When Time Warner Cable's senior director for engineering and technology, Harlan Neugeboren, helped steady the technical operations of Time Warner Cable's NY1 News operation in the early 1990s, the news channel made its mark with the use of video journalists who were more than on-screen talent.
Later this year, when NY1 News moves into a new facility in Manhattan's Chelsea Market, the network will be at the technological forefront as it unveils a news operation that Neugeboren says will serve as the model for future Time Warner Cable (TWC) news facilities. With six more expected to hit the air by May of next year, it won't take long for the prototype to be put into action. Additional news channels will be built in Charlotte, Raleigh, Syracuse and Albany, as well as joint ventures with Belo in San Antonio and Houston. Each is expected to cost approximately $8 million to get up and running.
"Producers and journalists will be able to browse all the assets from their desktop, whether it be video or graphics," he says. "They can browse them through the briefing tool of the AP news system and through the Omnibus search engine."
A key development is that, from one interface, personnel will be able to edit, create graphics and pop them into scripts. More important, the new system will improve the on-air quality of the product, says Neugeboren. A current problem, he explains, is that much of the programming is an anchor reading, with the same voice-over and shots used repeatedly. "The reason we wanted to get more functionality and video to the desktop is that, if a producer or writer sees we've used a shot five times already, they can then cut a new shot really quickly."
The backbone of the system comprises components from several suppliers. OmniBus Systems will provide the automation system; the newsroom system will be AP's ENPS; graphics will be handled by VertigoX Media and Pinnacle Systems; and Pinnacle will also provide the networking and server products that will bring it all together.
Another big change is the move from Panasonic DVCPRO gear, which has been a staple at TWC, to Sony's DVCAM DSR-250, which will offer a lighter load for the shoulders of talent.
"The DSR-250 weighs 9 pounds and has all the standard broadcast features, and it's cheap," notes Neugeboren. The DVCAM gear will be used only in new facilities, he adds, noting that Panasonic's DVCPRO is too entrenched in the existing NY1 News plant to make a retrofit practical. Sony will also provide a DVS-7200A switcher, DME-7000 digital effects and HDXS-5800 router.
According to Neugeboren, the new facility design came out of the gradual learning process of building other news operations across the country. But the real driver is that many of the technologies for which TWC was waiting for have finally matured.
"XML and open standards are here, and they work," he explains. "You can integrate them into an existing stable platform. Now it's all about open databases. Everyone has been saying that for years, but now all our assets get published to a sequential database, and we can get at those assets."
One of the key building blocks is the Omnibus automation system. "They are moving in a direction that is more file-transfer based," says Neugeboren. "They also have a workflow module that offers a new way of developing codes very quickly."
But it's the sequential database that holds the most promise. It allows the operation to have all the graphics, video, scripts and all the video to be cut in one database. A final strength was the Omnibus desktop control, which allows other applications to be launched from one control system.
The close relationship between Omnibus and AP also helped because AP's EMPS has only one master list tying the different devices together. "Also, EMPS 3.0 is going to have DHTML," says Neugeboren, "so instead of messages looking like a long string of XML tags, it's going to be a picon or an icon."
Each station will require approximately 100 hours of video-server storage online and double that near-line. Between five and 10 edit workstations and another 10 browse client desktops will be put to use getting the news on the air. Helping on that front will be Pinnacle Systems' Vortex network news system, Vortex News Editor, near-line storage system and archive manager.
"We'll have Pinnacle's Vortex News hardware version at certain desktops and a software version also," says Neugeboren. "And with Pinnacle's Mars low-res editor, we'll be able to browse 25-b/s full-bandwidth video at the desktop."
MPEG-4 low-resolution browsing will be done as a background task for assets that go on the near-line server and archive because the server doesn't have the bandwidth. "As soon as the reporter starts the four-times transfer, he or she can open a browse window and look at the video across the LAN. That's going to be a monumental leap forward."
For graphics, TWC has tapped VertigoX Media for its Graphic Builder Active X, Template Builder and Playout Manager. Pinnacle will also provide Deko 2200s, Clip Deko and Dekocasts.
"With Vertigo's template builder, we can build something once, and we don't have to build a duplicate message onto the Deko 2000s, which will be used in the control room," says Neugeboren. "Vertigo can write to the Deko format."
With so much gear coming together, TWC has already begun building a full test model in the Chelsea Market. Neugeboren expects the automation and server hardware and a portion of the video hardware to be up and running by mid-June. "We'll test-program the code and keep it up for about a year so we can keep on testing software releases."