At the end of 2011, French network TF1 revamped the way they created and managed their on-air brand for all channels. A quantum leap forward, the new graphics workflow was accomplished seamlessly and with immediate improvements in reliability, flexibility, and user-friendliness. The implementation done by TF1 featured the comprehensive, enterprise graphics solution designed by Orad (purchased by Avid in 2015).
As one of France's major networks, TF1 cannot afford any problems on the air. Yet for some time, the creation and management of the existing graphics was plagued by a number of issues. According to Franck Meriau, director in charge of broadcasting, the evolution of the graphics system was a necessary step.
"For many months, we had experienced a number of difficulties, including reliability issues and a certain amount of serious problems regarding our graphics," said Meriau "Our old system had its limitations, which prevented us from implementing requests from the art department. There were certain graphical transitions that we were unable to create. The previous system had been installed in 2005, and some of the hardware was becoming obsolete."
Olivier Dusautoir, assistant director in charge of broadcasting and networks, shares this view. "The system could not evolve towards HD and multi-feed broadcasting." It was not designed for this. Furthermore, with the previous system, operators had to add graphical elements using only time codes, and were unable to see previews of their work.
Ambitious goals for an influential broadcaster
Facing such difficulties TF1 issued a request for proposals in 2010, with four main specifications: improve the system's reliability, simplify its exploitation, be more responsive, and have full control over the system.
"We preferred Avid because, in its application, the company demonstrated its willingness to meet our needs most accurately. One of the selling points was the reliability and power of the HDVG platforms' rendering engine. What's more, we are fortunate to have a French contact who was present, active, and familiar with the market and our needs. Avid was eager to work with us on this 18-month project," explains Victorien Giret.
After having picked Avid, the network's management asked to work in cooperation with the art department. "We got the art department involved in order to integrate their requirements into the tool itself. The objective was to standardize scenes by cutting down on the number of rules regarding graphics," says Meriau. "Previously, when we needed graphical scenes, we called upon an external company, which made the process longer. So we decided to insource the creation of graphics by making it a part of TF1's activity," explains Dusautoir.
The system is comprised of 4 Avid HDVG platforms (two SD models and two HD models) for the two feeds and, support, a platform dedicated to previews, and an SD-only platform used as a synchronous and autonomous backup. The HDVG platform runs on Linux, offers redundancy, and has SDI inputs and outputs. There are 8 operator workstations and one in the master control room. The Avid 3DPlay software suite is used for secondary animation.
Primarily, animation is done on a Harris ADClOO, using the VDCP protocol. This standard protocol allows for strong integration with the other resources, such as the MAM platform. Automation is bidirectional and allows for both manual and automatic control.
"TF1 has chosen to integrate this new system, with strong support from Avid's expertise," says Victorien Giret, TF1 project manager. "The new system went live on October 18, but a 15-day stabilization period was necessary. Since then, the system appears to be fully satisfactory to both the operators and art department," adds Meriau.
Unprecedented creativity and reliability
The new system is more flexible and allows for more peace of mind when creating special events with dynamic graphics, "We are more at ease with the special events that we must lead. For instance, to promote shows such as youth programs, it is easier for us to promote cartoons using more automated processes," emphasizes Olivier Dusautoir. TF1's advertising branch recently innovated by using the system's potential to create dynamic graphics in advertisement clips—allowing them to display the score of a sport event during the half-time break, or to display the odds for sports betting websites. The possibilities are now much broader.
"This solution will last us for quite some time, and delivers countless advantages in broadcasting and production. There are no more operating errors, as in the past. Technicians can now play clips with the graphical overlay using the preview mode before they are aired. On the master control room's side, the operator can also see and preview the contents that are lined up for broadcast," says Dusautoir.
The new system offers new features in addition to operational flexibility. "The solution is perfectly suited to TF1's specifications," concludes Meriau.