Sinclair Broadcast Group will deploy new news automation systems at at least three more of its stations before the end of the year.
The stations, all in Texas, including KGBT in Harlingen, KVII in Amarillo and KFOX in El Paso, will be the latest to get OverDrive news automation from Ross Video, said Del Parks, Sinclair’s VP operations and engineering.
They will join other Sinclair stations in San Antonio, Texas, Albany, N.Y., and Oklahoma City as being among the latest of the group’s stations to get OverDrive news automation, he said.
According to Parks, Sinclair began deploying OverDrive several years ago as an integral part of a system that drives a large HD monitor wall. The wall wa a central element of a new news set design from Devlin Design Group in Crested Butte, Colo.
“We worked out a set design with Dan Devlin using fairly large monitor walls,” said Parks. “We would drive those monitor walls with graphics so that the set could become an interesting way of telling the story.”
Using automation was central to the plan because it would provide a way to ensure the right visual elements, including video and graphics, would actually be displayed on the correct monitor in a consistent fashion.
“The key to doing that well and doing that flawlessly is using automation,” said Parks. “We use OverDrive to drive a Ross switcher, which then drives AUX (auxiliary) busses, which then drive an outboard TV One CORIO monitor driver unit that drives the monitors,” he explained.
As part of the set design, at least a couple of dozen templates are available to configure the wall to help reporters and anchors better tell stories. “You can do the entire wall [or] half the wall. You can put video in each individual monitor. You can put it across nine monitors. So you really have a lot of flexibility in how you present video in the monitor wall,” he said.
One factor that is critical to using news automation successfully –whether it is to manage the video feeds for a monitor wall or more traditionally to run a newscast– is finding and training the right people to use the system, said Parks.
Rather than relying on a traditional technical director (TD) who is skilled at punching the right buttons at the right time to take sources to air as needed, newscasts that use news automation require something a little different, he said.
“Automated newscasts are really computer-driven newscasts,” said Parks. “As such, they are like big edit decision lists that can be changed on the fly if needed to accommodate breaking stories and last minute changes.”
In many cases, TDs become OverDrive operators, but to be successful they need directorial skills, he said. “As a consequence that director/OverDrive operator and a producer can create a far more sophisticated show with graphics and different camera moves and, hopefully, a far more interesting show.”
The consistency news automation delivers means a “super user” can block out a show that is quite sophisticated and then a beginner can come in, choose to use the sophisticated setup and news automation can reproduce it, he added.
“With news automation, you don’t need a superstar TD to have a superstar news production,” he said.