After years of relying on a tape-based workflow, CBS affiliate WANE Fort Wayne, Ind., has made the leap to file-based news production, replacing aging tape-based editing and playback systems with disk-based solutions from Avid Technology.
The LIN Television station, which produces 4.5 hours of news a day in the 106th-largest market, began considering an overhaul of its news-production systems after it learned that support for Avid’s legacy NewStar newsroom computer system, which the station had been using to create scripts and manage news content for 15 years, was due to cease this year. Although Avid has created an upgrade path from NewStar to its next-generation iNews platform, WANE decided to go a step further and replace the aging Sony Betacam SX tape decks it was using for tape-to-tape editing with Avid nonlinear editing systems.
WANE invested just under $1 million on Avid iNews, iNews Instinct and NewsCutter nonlinear editing systems, Unity ISIS shared storage, and an AirSpeed playout server that replaces a 20-year-old Sony Betacart cart machine used to play back edited segments off Betacam SP tape. WANE is also using Avid’s Interplay content-management software to manage its overall file-based production workflow.
WANE used Avid Media Composer nonlinear editing systems in its promotions department for more than 10 years, but until this spring, its hard-news workflow was decidedly old-school.
“From a technical standpoint, we were running a Betacart and packing it with [Betacam SP] tapes for the newscast,” says Chief Engineer Mark Johnson. “But that was becoming more and more unreliable. We needed to make the switch from NewStar to iNews. We couldn’t use iNews with the Betacart interface, and we do not have enough staff to run tapes manually. So we had to make all the changes at one time.”
“PEOPLE REALLY TAKE TO IT”
WANE’s 33 newsroom staffers, along with promotion staff, received 2½ weeks of onsite training before going live with the Avid nonlinear systems.
“People really take to it,” Johnson says. “To be honest with you, I didn’t know if they would catch on to it.”
WANE can use iNews at 25 “seats”—jargon for desktops—along with four Avid NewsCutter nonlinear editing systems. WANE doesn’t have dedicated editors; therefore, the producers have traditionally edited stories. They are now editing the bulk of voice-overs and sound-bite segments using Avid Instinct, an optional component of iNews that lets users create video sequences while editing text.
To make journalists unfamiliar with nonlinear editing feel comfortable, Instinct uses a vertical storyline instead of a timeline to measure video. It automatically matches the length of video to the time it takes to read a news script. WANE producers use Instinct to edit video stored on the Unity ISIS system, whether local footage captured by station photographers or national video feeds accessed through Avid’s Capture Manager ingest system.
“Our producers have always done a lot of editing,” says Assignment Editor Scott Murray. “But now it’s a lot easier and a lot quicker. It’s all right there; they don’t have to dump it to tape, then put a barcode on the tape, then throw it back in a deck.”
Interplay, a software-based media-management system that Avid bills as a “nonlinear workflow engine,” ties WANE’s news-production system together and links the station’s promotions and Web departments.
“Interplay is the key component of the whole system,” says Murray. “It’s connected to all the computers, the Instincts on the desktop and the control room, and everybody has access to everybody’s video. Nothing is private; everything is public and shared.”
WANE’s aging Betacart used to be its commercial-spot–playback system, before LIN instituted a “centralcasting” architecture that delivers spots from a central server and master-control operation in Indianapolis. The Sony device was taken offline for three years and then resurrected to automatically run tapes during the newscast, in response to personnel downsizing (operators used to manually cue tapes for playback during newscasts). But it wasn’t a long-term solution.
“The Betacam SP decks were showing their age, and it was all coming due to being replaced,” says Johnson. Now WANE is using an Avid AirSpeed to store and play out pre-edited packages.
One major part of WANE’s news workflow remains firmly rooted in the tape-based world: field acquisition. So footage from the field has to be dumped off Betacam SX tape to the ISIS storage.
The station’s next big purchase, still a few years away, will be to replace the Betacams it is currently using with a next-generation, high-definition format.
For now, Murray is happy to enjoy the efficiency that comes with implementing nonlinear editing, storage and playback.
“I think it’s a lot faster and quicker to edit,” he says. “You don’t have to rewind tape back and forth, and the video is at everyone’s fingertips. You don’t have to ask somebody for a tape in order to cut video for a tease. You already have it on the desktop, and you take it and use it. The promotions people get teases, and they don’t have to ask people to look for a take. Everything is shared, and it’s quick.”