JUNE 11, 2019

AR and VR graphics contribute to 30 percent increase in TV news ratings


SIC TV, the leading private broadcaster in Portugal, has taken broadcast graphics to a new level, building an internal Graphics Factory to produce a full-range of engaging and immersive graphics to enhance its news, weather, and sports broadcasts. In Portugal's highly competitive broadcast market, this innovative strategy is helping SIC TV engage and retain viewers and win the ratings competition.

SIC TV is part of the Impresa Group, the largest media group in Portugal, consisting of nine broadcast channels providing 24/7 news and entertainment programming. Graphics have always played an important role in how the media company presents its stories. But different graphics types for the different channels were created and managed utilizing a variety of vendors and custom workflows. These isolated production islands were costly and inefficient.

When the Impresa Group made the strategic decision to consolidate all media properties into a single location in Lisbon, Portugal, SIC TV seized the opportunity to implement Avid's state-of-the art graphics technology, standardizing on the tools and workflows that will differentiate their broadcasts well into the future.

All graphics for the LED walls, lower thirds, full screen, virtual sets, or augmented reality, are integrated in the same workflow, controlled on-air, and connected to the right engine, with the same workflow

José Lopes, Director of Operations and Technology

Working with Avid Elite Partner, VANTeC, SA, SIC TV standardized on the Avid Maestro suite of graphics solutions to engineer a complete workflow, from the creation of graphics to the playout, across all nine SIC TV media properties. "SIC made the leap to HD in news production after the previous move in their playout center, deep archive, post production and program preparation areas," adds Alexandre Roriz, CEO VANTeC, SA. "They also broke new ground, becoming the first station in Europe to migrate from SD-SDI to Video Over IP under the SMPTE 2110 standard in news production, master control, and the graphics factory."

"This was a huge opportunity to incorporate tools that would maximize the efficiency of our graphics production and playout," explains José Lopes, Director of Operations and Technology, SIC TV. "We intended first of all to have standardized procedures and tools for authoring, for graphics playout, and for engines. We selected Avid for several reasons," explains Lopes. "We had a short time to implement this project and we were moving to HD. We could achieve our objectives with the Avid platform."

SIC TV saw an immediate return on its investment, increasing its ratings by 30 percent during the first three months of operation at its new facility; winning the ratings competition in each successive month following implementation of its Avid tools and workflows. "The dynamics of the graphics that we playout keep a viewer engaged," notes Lopes.

Real-time graphics production enhances productivity and content

Faced with tight deadlines to build the new studios, SIC TV and VANTeC designed and launched one of the most innovative graphics production centers in Europe in six months. The new facility has three news studios and two control rooms as well as the playout center.

SIC TV deployed 30 Maestro | Engines, Avid's real-time graphics and video hardware rendering platform, to power all of their production needs. Maestro | Engine enables SIC TV to introduce new production capabilities, including 3G, UHD, HDR, and IP workflows, with minimal disruption. In addition, SIC TV implemented Avid's full suite of graphics solutions, including Maestro | Designer, Maestro | News, Maestro |Virtual Set and Maestro | Telestrator. They integrate Avid Maestro | News with their third-party news production systems, ENPS, SONAPS, and as well with Harris, achieving additional operational efficiencies. And, SIC TV implemented Avid's FastServe | Playout video server to streamline the playback of video clips in the control room to insert in the live production chain.

SIC TV story image_900x457

SIC TV is using Maestro | Virtual Set to enhance and differentiate content for the SIC Noticias cable news channel, including the successful broadcast of debates for the European elections, which featured six candidates and a moderator. SIC TV is also using augmented reality, creating objects with animation to enhance broadcasts. With the new graphics workflow in place, SIC TV plans to use more augmented reality.

Building a world-class graphics factory to supply multiple broadcasts

Using Avid's centralized graphics infrastructure, SIC TV produces a full-range of graphical elements for its news sports, weather, and entertainment broadcasts. The single graphics workflow maximizes SIC TV's resources by enabling it to share templates, designers, and operators across all channels and programs. The graphic artists create an enormous number of graphic templates for all shows on the channels and those templates were used in the first months of operation to generate thousands of graphics items. Every graphic element is created with the same tools using the same workflow.

SIC TV relies on Avid Maestro | Designer graphics authoring software to create templates, which generated around 50,000 graphical items in just the first month. These graphic templates can be updated dynamically throughout the production process. "We created a graphics factory to meet the on-going demand for a large variety of graphical elements," explains Lopes. "Our production team creates the graphical packages for the lower thirds, for the full screen graphics, for virtual reality sets, and for all our large LED video walls, totaling 73 square meters. They produce generics. They produce full-screen graphics, animated graphics, and still graphics. Whatever we need to enhance the story."

With Maestro | Designer, SIC TV can create a graphic template that can be updated dynamically throughout the production process. In addition, SIC will also use Maestro | Telestrator to draw graphics and effects directly on live video to enhance sports broadcasts.

SIC TV also broke new ground, becoming the first station in Europe to migrate from SD-SDI to Video Over IP under the SMPTE 2110 standard in news production, master control, and the graphics factory.

Alexandre Roriz, CEO VANTeC, SA

Simplifying the control room

Avid's Maestro graphics solutions also are enabling SIC to streamline the control room, eliminating multiple components with different user interfaces. "In the control room we now have fewer components, fewer points of failures, and a much more flexible process, from graphics creation to the playout. Standardization in the control room means one person can do the things previously done by two; because they can pull and grab any engine from our master console and control it. That is a significant benefit of Avid's Maestro solutions."

SIC added the Maestro | News plug-in to all 165 NRCS seats, including the two NRCS seats in each control room. A universal controller for video and all graphics, Maestro | News is reducing operational costs by enabling SIC graphic artists, journalists, editors, operators, and producers, to easily browse the templates, fill-in the data, preview full animation of the graphics, and embed graphic elements into their stories.

"The Maestro | News interface with the newsroom computing system is absolutely critical," states Lopes. "All graphics for the LED walls, lower thirds, full screen, virtual sets, or augmented reality, are integrated in the same workflow, controlled on-air, and connected to the right engine, with the same workflow. The operator does not need to know where the graphics will playout, since each line is played out to the right engine as part of the system's automated workflow."

Lopes adds that Maestro | News is a step forward because now the running orders are generated in the newsroom computing system which means that one person in the newsroom controls the overall process of attaching the graphic elements and the graphic scenes in running orders of a news bulletin. "All broadcasts are live, on-air and running orders are changing constantly during live broadcasts, so the rundown in Maestro | News is being updated continuously."

"We've seen amazing things done by other television operators all over the world," concludes Lopes. "Now that we have the tools, we are creating graphics that impress the viewers. When they see it, they stay."

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