In newsrooms across the world, tapeless technology has moved from being niche and experimental to mainstream and robust. We look at some of the challenges facing news broadcasters today and how the transition to tapeless can help streamline their operations.
The pressure to move to tapeless has come at both ends of the production chain. Where competition to break stories first and ahead of rivals is intense, there is a need for an increased speed of responsiveness, which sees the physical movement and ingest of tape as a real handicap.
And once acquired, nowadays material needs to be edited and repurposed for multi-platform distribution.
As well as feeds from the news services, newsrooms are beginning to implement web-based content delivery systems that can be accessed by reporters and 'citizen journalists'.
Tapeless camera formats meanwhile mean that ingest can occur at faster than realtime - P2 and XDCAM support is a must nowadays - and logging can start while material is still being loaded onto a server.
All of this is useless unless multiple people - up to hundreds in realtime - can start working on that footage as soon as it becomes available. Simultaneous sharing of assets is vital, coupled with robust automated tracking to keep all production elements current and synchronised, eliminating lost time sifting through out-of-date files or overlapping revisions.
This is also the point at which metadata can be added, providing value to the broadcaster's archive and enabling fast retrieval of material that can be further repurposed later.
Scalability, future-proofing in terms of HD capability, fast and efficient mirroring and bullet-proof stability are all vital components of any system.
For many broadcasters, putting editing power in the hands of journalists is not just crucial but the main aspect of tapeless news. File-based digital production workflow reduces the time-consuming activities relating to the handling of tapes and allows more time to be spent on creative, editorial tasks.
When it comes to editing, journalists can now be the masters of their own stories, with simple networked desktop editing tools allowing them to build story packages in which cuts and edit decisions are tied closely to the script.
This makes it easy for reporters and producers to edit their own voiceover and sound-on-tape pieces - which typically comprises 80 to 90% of newscast stories - while dedicated craft editors use more capable machines to focus on creating packages and more complex pieces. CGs and subtitling systems also hook into the same system.
Where once newsrooms saw runners dashing dramatically from edit suite to gallery with that last minute story on a video tape, now when the journalist or editor has completed a story, it is saved back to the shared storage system.
The producer can then access it instantly and add it to the rundown. All of the stories can then be played out directly from the server.
Additionally, the web team can also access material from the server and either manipulate the size and format as necessary to use it on the website, mobiles or PDAs, or create a wholly new, customised version for specific platforms.
A finished story can also be shared quickly and securely with regional or global bureaux, adding further value.
There are many time and money efficiencies to be made throughout the production process by going tapeless, but they do have to be designed that way.
With the advent of computer-based newsroom systems, design and configuration was often left to the IT department, which would create a system to suit the technology.
Broadcasters are increasingly turning this around and involving the news team in the design and workflow, and, as a result, there is a much better understanding across technical, production and editorial departments about how the system should be used and what its strengths and limitations are.
And, as tapeless users move further away from simply replicating tape-based workflows on a server system, wholly new workflows are evolving to take account of the powerful new options. The equipment might be standard, but the implementations are often bespoke.
Going tapeless is a complex task which requires buy-in from across a whole organisation. It affects practically every area of the broadcaster's business so it is essential to plan everything to the last detail.
Perhaps the most crucial thing to bear in mind though is that change is a people project, not just a technical project. Staff need to become involved early on in the process.
Project managers need to find out how they work and how the technology can help them to be more efficient - not just take a 'here's the new box, off you go' approach. Comprehensive, company-wide training and early involvement is key to a successful transition.
To enable remote newsgathering, the iNEWS web client allows journalists direct access to the newsroom system so they can file stories from anywhere in the world using any internet connected machine.
As part of the newsroom automation, the Avid iNEWS Command automation-assist system provides automated rundown lists, tracks script changes, and automates control of production and playback devices in the newsroom.
Production cues inserted into NRCS scripts enable a single iNEWS command workstation to trigger multiple broadcast devices.
For Web and IP delivery, journalists can automatically send an iNEWS story to an Avid Active ContentManager template and publish it directly to the Web within the station's pre-designed page templates.
The Avid iNEWS NRCS completes the newsroom solution by providing integration between the newsroom, broadcast operations and news editing. With the Avid iNEWS system, teleprompter feeds and cues for character generators, video servers and still stores can be executed directly from an iNEWS NRCS script.