Global News is the award-winning news and current affairs division of Global Television Network, one of Canada’s largest private broadcasters. Building on its reputation for high-quality coverage and innovative production, the news leader sought to sharpen its advantages and keep viewers engaged. So director of operations and technology Gerry Belec and his team set out to transform the look and feel of all news delivered across the organization and gain production agility and workflow efficiency.
Belec’s goal wasn’t just about creating more dynamic news coverage: he was also looking to implement a fast, more agile and efficient workflow. With 15 stations throughout Canada’s multiple time zones, Belec and team envisioned a new workflow comprised of simple-to-use solutions that could function in a virtualized studio environment with hardware centralized in one city, and presenters in another. Revolutionizing its news coverage and meeting all of its objectives meant a near-complete update of its existing news workflow.
Belec knew that virtual sets would figure prominently in the new workflow and were central to producing dynamic and immersive coverage. “We started trying to integrate more advanced graphics to see how we could better tell our stories and enhance the viewer experience,” he explains. “And for us that meant choosing a sophisticated but easy-to-use Avid graphics solution with full virtual set capabilities.”
Global News selected Avid’s integrated tools and workflow solutions for graphics creation for its four main studio production centers, as well as nine remote broadcast locations. Powered by the MediaCentral Platform, the new streamlined workflow includes Avid’s Maestro graphics suite, 4Designer 2D/3D authoring software and ProSet virtual studio. Together, the solutions enable end-to-end real-time graphics and video production for powerful visual storytelling, including virtual sets, 3D graphics, animation and high-resolution imagery.
Virtual sets—the ‘new normal’
Virtual sets have not only brought stunning visual quality, they have also given newfound flexibility, greatly expanding what the news organization can bring to its viewers. “Virtual sets have allowed us to go to places we couldn’t go, such as outer space, or to places we couldn’t get to immediately—like an earthquake in India,” explains Belec. “It also means that we can tell these stories in ways that are highly visual, which is critical for good television, but wasn’t a reality previously. You just didn’t have tools to create the kind of graphics now being produced. Today’s virtual set solutions are bringing stories to life with a vibrancy and realism never before imaginable.”
Not only do new graphics capabilities allow Global News to take viewers to places with amazing clarity, but the organization’s broadcast centers have also gained speed. Sets or set elements can be constructed within a day or even a few hours. Teams develop an idea for a topical national newscast piece midmorning and have virtual environments ready for air that afternoon. The workflow allows artists and production to devise extremely creative sets and graphics.
“When you’re always pushing to keep your brand fresh, it’s considerably easier to redesign a set and publish it than construct it,” Belec says.
We’ll deconstruct these stories and tell them through virtual sets. We’re stretching in the way we use the tool, which I think has pushed Global News ahead of everybody else. I don’t see anyone else really using it like this.
Gerry Belec, director of operations and technology, Global News
Belec is proud of the innovative ways that Global News is using the versatile workflow. “Pieces can be a minute long or only 30 seconds and can be tragic, mysterious or funny,” he says. “We’ll deconstruct these stories and tell them through virtual sets. We’re stretching in the way we use the tool, which I think has pushed Global News ahead of everybody else. I don’t see anyone else really using it like this.”
Geographically distributed workflow
Avid solutions were installed in Global News’ four main studio production centers, with camera feeds brought in via high-speed networking, integrated with the sets and produced in the centers, then sent back to the regions within milliseconds. The workflow had to be both simple to operate and simple to change, while meeting the needs of more localized production. “We had to be able to actually use it in a virtual sense too, with hardware in one city, and the performers and news anchors in another,” says Belec.
In addition to delivering a fast-turnaround workflow, the new system functions as a large distributed model, virtualizing nearly all of the news produced by the organization.
“We use our system every day and in every market, for hundreds of hours of news a week. It’s enabled us to not only virtualize the studio but also our production workflow,” offers Belec. “Most of our stations don’t even have control rooms now. We use the workflow as a virtual set as well as a virtual environment. The hardware that controls our virtual set can be located thousands of kilometers away.”
This efficiency and agility is critical both from a cost standpoint and for production streamlining. Global News can create stunning content across its geographically dispersed studio production centers, immersing and enlightening audiences through powerful visual storytelling, regardless of location.
Today’s virtual set solutions are bringing stories to life with a vibrancy and realism never before imaginable.
Gerry Belec, director of operations and technology, Global News
Enjoying unexpected benefits
Belec points to the benefits of using virtual sets as a tool to explain complex stories. What Global News is creating on a daily basis is clearly a point of pride. “Whether for science stories or tied into live election data, virtual sets are extraordinarily helpful,” he says. “How do you explain the downing of an aircraft when you’re not actually on the aircraft? We recreate a high volume of news stories in a very sophisticated way. I’m proud of what we’re producing on a daily basis and in very quick timeframes.”
Belec is also mindful of the bigger picture, recognizing the benefits a workflow like this brings beyond the day to day. “It’s brought us all closer together—production staff, viewers and the people behind news events around the world.”