Simple but sophisticated
Network is seeking the Holy Grail of a truly tapeless system
By Karen Anderson Prikios -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/24/2002 7:00:00 PM
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Fast-growing Discovery Communications is looking to simplify work flow and add efficiencies to its production environment. This year, it will go to NAB with a lengthy shopping list and a specific game plan.
"NAB has evolved into a convention that is far too large and unwieldy to reap any benefit without an extremely detailed agenda," says Jay Schneider, senior vice president, production, operations and engineering services. "We have preplanned meetings and do relatively little floor cruising."
One of the areas the network will explore is advances in full-bandwidth nonlinear editing. The network recently upgraded its suite of nonlinear editing systems—the AVID XL-1000 and XL-9000, Discreet Logic Flint, and Quantel Edit Box—to allow for full-bandwidth editing.
"This is putting more-powerful tools in the hands of the creative individuals," says Schneider. "I think, ultimately, it's where the entire industry is going to end up. The whole notion of a two-step process was inefficient but was necessary due to the high cost of full-bandwidth production tools."
The network has begun to edit some of its programs—those that require little editing and finishing—in this manner and plans to expand that in the future.
"We are going to look to more-sophisticated editing projects to begin to employ this technology," Schneider says. "We're looking for tools that not only enable a more sophisticated approach to editing but also allow for an upgrade of the entire post-production environment."
The next step for Discovery is to create a networked environment that would simplify production work flow across multiple devices. "Specifically, we're looking for efficient and cost-effective tools to enable content sharing and processing in a very large facilities environment," Schneider says.
The "Holy Grail" of post-production is the tapeless environment. "The ultimate goal is to be able to have content pass through post-production and network origination without ever being transferred to tape," he says. "This will speed the delivery of content and eliminate costs associated with shipping and redigitizing content at origination facilities."
He realizes, though, that a "total end-to-end solution" is still a few years away. "I think we're moving in the right direction. We don't expect to see any significant breakthroughs, but we are expecting to see some progress."
Schneider also plans to investigate master-control–automation systems that will offer the ability to control content servers widely dispersed over different geographic areas. "You can ingest in one location and play it back in another location."
He also is looking to deploy a system that would allow the network to store video and audio as separate files. This would allow Discovery to encode the video feed once and send it to multiple worldwide origination facilities, where the audio could be encoded with the local language.
Another area in which he hopes to see progress is multi-format–compatible HD VTR equipment.
"At Discovery, we use many different formats," he explains. "Tape machines and other HD equipment that are format-agnostic [allow you to] get the maximum benefit from your investment. We are going to pay very close attention to what improvements have been made."
In transmission, Discovery has already made some major improvements. Last year, the network successfully deployed digital-compression and satellite distribution equipment from Scientific-Atlanta and Motorola.
"This coming year, what we'll be looking for is advancements in integrated receiver/decoder equipment for our affiliates," he says. "The challenge is, as Discovery continues to distribute programming to an ever-widening audience, [to find] cost-effective affiliate-based equipment that delivers all the quality and features required."
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