Delivering fast, fresh, affordable news to diverse viewers.

Delivering fast, fresh, affordable news to diverse viewers.

The viewers served by WRDW-TV, the CBS affiliate in Augusta, Ga., are about as diverse as they come. Covering 19 counties in Georgia and South Carolina, WRDW's reach spans mid-sized cities, smaller-sized towns, and rural areas. Adding to this mix is the influx of athletes, tourists, celebrities, and media from around the world that converge on Augusta each spring for the internationally renowned Masters Golf Tournament.

For the newsroom at WRDW, which includes approximately 35 people, appealing to such diversity requires two capabilities: operating at full capacity at all times while making the most efficient use of resources; and updating stories from one newscast to another.

 The economies we've achieved leaving our aging, tape-based systems behind, combined with the more polished image we've been able to project, have been well worth our investment in Avid.
John Ray, President and General Manager, WRDW

The Case for Automation

In early 2005, the WRDW news-production team determined that news automation would be essential to maintaining the station's high standards for productivity and adaptability. By the end of January, the station was online with the Avid iNEWS newsroom computer system (NRCS) to efficiently manage newsroom operations.

In May 2006, WRDW expanded its Avid setup to streamline efficiencies further by incorporating a complete ingest-to-playout nonlinear workflow. This included the addition of an Avid Unity LANshare shared-storage system; Avid Unity MediaManager asset management software; Avid AirSpeed servers (two for ingest and two for playout); NewsCutter XP nonlinear news editing systems with Avid Mojo hardware; and iNEWS Instinct journalist-editing stations. The station later added an Avid Deko 550 on-air graphics system.

For WRDW news director Estelle Parsley, the decision to switch to a completely nonlinear workflow was a simple one. Our editing equipment in the newsroom was about 10 years old, and the only tape-based operation at the station. From an efficiency perspective, going nonlinear was a smart choice. It gives us a cleaner look, and the production assistants and photojournalists we hire have learned nonlinear, so the training and transition is streamlined. We also avoided the costs we would have incurred continuing to repair aging tape-based decks.

 From an efficiency perspective, going completely nonlinear was a smart choice. ... We also avoided the costs we would have incurred continuing to repair aging tape-based decks.
Estelle Parsley, News Director, WRDW

Making the Most of Time and Footage

When it comes to maximizing productivity and getting the most from existing footage at the station, the Avid workflow earns top marks. Central to WRDW's end-to-end setup is the Avid Unity LANshare system, which the station uses for shared storage and networking.

Delivering eight terabytes of real-time shared media access, the footage stored on the Avid Unity LANshare system is accessible by anyone in the newsroom using the MediaManager Select software, which enables fast and flexible search and retrieval of the station's online assets. This setup enables WRDW editors, photographers, and producers to view and play clips located in shared storage. They also have drag-and-drop access to media clips and finished segments created with the station's five NewsCutter XP systems and five Avid Instinct workstations. As a result, multiple editors, photographers, and producers can work with the same piece of video simultaneously.

WRDW president and general manager John Ray explains, With shared storage, a reporter can be creating a package while a producer, typically at the end of the line, writes a tease. Both can be working with the same video. The advantage is that we're able to put a package together faster than with our previous, linear approach.

The flexibility to reuse footage is another big time saver for a station with a full news schedule that includes a two-hour morning newscast weekdays from 5am to 7am; 30-minute newscasts weekdays at noon, 5pm, 6pm, and 11pm; and 30-minute weekend newscasts at 6pm and 11pm. WRDW recently launched a 30-minute Hispanic news program on weekends as well. The station also operates a My Network affiliate and a 24-hour weather channel.

Parsley explains, The story we run at 6pm or 11pm will be updated and aired again the next day at 5am. We store the scripting and video information in the LANshare [system], so it's accessible to reporters and producers from shift to shift. In addition, the graphic features in NewsCutter and Deko make it easy to update information on the graphics, so we can keep our newscasts fresh. She continues, We used to have one graphics artist because the older computer technology was more training intensive. That meant specialized graphics could be created only on one shift by our one graphics artist. The Deko system is easy to use by comparison. As a result, we now have the flexibility of enabling several directors and production assistants to create graphics around the clock.

The Right Tools for the Right People

In most cases, producers and reporters are less familiar with nonlinear editing systems than their editor and photographer counterparts. To maximize the productivity of its five-person producing team, WRDW has equipped its department with five Avid Instinct journalist-editing stations.

Avid Instinct is a visual storytelling tool that combines newsroom, script, and video assets in a script-based format that's more familiar to producers and reporters than nonlinear editing solutions. By providing capabilities for building simple, cuts-only story packages that tie editing decisions closely to scripts, the Avid Instinct system enables any WRDW producer to begin work on video for news stories, newscast opens, and teases right from their desktops.

The Avid Instinct interface design was based on study group results indicating that newsroom staffers who have limited familiarity with nonlinear editing are more productive using interfaces that display scripts on the same screen and enable the user to compose the text in conjunction with the corresponding video. With a familiar vertical scripting interface, the WRDW producers can lay video clips next to their scripts and more easily visualize the best match between script and video.

Parsley says the station's Avid Instinct systems make it easy for producers and reporters to edit simple voice-overs and sound-on-tape segments. At the same time, editors and photographers use NewsCutter XP software to create more elaborate packages and craft-edited pieces using a comprehensive creative toolset. The Avid Instinct and NewsCutter XP systems provide convenient desktop access to all the necessary editing tools used by different staff members. This has enabled WRDW to significantly reduce time-to-air of professionally produced pieces.

All in the Presentation

Since moving to an all Avid workflow, Ray has noticed an improvement in the visual quality of the station's newscasts. He says, Our Avid setup enables us to produce a cleaner on-air look and more visually exciting newscast. For a station with a goal to maintain its image as a news organization at the forefront of technology, this is important.

The higher visual appeal of the WRDW newscasts is attributed in large part to the capabilities of the NewsCutter XP system. The station's five NewsCutter XP workstations are shared in the WRDW newsroom by the station's five part-time editors and seven photographers. They use NewsCutter software to create packages that integrate a variety of special effects and graphics such as logos, graphics, and color correction. Because all of the visual effects are integrated in one stream, transitions are timed more accurately. The ultimate result is a smoother and cleaner on-air look.

The NewsCutter XP system's capabilities are complemented by the Avid Deko 550 on-air graphics system. At WRDW, the Deko system is used to create consistent, templated full-screen graphics and lower third titles for a sophisticated, professional presentation. Parsley confirms that with the Deko 550 system, lower-fifth title bars are sharper, brighter, and cleaner than with the station's previous graphics system, the Chyron Infinit. With the tight integrations between the NewsCutter XP editing system and the Deko on-air graphics system, the staff can insert Deko graphics directly into the NewsCutter timeline to further streamline news-production processes.

The Heart of the Newsroom

The heart of the WRDW newsroom is where the station's relationship with Avid began in 2005: the iNEWS newsroom computer system (NRCS). For WRDW, the iNEWS system provides total control of newsroom operations. This includes capturing wires and data feeds; ordering rundowns; and integrating data with the NewsCutter XP and Avid Instinct editing stations, as well as with the two Avid AirSpeed I/O servers used for playout.

At WRDW, the biggest appeal of the iNEWS NRCS is its abundance of common Windows-based features. This enables the news and production team members to keep more windows open on their desktops at one time for optimum multitasking. Parsley says her team also benefits from the system's collaborative advantages, such as top-line messaging. At the end of the day, however, it all boils down to accessibility.

Says Parsley, With iNEWS, our journalists can get what they need instantly on their desktop with a click of a button. For the majority of our staff who are most comfortable using a mouse and Windows-based setups, this is a big plus.

A Painless Transition

For WRDW, the transition from tape to a total Avid nonlinear solution was virtually painless. Parsley attributes the ease-of-transition to the intuitive user interfaces provided by Avid systems, as well as the systems' support for the Windows platform. She explains, The majority of our photographers, producers, and reporters are entry level. Because many colleges equip their student newsrooms with Avid systems and nonlinear equipment, many of our younger staff members are more quickly familiar with the Avid Windows-based system than they were with our former, proprietary system.

Another factor that contributed to the station's seamless transition from a tape-based to a nonlinear Avid environment was the quality of Avid training. Explains Parsley, One of the challenges we faced with the training and conversion process was addressing disparities in comfort among our news and production staff with nonlinear editing. Another was training our entire photojournalist and editorial staff, while continuing to gather and edit news for our regularly scheduled newscasts. With a mix of offsite training for administrators and onsite training for everyone else, Avid enabled us to get up to speed on our new systems quickly, with minimal impact on day-to-day station operation.

Making Big Gains

The station's experience with an all Avid workflow is proof that even smaller broadcasters such as WRDW - with a DMA ranking of 115 -  can make big gains in time, quality, and savings by going nonlinear. Says Ray, The economies we've achieved leaving our aging, tape-based systems behind, combined with the more polished image we've been able to project, have been well worth our investment in Avid.