Plans for expansion

Turner Studios seeks to enhance production work flow

Shopping List:
·Nonlinear editors
·Audio-design systems
·Video-effects system
·Production switchers
·Network interoperability

Turner Studios in Atlanta handles more than 70,000 hours of post-production for Turner's nine networks and 18 worldwide feeds each year. It operates 24 hours a day with a staff of 300 full-time employees and 300 free-lancers.

"It's a big operation," says Craig Heyl, senior vice president of Turner Studios.

With a new facility under way and an expanding production operation, Heyl and Clyde Smith, senior vice president, broadcast technology, Turner Entertainment Group, will go to the NAB convention looking for advances in studio and field production gear. Smith will also be looking for improvements in interoperability.

Turner Studios wants to expand its nonlinear edit and audio-design systems. For editing, Turner uses mainly Avid and Discreet Logic equipment and would like to grow its operation. "We are not limiting ourselves," says Heyl.

He will also be looking for advances in storage that can be shared by the nonlinear editing system and sound-design system.

"We have so much happening here that we have something we think is unique to the industry," Heyl says. "We would like to build and design our own systems that suit our production work flow."

The approach to both hardware and software at Turner, according to Heyl, is a "best-of-breed approach. There are a number of manufacturers [that could work with us]. The door is wide open."

While many production companies outsource audio post-production, Turner handles its own audio post-production and is planning to make enhancements to its system. "If we have the best people, the best technology and the best rooms," says Heyl, "there is no reason for a client to need to work outside of Turner Studios."

He will be looking for scalable audio systems from companies like Fairlight and is interested in learning about new audio protocols. "We place a lot of emphasis on sound design, and we believe it ought to be in the forefront," he explains. "We want to get as much mileage out of our equipment as possible."

On the video-effects side, Heyl plans to look at compositing tools, including Discreet's Inferno and Fire as well as graphics equipment like Pinnacle's Deko. He also plans to check out clip servers like the Accom 6000 as well as production switchers.

"With Grass Valley's merger with Thomson, we have to see what their product offerings will be this year," he says. "We also will be looking at Sony switchers."

Meanwhile, Smith will focus on monitoring and storage equipment for the new facility, from which Turner should begin operation in December. Smith plans to look for equipment that supports the SNMP networking protocol, an IT protocol that is increasingly accepted in the broadcast world. SNMP allows various systems to report to a single monitoring system and permits ongoing monitoring as well as targeted troubleshooting.

"Snell & Wilcox has been a great partner, tying together distribution equipment and making sure that we will have a very good monitoring system across the network," Smith says. "Our challenge now is to take that to the next level and tie together all of the systems."

At the top of Smith's list is finding equipment that supports MPEG production and is interoperable throughout its operation. Turner already has purchased IMX VTRs from Sony and will explore offerings from other manufacturers as well.

With a focus on more-efficient storage, Smith also will be looking at DVD storage systems. "DVD formats today are quite suitable for our short- form programming: interstitials, commercials," he says. "Transfer rates are fine, and the amount of storage on the disk is satisfactory."