A few months ago, I wrote an article about changing directions in news automation called “News Automation Gear Going Agnostic.”
Shortly after it was published, I heard from Jim O’Brien, a 46-year TV industry veteran who is now the Global SVP, sales, of Prague, Czech Republic-based Aveco.
I was unaware of Aveco, and the company certainly wasn’t on my radar screen at the 2014 NAB Show when it introduced Redwood Studio, a client/server-type system that the company bills as “the industry’s first news studio in a box.” As a result, I didn’t cover the Aveco product or the company’s approach in my news automation story.
I arrange a call with O’Brien and had a wide-ranging discussion about the company and its products. What follows is a portion of that interview with O’Brien about Redwood Studio.
Tell me about Redwood Studio.
We released at last NAB the industry’s first news studio in a box, which integrates with any of the six major newsroom systems. It provides high-end production automation, and internal to the box it is an eight-input production switcher, supporting four channels of HD video, four separate channels of audio, graphics, a tie in with external data sources for tickers, audio mixing, audio server and camera robotics control in one box.
It can be run remotely, which means it can be used to run from a central site during breaking news coverage. For instance, in a weather emergency it could be running under remote control at night while the station’s reporters and meteorologists are getting back to the station to begin reporting.
In the Midwest especially you have so many severe storm tracks coming through. Nobody keeps a studio manned all of the time, and sometimes it really is a significant breaking news story.
Certain vendors have begun migrating to virtualized, software-based production control that performs functions like editing, transcoding, graphics creation and other tasks on common off-the-self blade servers. Is that the sort of thing we are talking about with Redwood Studio?
Aveco pioneered virtualizing control. It is built into the nature of a client-server architecture. We are the poster child of that kind of capability.
We are keenly aware of that as an industry trend, and one part of our approach is that we can control a vast range of discrete devices while at the same time we have some studios either remotely or locally running this studio-in-a-box.
How many people are needed to run a news show with Redwood Studio?
It’s a station’s call. The nature of our platform is you can automate under a new studio in a box as much as you want, and you can have discrete device control or just run manually. We don’t have the presumption that we are everything.
We are aware of the complexities of broadcast facilities, and there are some places that will automate more than other places. We have that kind of modular control and sophistication.
Let’s say a station chooses to automate its existing news production technology with Redwood Studio rather than replace everything. How agnostic is your product when it comes to controlling the panoply of production switchers and other gear used to produce news?
We integrate with all of the major production switchers — Sony, Grass Valley, Ross Video, FOR-A and Snell. There is a terrific service these production switchers are providing now and will continue to provide for a very long time.
Redwood Studio controls all of them as well as the Harmonic servers, EVS and Quantel, and it integrates with all of them. While that’s all in place, there are application areas where it is convenient to have a studio-in-a-box type of design.
Maybe it is for the breaking news in the off hours when the studio is not manned. Maybe it is for special high-end coverage. Maybe it is a special report for a bureau.
Are there any other news applications for Redwood Studio?
One of the things we see as an opportunity is extending localism to stream splicing at local cable headends for niche coverage of a few minutes of newscast. We were one of the first master control automation systems to run stream splicing systems.
And this is an area where the industry can find new money in local sponsorships, typically on a zone basis because all of the newspaper groups have traditionally collected their revenue from zones.
They are pretty well-defined commercially, and everybody locally knows of them. There are places that can be well-served by enhanced local coverage of news, sports and weather as well as localized advertising. And that is something we control, we can do that with news and spots.