ToolsOnAir modernizes media workflow in Boston

On any given day, the studios of Brookline Access Television (BATV) are abuzz with people and productions, creating and delivering a busy schedule of local programming and services.

But BATV is more than just a neighborhood cable access channel. The station serves as a nexus for multimedia technology in the community, serving the Metro Boston area with high school and adult classes and seminars in video editing, graphic design, animation and more.

Public access TV is strong in the U.S., and as the public has become increasingly sophisticated, people expect a higher level of content. Today's YouTube generation is practically born with a camera attached, and BATV is not teaching them how to do video so much as how to improve the video they're already doing.

With two local channels in operation 24/7, BATV's dual Mac-based production facilities include 50 HD edit stations equipped with ToolsOnAir's Broadcast Suite workflow. The systems are used for everything from editing classes to on-air content creation, with productions ranging from simple talking head fare to children's shows, community events, and a wide range of programming material.

BATV is not necessarily a typical user of the ToolsOnAir system, but it works well for BATV’s purposes. One of its most important functions is to eliminate gaps in its playlist. Someone may produce a show that is 23 minutes long, and the next one may be 28 minutes. ToolsOnAir's workflow enabled BATV to implement a playlist to be able to fill in those gaps with a defined list of public service announcements, or whatever it may be. BATV was able to adapt the product for its needs.

Another of the biggest challenges the ToolsOnAir system has addressed has been the time-consuming need for multiple versions of all content. BATV creates all its content in HD, but it needs to deliver standard definition for local broadcast. BATV was converting footage to MPEG-2 for broadcast, as well as hi-res H.264 for archiving and low-res H.264 for the Web. Even though it was an automated process, BATV was spending a tremendous amount of time and resources on it.

Using ToolsOnAir's Broadcast Suite, files can now be completed and uploaded in a single format. BATV uploads files to a media server, and it's delivered to the viewer in whatever format is needed. That's hours and hours of time that are no longer necessary to spend on redundant file transcoding. Moving a project from completion to air used to take an average of two to three days. Now BATV can do it within 12 hours.

One of BATV’s purposes as an organization is to cover municipal meetings and provide election coverage on local elections. With ToolsOnAir, BATV is working to implement the next model of interactive television, which includes having a live twitter feed during the broadcast. This will allow people conducting municipal meetings or other events to actually communicate in real time with people watching the programming.

The ability to integrate graphics is also a great thing for BATV in terms of branding. It allows BATV to create a level of consistency within its programming by branding the channel, implementing tickers, creating 'what's next' tags and achieving a continuity across its content. Ultimately, it allows BATV to deliver a much more professional product.