At April’s NAB Show, a number of equipment exhibitors will feature centralized graphics solutions designed to help television stations and producers get them most of their resources, streamline workflows and reduce their costs.
In today’s tough economy, broadcasters and other TV producers feel the pressure for a return on investment for every dollar spent — even for graphics. At the upcoming NAB Show, the companies that make graphics software and systems will unveil their solution: centralized graphics that enable producers to maximize resources, streamline workflows and cut costs.
“We’re seeing a shift towards efficiency,” says Teicia Joffe Gaupp, enterprise marketing for on-air graphics for Avid Technology. “And the workflow as a whole is being reevaluated for today’s needs.”
Other trends at NAB will be the latest tools for real-time 3-D and HD. They are money-savers, but they’re also ways to keep the look fresh and compelling in competitive times.
Among graphics companies leading the way toward centralization is Chyron.
According to COO Kevin Prince, Chyron has embraced the approach by focusing on systems rather than standalone products.
Its acquisition of Axis Graphics took Chyron into Web services. “Now, from a regular browser, you can create graphics online from the browser from anywhere in the world and have them delivered to your station,” Prince says.
Gannett Broadcasting made a multi-year commitment to Axis for all its 23 stations, Prince says.
At NAB, Chyron will show Axis with Order Management Solution (OMS), a method to customize, centralize and output content, as well as monitor the process.
“In the past, you’d have to pick up your phone to order it and have no idea when the graphic would be ready,” Prince says.
When used by a station group, OMS allows graphics creation across time zones, which means that, after hours, an East Coast station can get quick-turnaround graphics from its West Coast sister station.
“Now you can use your people more efficiently,” Prince says. Chyron has seen ROI measured as high as 10:1, he adds. “It allows a higher degree of collaboration.”
Another entry in centralized graphics comes from Harris. Its Connectus is a tool for managing graphics across a local network or the Internet.
According to Curtis Mutter, product line manager for Inscriber production graphics, Connectus gives the user a centralized file server to store graphics, which can then be moved between the graphics systems and locations on the network.
Connectus, which also comes in an offline version, takes the guesswork out of moving a graphics package from the offline creative environment to online playback, says Mutter.
“With the manual process, you had to gather elements and moving them, which took a lot of work and care,” Mutter says. “You might have outdated content or be missing a series of logos. Connectus puts the assets you need together and publishes it as a package.”
Connectus also keeps a history of revisions, which allows the broadcaster to revert to an older version.
Miranda is also demonstrating “work order management in a distributed environment for centralized graphics.”
“It’s a hub-and-spoke model,” says Miranda senior VP, play-out and graphics, Dave Jones, who reports that station group Media General is on board with an 18-spoke version.
“The expertise is centralized at one location, so that saves operational costs,” he says. “Anything that allows people to save money is cutting edge.”
Among the graphics products Vizrt will be offering are the Viz Graphics Hub, a central graphics database, and Viz Trio and Viz Content Pilot, which are control applications. These offer templates that let a station or group re-use a graphic template with a different “look” but the same content at different locations or times. For example, says François LaborieVizrt executive VP of marketing, the system allows sharing the same stories between two stations “but using ‘channel-branded’ graphics for each. Or re-using the same graphics for morning and evening shows, with graphics automatically changing to the right look.”
In addition, Vizrt’s Viz Link lets journalists and operators search and add videos to their graphic animations. The videos come from a centralized MAM solutions, such as Viz Ardome or Viz Video Hub. Video assets can be shared across organizations and networks the same way the graphics are.
And its Viz Curious Maps server is a centralized map database that allows journalists and operators to create branded maps on demand.
Centralized graphics isn’t the only trend to be on display at NAB. The ability to play back real-time 3-D has also recently moved to the forefront. According to Jones, real-time 3-D was once more limited to European and Middle Eastern broadcasters.
“In the States, it’s more used for sports than news because your graphics costs go up substantially with real-time 3-D,” he says.
But that’s now changing. With GPU-rendering, which features dedicated graphics processing cards in the PC, companies can now more easily and cost-effectively create robust products that don’t break the bank.
New real-time 3-D products to be demonstrated at NAB include Miranda‘s XMedia Suite integrated with X3D and Pixel Power’s Clarity 3D.
Harris will also highlight the 3-D capabilities of its Inscriber G7 system, which was shown at last year’s NAB Show, but will have its product launch at NAB 09.
“In addition to creating basic primitives [such as cubes and spheres], which can then be textured and animated,” Mutter says, “the 3-D system can also import scenes from third party systems like Autodesk’s 3ds max and Maya, or Maxon’s Cinema 4D.”
Avid‘s Deko 3D has that same import capability, said Joffe Gaupp. She believes that, though the 3-D trend is just getting started, it’s likely to grow.
“More 3-D-focused workflows at NAB will be in response to emerging niche applications such as 3-D doppler radar to measure distance for sports applications,” Gaupp says. “The technology is advancing such that viewers at home may start to see actual 3-D telecasts, using 3-D film and even 3-D advertising incorporated into the programming.”
Making the Upgrade to High Definition
And then there’s high definition. As TV stations slowly and cautiously move into HD production, graphics are still largely, but not entirely, being done in SD.
At Quantel, Roger Thornton notes that Paintbox-style graphics capabilities are built into its Newsbox HD server-based broadcast production systems.
Though other broadcast graphics purveyors offer HD solutions, many stations aren’t ready to take the leap.
Pixel Power‘s Pete Challinger explains that a few stations have “gone whole hog with HD,” including local news origination and graphics, and a few others are only up-converting SD. But most stations are in the middle, having bought an HD camera but still stuck on upconverting the SD graphics, he says. That’s going to change.
“A good up-conversion of good SD graphics in 16:9 can look quite good … until your competing station does it properly,” he says. “Then it doesn’t look good enough.”
NAB will offer plenty of opportunities for stations to consider the options, for HD and 3-D.
How many stations jump on those products remains to be seen. But with operating costs taking a central focus, the move to centralizing graphics is much closer to a sure bet.