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Renewing the newsroom

With the rapid uptake of mobile devices, broadcast professionals must have a reliable multiplatform content delivery solution that provides a cost-efficient workflow and greater flexibility than ever before

In an increasingly mobile world, newsroom production systems are being asked to do more than ever before. Besides the traditional broadcast television, newsrooms now supply content for mobile applications, web browsers, and video-on-demand (VOD) services. The industry is seeing a clear shift in live production as multiple feeds are being delivered to a range of devices. These new destinations require new tools for content creation and management — ones that enable multiplatform distribution, provide operational efficiency at a lower cost of ownership, and provide the capabilities for content distribution in higher resolutions and higher frame rates.

With the rapid uptake of mobile devices, broadcast professionals must have a reliable multiplatform content delivery solution that provides a cost-efficient workflow and greater flexibility than ever before. At the same time, the number of sources of news content is growing rapidly. Not only does the proliferation of broadcast codecs and file wrappers continue, but non-broadcast image capture devices are increasingly at the forefront of news coverage with many newsrooms going so far as to solicit user-generated content on their webpages. But with the right tools, broadcasters can build their brand relevance, increase their audiences, and grow their revenue.

Efficiently creating new tools and effectively integrating new sources into the workflow has proven challenging. Many production systems maintain legacy software technology based on large, monolithic, and standalone executable files. But having a system that is built entirely upon a modular and scalable Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) provides new opportunities for broadcasters in the newsroom. With such architecture, new tools can be implemented as network level services, with only lightweight software controls being necessary in the user application.

Newsrooms can leverage these new workflows first by gutilising a powerful engine for automatically managing import and export of content and metadata based on any combination of file type, file location, and metadata entries. This rule and workflow engine would allow for all the technical parameters (such as transcoding, type of closed-captioning format, destination resolution, etc.) to be pre-defined and applied in the background, thus freeing editorial and creative personnel to put their energy toward adding value to the content, all simultaneously and dramatically reducing the potential for error.

Here’s an example of this workflow in action:

1. An audience member who has captured valuable news footage on a personal recording device goes to the station’s website. A dialogue on the website instructs the viewer on how to upload the video and also presents a simple questionnaire in which the essential 5Ws of journalism (who, what, where, when, and why) can be entered as text. Under the covers at home, the audience member is actually creating an XML file.

2. Configured rules engines then monitor storage location used by the website for audience member uploads. This way, systems can detect when new content has arrived, match the criteria, and work with a variety of third-party transcode engines to convert and ingest the audio and video into an editable format. Systems will also automatically associate the metadata created by the audience member with the new asset.

3. Newsroom staff using an integrated toolset prepares the content for broadcast, mobile, web, VOD, and any other uses.

4. A journalist, editor, or administrator can direct any and all finished product, using this imported content, to any and all destinations simply by clicking on-screen checkboxes.

5. Configure more rules within the production system to react to the checkboxes, and then route the content through transcoders, and, if needed, also extracting metadata and closed captioning data to send along with the audio/video file.

This workflow can be made possible by the strict adherence to IT principles. Many companies use the term “IT centric”, in which they have modified standard technology to, in effect, make it proprietary. However, to make production systems complete information technologies, they will need to be totally accessible for external interfaces.

The other way to leverage these new workflows is by using a family of functionality that brings remote sites and even individual employees working remotely into a production environment indistinguishable from the newsroom. This type of resource sharing and workforce flexibility is an increasing requirement for newsrooms to meet the financial challenges of delivering more content on stable or even shrinking budgets.

Using standard HTTP streaming to deliver proxy content to users — whether that user is in the newsroom, at a bureau or sister station, or working remotely on a laptop computer, is another way to alleviate the challenges faced by today’s broadcasters. By using only one technology, no matter where the employee is, not only guarantees that the experience is the same every time, but it also means that only a single infrastructure needs to be created. Furthermore, there is no difference between the capabilities of the user between a full resolution connection and a proxy connection.

Implementing cloud technology is another way for newsrooms to overcome some of today’s challenges. Using cloud technology in a totally transparent fashion means users need not worry about or even know how their software tools are gaining access to content. This workflow can be combined with rules workflows, as described earlier in this article. This means that if newsroom management wishes, the field employee could set the metadata tags to automate delivery of the finished content to any and all output destinations.

Ed Casaccia is Senior Director of News Product Line at Grass Valley.

Innovation such as this is essential for professional newsrooms to maintain their status as the preferred source of timely, accurate, and well considered information — especially in an age when the internet and the proliferation of image capture devices allows virtually anyone to post what would appear to be news content, but that is inaccurate, misleading, or worse. With the continuing evolution of various technologies, it is inevitable that higher resolutions and higher frame rates are necessary — ones that will facilitate production and publishing of higher resolution content as well as provide the infrastructure to make short or medium term investments compatible with changing business needs. By presenting media on the right platform, in the right configuration and at the right time, the opportunities to monetise content will soar.