New Media, New Automation Systems

Broadcasters eye systems for automating delivery of multiplatform content 5/09/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

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The best illustration of how automation
systems are spreading their reach far beyond
production and playout can be found in their
growing importance for multiplatform efforts.

Here broadcasters face an all-too-familiar problem:
lack of revenue. “There really hasn’t been a business
model for them to make money at this yet,” says Scott
Murphy, president of NVerzion.

As a result, Murphy says, some stations have become
more cautious with their multiplatform delivery plans
or are seeking solutions that allow them to either simplify
or automate all or parts of the multiplatform delivery
process so it will not dramatically increase costs.

To tap into that demand, all the major vendors of
automation and work flow solutions have been developing
processes to streamline the delivery of content
to more platforms.

About a year and half ago, for example, Grass Valley
released its MediaFUSE product for automated multiplatform
distribution, says Scott Murray, product marketing
manager, integrated production systems, Grass Valley.

“Currently we have 15 locations installed, and we are
in the process of adding about 10 more,” Murray says.

At the National Association of Broadcasters Show last
month, Harris announced a unified user interface with
its ADC product that allows operators to see “the complete
content workflow, end to end,” notes Jason Salyards,
product line manager for automation in the Broadcast
Communications division of Harris Corp. “It means that
from one client, the user can see everything and doesn’t
have to move from one screen to another or application to
application to manage the workflow process.”

Also at NAB, Ross Video demonstrated an extension
to its OverDrive automation platform called Quick-
Turn. “The plug-in allows the newsroom to flag content
that will go to the Web” and then have segments
automatically created and sent to the Web within seconds,
says Brad Rochon, marketing product manager
for OverDrive at Ross Video.

Such automation is particularly important in the
graphics area, because graphics designed for large TV
screens can look horrible on small phones or even tablets,
notes Petter Ole Jakobsen, CTO at Vizrt.

To overcome that problem, Vizrt has developed systems
to automate much of the process. Initially, users
must design the look and feel of a show or a newscast
for different devices—linear TV, smartphones and tablets.
“But once that is done, it will automatically give
you the version of a station’s nightly newscast for an
iPhone or an iPad that will look stunningly good without
adding any more work” beyond the initial setup,
Jakobsen notes.

Meanwhile, stations are also looking to software systems
to streamline workflows so their newsrooms can
create more content, both for their broadcast newscasts
as well as Web and mobile platforms.

“People realize they need to produce more for the Web
and mobile platforms and are trying to " gure out the best
way to do this while maintaining or even reducing their
costs,” notes Fred Fourcher, president/CEO of Bitcentral.

Bitcentral workflow management systems, Fourcher
says, can cut out half to two-thirds of the steps in a
traditional production workflow, freeing up time and
resources for more content creation. “Typically, you have
about 10% of the people in a newsroom tend to be field
journalists,” Fourcher says. “If you can get that up to
20% without increasing costs, that would be a big win.”

As part of that effort, stations have also been looking
for more open solutions that make it easier to integrate
products from different vendors so that content can be
brought to air faster and more easily distributed to a variety
of devices, says Jim Frantzreb, senior segment manager
for broadcast at Avid, which is a strong advocate of the
Broadcast Exchange Format (BXF) standard that was created
to simplify integration between products.

Better integration between products will also allow
the metadata attached to content to better flow through
the production process, improving digital asset management
and distribution. “We spend a pretty significant
proportion of our R&D on being open and being able to
interoperate with a number of different devices and vendors,”
Frantzreb says. “Forging partnership and qualifying
solutions from other vendors is very important to us,
because that is what our customers want.”

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