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How IT-based broadcast automation systems are changing the newsroom

Television broadcasters worldwide have been migrating away from proprietary, hardware-based workflows and toward all-IT, software-based production environments, and for a good reason. Running on commodity hardware, software solutions are the key to new workflow efficiencies, and the flexibility to deliver more powerful and scalable production environments. These benefits are especially compelling in a TV newsroom. Now, broadcasters can build a virtual control room for managing switchers, automation, graphics, and video playout from any location and anytime using a web browser.

The transition.
Beginning in the 2000s, broadcasting technology underwent a sea change. The digital revolution and the emergence of compression formats played a key role in this migration, together with advances in CPU performance. Up until a few years ago, commercial off-the-shelf PCs and servers were simply not powerful enough to handle high-resolution video with acceptable latency. One large concern was whether software solutions were stable and reliable enough for high-stakes live broadcasts. Fast-forward to today, and commodity computer platforms and operating systems have grown exponentially in both power and stability. The potential to apply similar workflows in a professional, production environment, with tools and systems that can be operated by non-technical personnel, is a powerful motivator for broadcasters of all sizes.

An incremental approach. But, just like the transition to digital broadcasting, this migration to IT-based solutions will be gradual. Broadcasters with large investments in legacy equipment will need to take a phased approach. Recent advances in APIs are enabling legacy systems to add elements of automation to existing workflows; for instance, a process that triggered a single action previously can trigger at least two at once. The best strategy for these broadcasters, therefore, is a hybrid system that brings automation and integration to traditional systems.

Some of the benefits. The software conforms to the needs of users and thus minimizes the need for specialized technical staff. The solution automates every workflow in the newsroom, meaning complete integration of all functions previously handled by isolated hardware such as switchers, graphics, and video playouts. Besides the savings from using lower-cost systems, the extreme usability and automation enables news operations to produce more in less time, without increasing costs.

Newsroom nirvana. Consider a TV newsroom covering a large, rapidly breaking story. Traditionally, making a simple announcement, say a fire breakout, required separate operators to manage prompters, graphics, switchers, cameras, and the like. So many touchpoints introduce a higher margin of error, and the intense coordination required makes it more difficult. Contrast this with a software-run environment, in which the only real unknown is the news itself. With time of the essence, the software enables a repeatable, reliable environment for packaging and presenting the content with fewer touchpoints. The newsroom can deliver the news to air quicker and with greater accuracy. The news anchor can sit down in front of the camera, push two or three buttons, record the piece and then quickly cue it up for the evening’s news rundown. Here, the content creator, not the technology, is in control. And such an IP-based solution enables news professionals can go on air anytime and from any location.

It is all about content. In the end, TV is all about making content, and content has never been more critical than it is today. The growth of IP video on many different types of devices has only compounded the challenge for broadcasters. To stay competitive and thrive, they have to adapt. With software-based automation systems, news organizations can deprioritize technology and focus on the most important factor – high-quality, high-production-value news presentation. The more transparent and easier-to-use, the more people are freed to focus on telling the story in the most compelling manner possible.

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