Animation to automation

It is important to understand the entire graphics system workflow and process from creation to playout in order to maximize the system processes. This article looks at the typical newsroom processes and compares them to new streamlined, workflow optimized-specific, 24-hour news scenarios with multiple graphics palette structures.

Templates vs. pages

The graphics creation process, from a producer standpoint, starts by accessing a predefined template available within the XNews application in ENPS. A producer chooses a variety of options and fills out specific information pertaining to the defined template structure. These templates are saved into pages that contain the MOS information and are placed into the typical ENPS rundown. Within any specific rundown, you may have numerous pages in various orders. (See Figure 1)

Control room playout

The playout process in the control room is to cue and arrange the take templates in the order that the producer stacks these elements within the ENPS rundown. Depending on the options that the producer selected during the creation process, the output and business logic within the template assembles the graphics and/or animation within the specific CG device.

Although this process is conceivable and practical in most 24-hour newsroom environments, there are two areas that make this workflow process tedious and iterative. First, changing current rundown from generic to breaking news takes valuable time in breaking news situations. These tasks become repetitive finding the rundown and opening each graphic (page) to change specific options. Second, rerecording live events to on-scene for later viewing is the same process where producers have to access each page to make graphic optional changes.

Multiple graphics palettes

Many news stations are becoming more aware of audiences and viewing times and have opted to move in the direction of creating multiple graphics palettes for each day part or specific show. While this provides a fresh new look for each “block,” with this comes challenging new workflow strategies.

There are downsides of keeping the current graphic configurations, scenarios and template broadcast logic. First, without any complex broadcast logic, producers will have to perform the same iterative tasks of opening each page and making the optional changes, resaving the page and repeat. Second, the current configuration does not allow graphic templates to float into new day part graphics palettes or different shows without accessing each page to make optional changes. Third, control room directors currently do not have any power over last-minute changes and must wait to rerecord live/on-scene while producers change rundown page graphic options.

In a typical 24-hour newsroom situation when everything is running smoothly, it is essential that the control room production time is optimized for the specific day part period. During this time, producers are recording elements for both the current times and later day parts. It is essential that this factor be taken into the upmost consideration. Directors will need complete control overrides for every rundown element.

With the addition of the multiple graphics palettes, the workflow process needs to be reorganized to maximize production and playout. In order to create the most flexible graphics processes, graphics should be programmed with specific broadcast logic. Consider these factors in development and integration:

  • A rundown with graphic elements needs to dynamically choose the correct color palette based on specific time periods.
  • Directors need complete control over rundown graphics for last-minute updates or live or on-scene events.
  • Directors need overrides to change or hot/swap day part palettes with no producer interaction.
  • Producers need to float rundowns into different day parts without changes.
  • Producers need minimal amount of work to change all graphics within a rundown to another specific show or day part.
  • Automation should be maximized where applicable.

Using the same scenario from Figure 1, implement a master template that producers will first fill out with all the variables that will be assigned to each preceding slave page that is created with XNews for the specific rundown scenario. (See Figure 2.)

The master template allows all the variables for the preceding template to be stored. All other templates contain variables and elements associated with that specific template. The global variables stored in the master template, upon execution, will replace all page variables preceding this master template, until another master template occurs.


In the control room, a master panel resides at all times within the playout devices. Within this panel, the global variables of the master template are passed. The panel stores these variables, and each preceding page from the rundown will access these master variables. This panel also constitutes the bulk of the broadcast automation logic. The logistics implemented within the panel for optimized automation and various scenarios include:

  • Dynamic or automated template and graphic palette selections based on predefined show production times. This ensures the proper graphics palette gets assigned to specific shows at specific times with no user interaction.• Director override for master template variables for day parts, which enables directors to rerecord and override the master template variables with selected day part graphics palette.
  • Director-driven events such as live and on-scene. This enables directors to rerecord and override the master template variables without producer page interaction.
  • Breaking news and specific show override, which allows all graphics in any rundown to be assigned breaking news or other graphic show color palette.

Optimized workflow

Utilizing the master/slave template process greatly improves the automated process within the NRCS while minimizing repetitive tasks. Through this process:

  • Producers can focus on content rather than repetitive template options for each.
  • Producers can quickly update entire rundowns on the fly from master templates.
  • Master templates can be copied to other existing rundowns.
  • Directors can override rundowns' master templates before execution.
  • Directors can change events based on recording live, on-scene and other scenarios.
  • Automated graphic palette selection is based on time periods and specific show times.

The four main important factors in dealing with graphics in the NRCS are understanding the complete workflow process, automating repetitive tasks, developing dynamic logistics and leaving room for growth.

Adam Martinez is creative director/owner of Southwest Digital and art director at Central Florida News 13.