on the rundown to help operators take breaking news or unscripted events to air," said Ross Video Product Manager Brad Rochon. Looking ahead, the Iroquois, Ont.-based company is "partner-testing the ability to mark shots or stories within a rundown for alternate outputs and to add metadata for downstream devices to insert a file or modify parameters," according to Rochon. A private NAB suite will feature OverDrive and third-party technologies in a fully MOS-enabled workflow.

Director George Molnar at Clark County School District-owned Vegas PBS and an OverDrive user, said the station's "primary goal is uniformly high quality; since we employ several broadcasting students, having them practice and learn automation on an industry standard system is a real plus. OverDrive has really changed our ability to roll clips, change graphics and work the audio board ...our programs look better."

Steve Krant is a former television industry sales & marketing executive.