Broadcast workflow used to be all about tapes. Shooting on tapes, putting tapes into machines, copying from one tape to another, using very expensive gear and costly workflows, with scarce resources and high skill levels.
But as broadcast technology evolved tape was mostly replaced by hard drives, and the revolution in editing made it possible to work in the field with laptop editors.
All of these changes happened some time ago, but the same evolutionary logic still hasn’t been applied to the entire workflow in every case, and news production is one example. It’s a surprise that in many news production setups there are still a lot of black boxes involved, and a lot of specialised expertise is needed to hold the workflow together. Production in a setup like this is slower than it could be because of the overheads: a lot of time is consumed simply in logistics – in locating content and accessing it.
When, on top of this inefficient workflow, you add the complexity of providing the pieces for online output, the overall production often becomes quite unwieldy. Typically in editing a news piece, the start-to-finish time of an hour or two hours includes a large proportion of time spent waiting around for content to be found and made available, and that’s before the process of preparation for online distribution can begin. In a news operation, where getting fresh content out quickly is vitally important, this inefficiency is a real problem.
A lot of the work done today by many broadcasters is dependent on physical files being present at a particular workstation. What happens if the person that did the editing walks out of the door with the workstation containing the piece in progress? How much time can a news operation afford to lose discovering which of the 20 workstations has the required piece on it?
There is also rigidity inherent in this kind of setup, making it difficult to scale up to meet peaks in activity when that is required. Traditional broadcast workflow is based on the premise of local hardware architecture, so production is tied to whatever resources have been installed. Typically there’s an edit suite located somewhere in the production centre, with a finite number of seats, and editors must wait for transcoding through a physical transcoder that has to be booked. To improve the workflow it’s necessary to buy more machines, and this is both costly and time-consuming.
The advantage of fully IP-based production is that it promises an instantly-scalable solution, where resources and content can be shared with everyone and not tied to any particular hardware or physical location.
With an operation based on a fully IP-based production workflow, the time that was wasted on logistics is regained. A totally IP-based production system ensures that as long as the content is in the system somewhere, you can edit it within seconds, and publish it within seconds. Anyone with access to the system and the right permissions can re-edit the piece, fix typos, or insert new material. Because content is not tied to physical media in specific locations, there is no logistics overhead in the production workflow, and journalists are consequently able to produce more stories, keeping them more accurate and up-to-the minute because they can be updated at almost no expense, at any time throughout the day.
Before, when a broadcaster wanted to scale up its news operation, for example to add a new location, it required both the purchase of more hardware, and the infrastructure to move content between locations. Now, if you want to add a new working location there is no need to upgrade or add equipment or infrastructure to access and work on the content; by the nature of the system, it’s accessible from anywhere. Scalability is instant because no software is required: working through an HTML5 web interface, any computer can be used – even a cheap Chromebook can instantly become a full-powered production workstation. Any peak of activity created by sudden major news events can be dealt with easily as long as there are staff to do the work; the production resources can be added in minutes.
When the broadcast industry went through its editing revolution, the cost savings were tremendous. Million dollar editing suites built by specialist professionals were replaced by thousand dollar software. But those cost reductions were only part of what broadcasters – news operations especially – can achieve now. What we are doing with Vimond VCC and the rest of the Vimond suite of production tools is taking the same magnitude of change and applying it across the whole workflow.