Remote news production was on the rise pre-pandemic, but there's no doubt that adoption has accelerated during the past two years. The creative and practical implications of this trend, including for the specification of suitably versatile broadcast solutions, were explored in an Avid webinar that featured Raul Alba, director of product marketing, Media & Cloud at Avid; Morten Brandstrup, TV2's head of news technology; and Craig Wilson, product evangelist, Media and Cloud at Avid.
Remote News Production Trends
Alba opened up the discussion by looking at the ways in which remote news production has developed in recent years. Technological advances mean that it's possible to work effectively on the move using a mobile device or with web-based tools, with the ability to complete editing and production tasks without being on-premises. Simultaneously, the democratization of remote access has paved the way to greater collaboration on stories by multiple participants while ensuring that content is accessed and shared in a secure way.
The pandemic has also served to accelerate the trend, said Wilson, because of the greatly increased level of distributed working. But to make sure the transition proceeds smoothly, it's important to take steps to ensure that teams can connect and coordinate work remotely. In lieu of daily in-person staff meetings, news team leads must ensure ease of communication—for example, via Zoom and Microsoft Teams—and assign tasks and follow-up on their progress, as well as manage the required mindset change.
Decentralization has also meant a big reduction in time spent commuting, freeing up more capacity for reporting and researching stories. There's a general expectation that, to varying degrees, remote working will continue to be a big part of broadcasters' operational ethos going forward.
The session participants then addressed the ways in which news teams can access and utilize shared media resources and broadcast solutions. Posing the central question of, "How can I access media in my organization remotely?" It was indicated that enabling easy connection to the broadcaster's central repository and archive has to be top priority. And with potentially huge volumes of content to sift through, they pointed out that metadata and tagging constitute the secret to efficient searching. The more rigorous and sophisticated the use of metadata, the quicker and easier it will be for reporters and producers to find what they need. Solutions such as Avid MediaCentral enable these types of workflows.
Editing On the Go
The discussion then turned to the kind of tools required when editing on the move. "The reality is that not only does it differ between customers, it also [varies between] regions and places," said Wilson. For instance, "In some places there are union rules about what people can do. [But] I've also seen a big uptick in people using their mobiles to at least gather content and then send it back to the main system." Ultimately, it all comes down to optimizing access and choosing the tool that will lead to the best results for each task. For example, Avid MediaCentral | Cloud UX enables a range of workflows from simple shotlisting up to more complex editing including voiceover and the addition of graphics.
Moreover, as much as it's a question of how technology can enable remote news production activities, it's also a matter of having extra options regarding content generation. Increasingly, broadcasters are recognizing the new opportunities afforded by a "content from anywhere" philosophy. But there's no doubt that user-friendly production systems have a big role to play. In the case of TV2, the recent adoption of a new unified production infrastructure has helped speed-up the process of getting content to air.
Not everything changes with the increased ability to produce and deliver news remotely, of course. As Wilson pointed out, the audience doesn't become better informed just by having greater access to more news. So, creating a concise and well-told story that draws on multiple sources—always the essence of good journalism—continues to be of paramount importance. Therefore, the evaluation of new technologies should always be undertaken with an emphasis on how they can support and enable the craft of news reporting.
While it becomes ever-easier to generate and file reports at distance, the question of how to actually publish content remotely requires very careful thought, indicated Brandstrup. For instance, the checks and balances that should underpin all news content have to remain in place. Wherever it's generated and submitted from, content must be created, reviewed, and approved before publication—all by different people. At the same time, there has to be an awareness of how long it takes a story to go live. With time to on-air being even more critical in this digital-first era, review and approval processes have to be optimized.
As the session moved toward its conclusion, the participants discussed several developments that are set to impact news production greatly in the coming years. It's no surprise that the cloud is one of them, with a growing tendency by some organizations to base nearly all key tasks, such as transcoding, editing, branding, and so on, in the cloud.
According to TV2, some careful planning and a constant dialogue between team members can put your organization in a very strong position. Indeed, it can be beneficial to periodically block-out a period of time for everyone to get together and brainstorm next steps. Brandstrup recalls a three-day gathering in which TV2 newsroom staff examined the move toward a more story-centric approach and how the workflow would have to evolve to complement this shift.
But it doesn't have to be an extended, in-depth meeting; pop-up style get-togethers can also be helpful in terms of maintaining a unified team spirit and ensuring that everyone is comfortable with the production process, however it might be changing.
“More than half of what we do [as human beings] is change management, I think," stated Brandstrup. "[But] we cannot solve everything with technology or smart workflows. It's also very important to listen and learn from the people who are [out there in the field]."
Preserving that high level of dialogue between team members will surely only become more vital as the evolution of news production and platforms accelerates.