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Getting connected

RTNDA newsroom exhibits highlight integration 9/09/2001 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Tying it together

Tying it together

Avid Technology's iNEWS and the Associated Press's Electronic News Production System (ENPS) have continued to improve on the integration of disparate applications and assets into one graphical user interface. That's because their clients, who represent broadcasters and cable networks large and small, want control over their assets in a way that's invisible to the journalist.

Pricing of the systems, which can cost from $20,000 to several hundred thousand dollars, is based on the number of seats a customer wants to install and the level of functionality involved. Although AP declined to provide specific numbers, a representative at Avid said that a basic, 20-seat iNEWS system goes for about $28,000. Training and installation fees are approximately $10,000 more.

Among the important new features of these newsroom computer systems is the use of the Media Object Server (MOS) protocol to remotely operate audio and video servers, desktop audio and video browsers, and edit systems, character generators, still stores, and other news-production equipment. More than 30 equipment manufacturers are now supporting the MOS protocol, making equipment control a non-issue.

The newest version of Avid Technology's Media Browse, 2.1, includes features to enable communication with the AirSPACE server. (AirSPACE was acquired with all of the Pluto Technologies assets last year.) This allows dual digitization of a high-resolution copy of material from the company's Media Browse video editor so that two people can view motion-video clips and work on synchronized text simultaneously.

"Today's newsroom [employees] want access to every bit of information they can get, from within their facility and from the outside world," says David Schleifer, director of Broadcast and Enterprise Solutions at Avid. "We're focused on making that integration as seamless to the journalist as possible."

Version 2.1 also includes automatic registration of assets with the Avid MediaManager and the means to import edit-decision lists directly into the NewsCutter nonlinear editor via Open Media Framework (OMF) import.

Having control early in the creative process is the goal that everyone is working toward as they modernize their plants to get ready for the next phase of the digital transition, says Lee Perryman, director of Broadcast Technology at the Associated Press.

"We're betting the business on making sure that as much of the work can be done as far up the assembly line as possible," he explains, "because there's not enough money to keep polishing it and redoing different versions after it leaves the reporter's desk."

Among the new features on which ENPS product engineers are working is remote access to the system, including Internet-ready transports for connecting multiple sites and the means to import numerous file formats and export scripts as text files or Web pages.

Both iNEWS and ENPS use Microsoft Windows NT or Windows 2000 server components and workstations running Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me or Windows NT 4.0.

Many people associate automated features with the reduction of staff, Perryman observes, adding, however, that he sees news departments getting more work out of existing numbers of employees. This is especially important with the advent of centralized operation among remote facilities.

Michael Grotticelli

News managers attending this year's annual convention of the RTNDA may take integrated digital newsroom-production systems seriously because they're in actual working newsrooms, at last. And manufacturers have stepped up with newsroom systems that can tie related products together, facilitating the long-awaited arrival of nonlinear editing and graphics systems on reporters' and producers' desktops.

"In digital news production, we've really reduced the need, if not completely eliminated the need, for tape in the newsroom," says Roland Boucher, director of marketing for Grass Valley Group (GVG) digital news-production products.

News departments have typically resisted nonlinear editing because the time it took to transfer the video into a computer delayed the news in the same way that film processing did through the 1970s. Now some nonlinear editing systems have reduced the capture delay and joined integrated digital systems that address a host of other news-production problems, including lost videotapes, redundant editing, clumsy video transfer, and one-at-a-time access to video.

The new systems quickly ingest and share video with multiple producers, reporters, the promotion department and anybody else on the network.

"At RTNDA, we'll show how we can view that material even before the ingestion is complete," says Kevin Prince, news business manager for Pinnacle, which will demonstrate its VortexNews system at the show. GVG, Avid and Panasonic will also demonstrate newsroom components, while iNews and the Associated Press will show newsrooms and integrated systems.

In addition to networked newsroom computers and nonlinear editors, the integrated systems include video servers and software that manages, records and plays video in a digital network.

"If you separate the media from the process of editing, you quickly realize that a facility needs a range of tools to get the job done," notes David Schleifer, director of Avid Broadcast.

Pricing for NLE systems varies widely depending on storage capacity and configurations. An entry-level Avid integrated editing system with four NewsCutter editors and a server—but not including an iNews newsroom system, monitors or local storage—starts at about $150,000.

Typically, the systems capture video at two quality levels: a full-quality version and a lower-resolution "browse" version. The browse version is a leaner representation of the full-quality video and can fit on an Ethernet computer network. The producer watches the browse video on a computer screen and creates a list of edit points. The full-quality video stays in the video server or nonlinear editor. The producer then sends an edit-decision list to a nonlinear editor, for a complicated story, or directly to the server. Editing is then done on the full-resolution version.

The sharing of video can go beyond the newsroom to a bureau or another station.

"No satellite feed, no missed recordings, and, for the producer, no technical skills are required," says Lee Perryman, director of Broadcast Technology for the Associated Press. For non-affiliated stations, AP's newsroom system, Electronic News Production System (ENPS), can manage rights and secure access for video exchange.

ENPS's Media Object Server (MOS) allows a newsroom worker's computer to see and control a broad range of production devices, including video editors, character generators and servers. Perryman says WGN(TV) Chicago now cuts 70% of its morning-news video with Sony ClipEdit operated via ENPS.

Another trend is that the new systems are no longer task-specific. The components must be thoughtfully integrated with each other and with existing systems.

On the other hand, most are open, able to work with components from different vendors and even, in some cases, with different video formats. For example, GVG's NewsEdit editors and Profile servers can handle MPEG or DV formats. Panasonic's NewsByte editor in its DNA system can work with DVCPRO video servers from GVG, Silicon Graphics or Quantel. Panasonic pricing is $65,000 for a 25-Mb/s NewsByte system while an AJ-HDR150 video server is $55,000. Many systems use as much off-the-shelf hardware and software as possible to help keep systems open, costs down and performance as high as possible.

Another news-production theme at the RTNDA show will be portability. Avid will demonstrate its NewsCutter XP Mobile, a laptop version of its regular NewsCutter. Avid says the laptop can also dock with an integrated newsroom system.

And Panasonic will show its new DV camcorders with professional features. With the use of a Firewire (IEE1394) connection, DV video can be fed into a laptop for editing.

Tying it together

Tying it together

Avid Technology's iNEWS and the Associated Press's Electronic News Production System (ENPS) have continued to improve on the integration of disparate applications and assets into one graphical user interface. That's because their clients, who represent broadcasters and cable networks large and small, want control over their assets in a way that's invisible to the journalist.

Pricing of the systems, which can cost from $20,000 to several hundred thousand dollars, is based on the number of seats a customer wants to install and the level of functionality involved. Although AP declined to provide specific numbers, a representative at Avid said that a basic, 20-seat iNEWS system goes for about $28,000. Training and installation fees are approximately $10,000 more.

Among the important new features of these newsroom computer systems is the use of the Media Object Server (MOS) protocol to remotely operate audio and video servers, desktop audio and video browsers, and edit systems, character generators, still stores, and other news-production equipment. More than 30 equipment manufacturers are now supporting the MOS protocol, making equipment control a non-issue.

The newest version of Avid Technology's Media Browse, 2.1, includes features to enable communication with the AirSPACE server. (AirSPACE was acquired with all of the Pluto Technologies assets last year.) This allows dual digitization of a high-resolution copy of material from the company's Media Browse video editor so that two people can view motion-video clips and work on synchronized text simultaneously.

"Today's newsroom [employees] want access to every bit of information they can get, from within their facility and from the outside world," says David Schleifer, director of Broadcast and Enterprise Solutions at Avid. "We're focused on making that integration as seamless to the journalist as possible."

Version 2.1 also includes automatic registration of assets with the Avid MediaManager and the means to import edit-decision lists directly into the NewsCutter nonlinear editor via Open Media Framework (OMF) import.

Having control early in the creative process is the goal that everyone is working toward as they modernize their plants to get ready for the next phase of the digital transition, says Lee Perryman, director of Broadcast Technology at the Associated Press.

"We're betting the business on making sure that as much of the work can be done as far up the assembly line as possible," he explains, "because there's not enough money to keep polishing it and redoing different versions after it leaves the reporter's desk."

Among the new features on which ENPS product engineers are working is remote access to the system, including Internet-ready transports for connecting multiple sites and the means to import numerous file formats and export scripts as text files or Web pages.

Both iNEWS and ENPS use Microsoft Windows NT or Windows 2000 server components and workstations running Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me or Windows NT 4.0.

Many people associate automated features with the reduction of staff, Perryman observes, adding, however, that he sees news departments getting more work out of existing numbers of employees. This is especially important with the advent of centralized operation among remote facilities.

Michael Grotticelli

 

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