Think Small and Do It All

Grass Valley, Vizrt help Meredith make news in Springfield, Mass.

With an innovative mix of automation software, PC-based graphics tools and fiber connectivity, Meredith Broadcasting has managed to launch local newscasts at WSHM Springfield/Holyoke, Mass., from a small control room—manned by one operator and one producer.

WSHM is using Grass Valley's Ignite automated production system to control playout of news content from its four Grass Valley M-Series servers and to link to AP's ENPS (Electronic News Production System) newsroom- automation software and Grass Valley NewsEdit nonlinear editors. Vizrt's Viz|Trio real-time 3D character-generation and graphics system, including Viz|Artist animation and Viz|Content Pilot content-management software, powers the station's on-air look. Both systems can be controlled by a single operator in a 10- x 12-foot control room.

WSHM, a low-power station broadcasting on channel 67, used to take news programming from corporate sibling WFSB Hartford, Conn., but it wasn't recognized by Nielsen ratings. The station negotiated for local cable carriage on channel 3 and, as a condition, pledged to produce a newscast.

Meredith's focus was on staying compact. All the systems in Springfield are computer-based, and newsgathering stays lean with reporters' using small DV-format cameras.

Two daily 30-minute newscasts launched last October and already bring in meaningful revenue, says Tom Shelburne, operations manager for WSHM and WFSB. Meredith's total investment: a little over $2 million.

Shelburne thought it was smart to use the “hub” model for news production at WSHM, keeping larger equipment needed to produce news, such as switchers and commercial-insertion gear, at WFSB, with a fiber link to WSHM.

“We send two paths of video at the same time,” says Shelburne. “But it's an independent video path; we're not controlling it remotely.”

Video from WSHM's control room goes to Hartford via fiber. WFSB's master control inserts commercials, and then the feed is relayed back via fiber for local broadcast.

Shelburne selected Grass Valley for automation and news servers because he wanted to rely on one vendor and “make one phone call” if there were any problems. He chose Vizrt for graphics because of both the software's ability to generate real-time performance from generic PC platforms and the company's willingness to develop interfaces to other vendors' products. Vizrt's system also allows standard graphics templates that reporters and producers can easily manipulate.

WSHM relies on automation in the news studio, too, by creating a paperless scripting system for its two anchors. Monitors recessed into the anchor desk show the rundown and scripts, and anchors can control the prompting system themselves via pedals.

“It's all about simplicity and workflow,” says Shelburne. “The whole business model for Springfield was the workflow: How do you put on a newscast with one operator and one producer?”