Faster, lighter, smaller and smarter has been the mantra of many news organizations in recent years, as less expensive lightweight cameras, cellular bonding technologies and other tools have revolutionized the way TV news is created and distributed. But, a number of stations and networks are looking to go even further— read: tinier—by experimenting with Google Glass, smart watches and other wearable technologies.
Much of this builds on the ongoing trends toward small, more mobile equipment that is connected via widely available fast broadband or cellular networks, says Stacy Woelfel, news director of KOMU, the NBC affiliate at the University of Missouri and associate professor at the School of Journalism.
For example, Google Glass, or very small cameras from GoPro, Panasonic and others allow users to capture high-quality HD images on cameras so small they can be mounted on glasses, goggles or earpieces, or worn on a helmet.
“Just as the GoPro revolutionized small cameras that you can attach and wear on a helmet or anywhere else, Google Glass is on the forefront of offering something that you can sort of wear and forget about,” Woelfel says.
More fundamentally, wearable technologies such as Google Glass and smart watches could also help journalists work smarter, freeing up their hands for other tasks and providing live feeds of information as they conduct interviews or report stories. Metadata showing a user’s location and activities could also be used to manage news resources.
From ENG to WNG
Woelfel expects what he likes to call WNG—wearable newsgathering—to complement, though not replace, more traditional ENG or electronic newsgathering technologies. He and others also caution that the use of wearable technology is still in its infancy.
“Analysts are predicting that billions will be spent on wearable technologies so it is a very exciting development that you don’t want to ignore,” says Victor Hernandez, CNN’s program manager for editorial systems. “But most organizations are still grappling with how they can be used to add value to the story and not just come across as a gimmick. If it looks gimmicky and sloppy, their use can do more harm than good.”
CNN already developed a consumer app for Google Glass and is now working on guidelines and best practices for newsgathering, Hernandez adds.
One likely use would be in situations where journalists would like a smaller, less obtrusive presence, or to create stories that let viewers experience what the journalist is seeing.
John Kucko, sports anchor at Nexstar Broadcasting’s Rochester, N.Y., CBS affiliate WROC, used Google Glass for stories he filed to cover this year’s Super Bowl and Daytona 500. The stories, which were delivered to stations throughout the group as part of an ongoing effort to share content, included a piece with video from Google Glass that was taken inside a race car hurtling around the Daytona International Speedway at 180 miles per hour.
“It allows you to take viewers into a place that normally they wouldn’t be able to see and give them a first-person perspective,” Kucko says. “What impressed me most about the glasses was they were very steady without the shake you see on an iPhone and they produced broadcast-quality HD video.”
WRAL WEARS IT WELL
WRAL in Raleigh, N.C., recently incorporated a live Google Glass feed into its newscast. The station used the technology between Feb. 11 and 14 as a way of giving viewers a first-hand look at how the newscast was put together, explains Steven D. Hammel, VP/ GM at the Capitol Broadcastingowned station. Full video feeds from an anchor, traffic reporter and other staff members wearing Google Glass were streamed online. But only some video was used on the air. “The most important thing in the newscast is the news and we didn’t want to do anything to overshadow that,” Hammel says.
Pete Sockett, WRAL director of engineering and operations, adds that the process of putting the feed on the air was relatively easy. They streamed the video via WiFi to an iPad, which then fed it to an Apple TV. That HDMI signal was then converted to HD-SDI, which was fed into the control room.
Some of John Kucko’s WROC-TV work with Google Glass:
The 17th hole at The Players Championship in golf:
Running laps at Daytona International Speedway:
Turn Four at the Daytona 500:
Press conference with Dale Earnhardt Jr., winner of the 2014 Daytona 500
Some examples of how WRAL-TV used Google Glass are here: