MAY 14, 2020

Streamlining Broadcast Production: 5 Hurdles for Newsrooms to Clear

inside a broadcast newsroom

It’s 4:30 pm, 30 minutes before airtime. Then news breaks, as it often does, unleashing a list of new tasks for the broadcast production team.

A producer quickly reworks the rundown to lead with the breaking story, while reporters rush to the scene to set up a live shot. A production assistant searches the archive for file footage. An editor starts creating locators and other graphics.

Getting the story to air requires expert coordination and time management skills, but it also relies on putting the right tech into the right hands within a consistent—yet nimble—workflow. Clearing these five hurdles can help your newsroom break the story each time without swapping quality for speed.

Communicating Clearly Before News Strikes

Controlled chaos is the status quo for most newsrooms. The key to managing it is good communication—not just when a big story breaks but throughout the entire broadcast news production process.

Early on, establish who will call the shots about coverage. In some newsrooms, this point person is the show producer. For others, it might be the executive producer or news director. A clear chain of command helps the team avoid confusion and conflicting messages.

Use instant messaging platforms to share key developments or requests to the whole team at once. Consider developing a daily protocol for reporters and camera operators in the field, such as texting the assignment desk when they arrive on scene and when they leave.

Later, when major breaking news erupts, the team will already have a solid foundation for efficiency and communication.

Simplifying Collaboration across Teams

Modern tools for broadcast journalists offer greater freedom to cover stories wherever they happen, upload footage directly to the newsroom, and even publish immediately after a few quick edits in the field. But working remotely can complicate content delivery and collaboration.

Cloud-based media platforms like Avid MediaCentral help simplify the news production process. After signing in, field reporters can access the same user interface and tools they’d use in the newsroom. They can write scripts, upload video, and edit entire packages without leaving the scene, saving time and backlogs in the edit suite.

As video is uploading, it can be transcoded automatically and logged and viewed in real time. Producers can pull selects. Editors can cut a quick sequence, drag and drop graphics onto it, and publish the story to multiple online platforms simultaneously.

Pulling Footage from Various Sources

Between a constant stream of video coming in from field reporters, a growing library of older B-roll, and new video clips sourced from phones and social media, newsrooms are deep in assets that don’t always play well together. Knowing how to best manage this pile of incompatible footage can speed up the rest of the broadcast production process. A uniform management and file labeling system helps producers, reporters, and editors quickly find the media they need.

Detailed metadata is essential to making this content easily searchable, regardless of how a newsroom structures its files. When video and photos are first ingested, the location, date, and camera settings populate automatically. Some systems can use AI to automate logging and enhanced labeling, like tagging clips using audio, scene, or face recognition, or adding entire transcripts as metadata. But without any additional tech, adding other metadata, including keywords and other tags, is generally a manual task.

Consider creating a list of commonly used keywords to share with every team member. This common language will ensure consistency when people from different departments tag and search for assets. Even with a solid media asset manager, handling metadata can eat up time, but getting it right is an investment: the more info you add to an asset, the faster and easier it will be to find and use in the future.

Storing Heaps of Content

Even after all the hard-earned footage makes it back to the newsroom, no team member should rest easy until it’s stored securely and protected against accidental deletion or a server shortage. After all, if you lose broadcast news footage, there’s hardly an opportunity to reshoot it.

4K, UHD, and even HD video files are huge, making high-capacity storage solutions a must—not just for archiving but also to ensure smooth performance for everyone using this shared pool of centralized storage. Today’s modular systems can scale up to 6.4 PB (that’s petabytes!) of total storage and more than 25 GB/s of bandwidth in a single system.

Whatever amount of storage space or bandwidth you think you need, double it. Strong investments in performance and redundancy help avoid slowdowns during the broadcast news production process or even worse scenarios—like going offline at a critical time.

Publishing to Multiple Channels

Even teams that ace remote collaboration, stick to a proper file management system, and follow the ideal workflow can still face issues when it comes to delivery. Publishing a single video in multiple formats fit for social, online streaming, or broadcast TV requires the team to keep track of several different delivery standards.

Each social media platform has its own technical specifications for video. YouTube, for example, prefers videos with a 16:9 aspect ratio, H.264 codec, and .mp4 format. Instagram limits video clips to 60 seconds and file size to 4G. And these tech specs are updated continuously.

Editors can streamline the publishing process by creating a series of templates with the export preferences for each video destination. The same goes for graphics and text: create templates for frequently used elements like banners and lower-thirds so they’re easy to tweak and add quickly.

Tight deadlines make the newsroom environment a bit of a pressure cooker when something doesn’t go to plan, whether a reporter is trying to quickly upload the lead package during the show’s cold open, or a satellite truck breaks down causing the A-Block live shot to die. It’s impossible to predict every disaster, but the right tech and broadcast production processes help newsrooms focus on what they do best—bringing viewers quality news as it breaks.

  • Cindy Burgess Headshot

    Cindy Burgess is a Toronto journalist, educator, and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experiences working with video.

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