CNN Interviews Rand Paul Via Snapchat

Buried in a story from Politico about an interview with Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the fact CNN used Snapchat to capture the Q&A.

To get around the ephemeral quality of Snapchat, which ensures images and video disappear after they are viewed, CNN recorded the footage and shared it with the world on and YouTube.

The story and video of the interview are available on the Politico website.

GoPro Cameras Add New Dimension To NHL

New immersive views of on ice action have come to to the National Hockey League.


GoPro cameras are being used to bring immersive HD views of NHL action to hockey fans on TV and online.

GoPro cameras are being used to bring immersive HD views of NHL action to hockey fans on TV and online.

GoPro, the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association on Jan. 23 — the day before the NHL All-Star Skills Competition and two days prior to the actual All-Star Game — made public a partnership that will bring “never-before-seen perspectives” on hockey action, in the words of a GoPro press release.

Using GoPro cameras and specially designed miniature camera transmitters from Vislink, the league will make on-ice HD video available during national and regional broadcasts as well as online via digital and social media platforms. The technology made its NHL debut during the skills competition Jan. 24.

The cameras will give viewers a new perspective on the skating, stickhandling, goaltending and scoring that are critical to the game.

Defining Broadband And The Power of Shame

Have you ever wondered how fast is fast enough for an online connection to qualify as a “broadband” connection?

What is BroadbandAn interesting article on Gizmodo by Chris Mills, “Why You Should Care That The FCC Is Trying To Redefine Broadband,” focuses on the thinking of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and his call to update the old definition from 4Mb/s down and 1.5Mb/s up to 25Mb/s down and 3Mb/s up.

There’s a lot packed into this quick-reading article, including the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s take on how fast broadband should be, Public Knowledge’s point of view and even the impact of 4K video streaming.

But the most important point Mills makes is that the FCC has tools at its disposal to “ ‘encourage’ competition,” among broadband service providers, which will result in “an ‘entry level’ broadband package [that] will be something you might want to own, rather than a low-price face-saving tool designed to make telcos look good.”

Hockey in HD — Hurray

There was a time when it was tough to watch hockey on television.

A total of 525 lines of interlaced analog TV resolution — not all of which actually carried picture information — simply wasn’t enough for most fans to follow the fast-moving puck.

Clearly, HDTV and new display technologies have relegated that inadequacy to the history books, and nowhere was that clearer than last night at Ballpark Village, adjacent to the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where Blues fans gathered for a watch party to take in the NHL All Star Game on a 40-foot diagonal LED screen.

What made me think about how much things have changed was a graphical treatment NBC Sports Network used last night to track the on-ice minutes of players.The graphic — sort of a  Sunday funnies dialogue bubble that tracked a player with the point of the bubble as he skated — for some reason reminded me of the lengths to which Fox went in the 1990s with its FoxTrax to help viewers keep track of the fast-moving puck.

There was something about the point of that bubble tracking a player that brought to mind the glowing puck of yesteryear.

Isn’t it nice viewers can actually see the puck on TV these days?

Vogt: RGB Acquisition Creates TV Everywhere Synergies

Imagine Communications’ acquisition of RGB Networks, announced moments ago, is intended to “help accelerate the timing” of TV Everywhere deployment for MVPDs, TV networks and others by making it easier to manage, monetize and deliver video content, said Charlie Vogt, Imagine Communications CEO, in a brief telephone interview today.

Imagine Communications“We are building the most complete end-to-end video distribution portfolio for linear, OTT and IP networks,” he said.

The acquisition of RGB Networks will add some important cloud-based IP technology to the Imagine Communications product offering, including technology that ensures only the adaptive bit rate encoding that it needed is actually done and other solutions that make it easier to target advertising to individuals.

Vogt added there are “a lot of synergies” between the Imagine Communications and RGB Networks product portfolios.

To learn more, read “Imagine Communications Buys RGB Networks.”

Localism Recap: Jan. 23

Well, it may have happened. I may have run into a brick wall with my effort to help “Help Shine A Light On TV Localism.”

I only received one submission from a station this week about an effort to serve the local community.

As I have written, my goal is to showcase the efforts of stations that make a special effort to engage in localism and promote the interests of their communities.

But I am rely on you, the reader, to continue feeding me write-ups of your efforts.

Please read the blog posting I have linked to learn how to submit information and why this is important.

NoKidHungry WWL

New Orleans
September 2014
Fundraising For Children’s Meals

WWL partnered with No Kid Hungry with a goal to get local children the before-, during- and after-school meals they need. All departments at the station contributed by hosting a phone bank, producing live cooking segments and recruiting restaurants.

The goal of the phone bank was to raise $10,000 in a single day. The station ended up nearly doubling that by raising $17,838. That money pays for more than 178,000 meals for children in need.

Grid Pattern Puts Virtual Sets Within Easier Grasp

Virtual sets are becoming more attractive from a cost point of view for local stations, says Orad head of North American operations Brian Kelly.

Virtual sets are becoming more attractive from a cost point of view for local stations, says Orad head of North American operations Brian Kelly.

A few months ago in “Virtual Sets Gain Traction in Station Studios” I made the point that hard set designers are beginning to augment real sets with their computer-generated counterparts.

One of the reasons, it turns out, is that the digital engines used to generate the virtual 3D set portion are so good they are creating what essentially is a set extension that looks like it fits in the real world.

There is also an economic argument to be made in favor of this approach — or even going virtual entirely. The idea is it’s far less expensive to change the virtual elements in an augmented hard set or to create an entirely new virtual set for coverage of special, predictable news events, like elections.

However, being less expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it fits in the budget, especially for smaller stations with limited funds. That’s because there is more to putting a virtual set or set components on air than simply the rendering engine that creates the virtual set.

Higher-end systems use different types of camera tracking to make sure what the viewer sees on air is identical to what the camera would be picking up if it were shooting a hard set. Positional data is especially important when camera moves, zooms, pans and tilts are required.

The problem for the smaller station is camera tracking is not cheap and may push the overall price of virtual sets out of reach.

However, in reporting the original article, I spoke with Brian Kelly, VP and general manager of  Orad’s North American operation. He told me the company offers an entry level virtual set system that relies on a pattern recognition system to provide position data similar to what cameras sensors deliver for far less money.

The following is an excerpt from my interview with Kelly:

Is it possible to do a virtual set without the use of tracking cameras and sensors?
There is the capability of doing it with our grid-based tracking. This system relies on a pattern on the wall which allows the Orad Digital Video Processor to calculate the orientation, position and zoom of the camera. It eliminates the need for tracking heads because it relies on pattern recognition. Orad’s Pattern Recognition System is our most cost-effective solution for doing a virtual studio.

Can you give me a ballpark idea of what an entry-level virtual set would cost a station?
For Orad, our entry-level Pattern Recognition System would be in the $70,000 to $100,000 range.

A tracking system would be in the $150,000 to $200,000 range for camera head-based tracking. Of course, it can go much beyond that if we have full infrared tracking where you have full and complete tracking of the cameras’ movements in the studio environment whether it be a dolly-based system or on a grid or a rail.

Are call letter stations beginning to deploy virtual sets?
Yes they are. There are a couple of things going on here. With all of the consolidation going on, everyone is evaluating how they can get increased efficiencies across the stations. Customers are taking a look at the marketplace and the fact that virtual technology has gotten so much better over the years.

They see where it has been successful, and they understand the capital costs involved with building sets.

A number of customers have looked at the model Shaw Media in Canada has deployed with its use of virtual. They have very successfully gone with virtual all across Canada for the five different time zones and were able to reduce their operational costs pretty dramatically while at the same time improving their ratings.

So that kind of success does not go unnoticed, and we all know the kind of pressure the broadcast industry is under to reduce costs and improve the product they go to air with.

A Torah Codes Surprise

OK, I admit it. I’m a fan of the overnight radio show Coast To Coast AM with George Noory.

I have been fascinated by this radio show ever since I heard its creator and original host Art Bell take a wildcard line call from a guy who said he was calling from his small airplane as he was flying into the airspace of the not-so-secret USAF base known as Area 51.

I don’t care if the call was real or a hoax. I was hooked.

So imagine my surprise on Tuesday of this week when I checked my email, and there was a note from a former employee of a previous client of mine who said he had heard me mentioned on the show.

It turns out my friend Richard Shaw, who released Torah Codes: End to Darkness in December, was a guest on the show and briefly recounted our association when he was one of my authors at AVVideo magazine.

Nothing particularly earth-shattering, but I suppose I now have had about 10 seconds of my allotted 15 minutes of fame.

Redwood Studio Automates News Production

A few months ago, I wrote an article about changing directions in news automation called “News Automation Gear Going Agnostic.”

Jim O'Brien, SVP of AVECO.

Jim O’Brien, SVP of AVECO.

Shortly after it was published, I heard from Jim O’Brien, a 46-year TV industry veteran who is now the Global SVP, sales, of Prague, Czech Republic-based Aveco.

I was unaware of Aveco, and the company certainly wasn’t on my radar screen at the 2014 NAB Show when it introduced Redwood Studio, a client/server-type system that the company bills as “the industry’s first news studio in a box.” As a result, I didn’t cover the Aveco product or the company’s approach in my news automation story.

I arrange a call with O’Brien and had a wide-ranging discussion about the company and its products. What follows is a portion of that interview with O’Brien about Redwood Studio.

Tell me about Redwood Studio.
We released at last NAB the industry’s first news studio in a box, which integrates with any of the six major newsroom systems. It provides high-end production automation, and internal to the box it is an eight-input production switcher, supporting four channels of HD video, four separate channels of audio, graphics, a tie in with external data sources for tickers, audio mixing, audio server and camera robotics control in one box.

It can be run remotely, which means it can be used to run from a central site during breaking news coverage. For instance, in a weather emergency it could be running under remote control at night while the station’s reporters and meteorologists are getting back to the station to begin reporting.

In the Midwest especially you have so many severe storm tracks coming through. Nobody keeps a studio manned all of the time, and sometimes it really is a significant breaking news story.

Certain vendors have begun migrating to virtualized, software-based production control that performs  functions like editing, transcoding, graphics creation and other tasks on common off-the-self blade servers. Is that the sort of thing we are talking about with Redwood Studio?
Aveco pioneered virtualizing control. It is built into the nature of a client-server architecture. We are the poster child of that kind of capability.

We are keenly aware of that as an industry trend, and one part of our approach is that we can control a vast range of discrete devices while at the same time we have some studios either remotely or locally running this studio-in-a-box.

How many people are needed to run a news show with Redwood Studio?
It’s a station’s call. The nature of our platform is you can automate under a new studio in a box as much as you want, and you can have discrete device control or just run manually. We don’t have the presumption that we are everything.

We are aware of the complexities of broadcast facilities, and there are some places that will automate more than other places. We have that kind of modular control and sophistication.

Let’s say a station chooses to automate its existing news production technology with Redwood Studio rather than replace everything. How agnostic is your product when it comes to controlling the panoply of production switchers and other gear used to produce news?
We integrate with all of the major production switchers — Sony, Grass Valley, Ross Video, FOR-A and Snell. There is a terrific service these production switchers are providing now and will continue to provide for a very long time.

Redwood Studio controls all of them as well as the Harmonic servers, EVS and Quantel, and it integrates with all of them. While that’s all in place, there are application areas where it is convenient to have a studio-in-a-box type of design.

Maybe it is for the breaking news in the off hours when the studio is not manned. Maybe it is for special high-end coverage. Maybe it is a special report for a bureau.

Are there any other news applications for Redwood Studio?
One of the things we see as an opportunity is extending localism to stream splicing at local cable headends for niche coverage of a few minutes of newscast. We were one of the first master control automation systems to run stream splicing systems.

And this is an area where the industry can find new money in local sponsorships, typically on a zone basis because all of the newspaper groups have traditionally collected their revenue from zones.

They are pretty well-defined commercially, and everybody locally knows of them. There are places that can be well-served by enhanced local coverage of news, sports and weather as well as localized advertising. And that is something we control, we can do that with news and spots.

Frost & Sullivan Honors Imagine Communications

Frost & Sullivan has named Imagine Communications its 2014 Entrepreneurial Company of the Year for best practices in the video encoding and transcoding industry.

Best Practices Award GraphicThe awards are made to companies in various regional markets and the global market for outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service and strategic product development.

“One of our primary objectives is empowering our customers to migrate to an IP future based on open standards and interoperable solutions, and do so while maximizing their investments in existing infrastructure and workflows,” said Charlie Vogt, CEO of Imagine Communications.

“It is particularly rewarding that Frost & Sullivan’s research validates our vision, and this prestigious award recognizes the considerable work by our employees around the world to make it a reality.”

To learn more, visit the Imagine Communications website.