With a broadcast and production facility under construction at AOL Time Warner Center in Manhattan, CNN has an extensive shopping list that includes the latest in digital equipment for media management, playback, field acquisition and editing.
According to Gordon Castle, senior vice president, strategic digital systems for CNN, the interior fit-out will occur over the next few months, with equipment purchases in the summer. Installation is slated to begin in the fall; the network, to move in in mid 2004.
"It's nice to have the opportunity to plan it from the beginning, "Castle says. "Being in the middle of a digital transition is like changing a tire when the car is still moving."
And Castle knows this first-hand. For the past few years, he has been at the epicenter of the digital transition at CNN's Atlanta facility. The biggest challenge has been to make new systems, all from various manufacturers, communicate with each other and interface seamlessly with legacy systems.
In that vein, he hopes to see increased acceptance of the new Media Exchange Format. Developed by the Pro-MPEG Forum, MXF addresses interoperability concerns by allowing the seamless exchange of program material between file servers and digital archives.
Based on an agreement signed at NAB last year, CNN has made a major investment in Pinnacle Vortex news-production and -editing systems to help phase out tape-based operations in Atlanta. More than 100 Vortex news system client workstations will help journalists and editors browse and edit video on their desktops and will work directly with digital-content-management and archive systems.
CNN will continue to investigate products that make use of the Long Group of Pictures (long-GOP) MPEG format.
"This has been our goal for a few years," Castle says. "Last year, we made our decision about Pinnacle editing based upon their commitment to support long-GOP MPEG editing."
CNN is also making the transition to digital-file-based production in the field and will investigate optical-disk-based production technology like that from Sony. Optical disk provides increased bandwidth and the storage capacity and data rates to supply high-quality video. Castle expects to see commitments by major manufacturers, including Sony, Panasonic, Thomson and Hitachi.
CNN also continues to take a hard look at graphics creation and playback.
"We're hoping to find a system that will get graphics to air more quickly with more animations and visualization whether mapping or 3-D animation," Castle says. He will be looking for new releases from all of the major vendors, such as Chyron and Pinnacle, as well as some newer players vendors like VizRT.
Continuing a major push in content management and manipulation of content over multiple platforms, CNN will be looking for developments in media-asset-management systems, which have seen a lot of consolidation over the past few years.