Newsroom Systems at NAB Feel Need for Speed

By Debra Kaufman

Newsrooms at TV stations and sports networks built around the need to move media quickly, and this year manufacturers have come up with ways to increase speed and productivity as well as make it easier than ever to publish content to multiple platforms.

Associated Press’ ENPS newsroom product, currently at Version 6, is installed in 700 newsrooms in 57 countries, says Lee Perryman, director of broadcast technology, making it perhaps the most ubiquitous newsroom solutions out there. Version 7 will be introduced in phases, or modules, between NAB 2009 and the end of 2010.

The first module to be introduced is the new digital publishing engine, which features tools for fine-tuning content to consumers.

“The journalist who is writing the story and publishing online will be able to see how popular that story is on the customer-facing public Web page,” says Perryman. “To write a story and have dynamic feedback on how much play it’s getting rather than waiting for a report helps you produce better content, complementary content, and helps you be more competitive.”

The digital publishing platform pushes content to multiple platforms, channels or outputs, Perryman says. “You can consciously publish platform-specific content, on-air, online, to the mobile phone and other mobile devices.”

Another feature is a production tool that enables the journalist in the field to communicate with the newsroom, he says. “It lets journalists out of the newsroom access their material back in the newsroom and participate in the production process as if they were in the newsroom.”

Avid Technologies just unveiled an end-to-end HD news solution for Sony XDCAM HD (longGoP HD MPEG2) content.

“HD is still an important differentiator and a new trend for stations,” says Jim Frantzreb, Avid’s senior market segment manager, broadcast. “On the other hand, stations are looking to implement HD as economically as they can, and the XDCAM HD format offers a good and reasonably cost effective workflow. This solution helps customers better leverage the investment they’ve made — or will make — in XDCAM.”

Openness is a big theme for Avid’s newsroom products this year. New version releases for Media Composer (v3.5) and Newscutter (v7.5) both feature AMA (Avid Media Access). “There’s an API that allows Avid to read and use third-party media,” says Frantzreb.

Although AMA was introduced previously, NAB 2009 will be the first time it will be shown “in a large scale,” he says.

Also new is that iNews Command, part of the HD News release, is open to controlling third-party systems for the first time, says Frantzreb. That includes control of video servers like the 360 Systems Image Server, which has been qualified already. Omneon is in beta.

Avid is also responding to the growth of multi-platform journalism.

“The newsroom is going through a tremendous change concerning how technology is enabling journalists to be more productive,” says Straker Coniglio, Avid senior market solutions manager, broadcast. “This change is driven by the need to distribute content across multiple platforms under increasingly tight deadlines.”

With Avid iNews Version 2.7, a ‘community’ feature allows newsrooms in multiple locations to link their systems to share stories and metadata. The Avid Active Content Manager also plugs directly into iNews and Avid editing systems so news organizations can publish content to multiple platforms without dedicated infrastructure.

OmniBus Systems just announced that iTX, its enterprise-class IT-based playout system, has been integrated with Front Porch Digital’s DIVArchive content storage management system, now including support for such features as clip archiving to DIVArchive storage, clip restore and partial restore from archive to iTX storage for playout.

The iTX News product is, at its core, modular, consisting of a suite of product components that can be combined into different configurations. Another key feature is real-time format conversion and rendering at the point of transmission, which enables broadcasters to change the playlist quickly.

With regard to multi-platform functionality, iTX architecture enables multiple versions of the same playlist to be output, with automatic transcoding and distribution, for content to SD, HD, Internet streaming, mobile TV and other content platforms.

The IP-based iTX News enables ingest from sources including digital news delivery services, user-generated material, Avid, Final Cut Pro and live feeds, with the iTX playout engine performing conversions in the background.

Octopus Newsroom System will not launch any new products at NAB 2009, says executive Roman Birickai, having just unveiled its latest newsroom system, Octopus6, in September 2008, at IBC.

“Octopus6 is our first multi-platform newsroom system,” says Birickai. “The client software can be run on any kind of Windows, MacOS X or Linux operating system. The only requirement is support for Java.”

With its strongest markets in Europe and Asia, Octopus6 was most recently installed at Barrandov TV, a new station in the Czech Republic, and is in use at Euronews in France and Al Jazeera English, with headquarters in Qatar and connected to Washington, Kuala Lumpur, Doha and London.

Aiming at increased ease-of-use and productivity, Octopus6 was redesigned to be more user-friendly with an even more straight-forward interface.

“The thin client was created to make Octopus6 even more flexible,” says Birickai. “Bringing a new FCP plug-in gives the users full access to their stories and scripts while editing their video footage.”

NAB 2009 offers still more proof that, as part of the push to make newsroom systems even more responsive to a constantly changing news environment, manufacturers are moving away from the black box solution.

Open systems may open up the competition for manufacturers but it also keeps them in the game. “We allow our customers to pick the best combinations of solutions,” says AP’s Perryman. “We’re moving into a modular world.”