Last month, my Q&A with Michael Koetter, SVP-media technology and operations at Turner Broadcasting, about the future role of TV news and a story-centric news workflow generated many thoughtful comments from readers and vendors alike.
At about the same time, I conducted an interview with Mike Palmer, VP and general manager of Masstech about a new product the company is offering to streamline the news workflow within a newsroom and make it far easier to share content with stations.
The product, Masstech for News, is built to enable a news workflow where video follows text. In practical terms, this means that when station reporters search through a newsroom system like Avid iNews or AP’s ENPS and finds a desired story they can in a simple fashion retrieve both video and script regardless of where the video actually resides.
In this interview, Palmer discusses the technology.
Can you briefly describe Masstech for News?
Masstech for News is a unique software solution that allows journalists to automatically archive, access, share and use content directly within their existing NRCS interface -thus eliminating separate user interfaces, training requirements and technical barriers so journalists can focus on producing great stories in less time.
So how is this handled today by stations that don’t deploy Masstech for News?
There are two sides to the same coin here.
On the one side, if you wanted to search the newsroom system, you would type in a search term in one area and it would search the newsroom system. If you wanted to search another area, such as your archives, you would search in a Web page that gives you what is in your video archives.
What was interesting about this is basically what you were searching for was the same story. The “man bites dog” story was in the newsroom system, but its pointer pointed to the video that no longer existed in the production server.
When you search for the “man bites dog” story in the archive system, you found that same story, but now you found it associated with the video in the archive system.
So without Masstech for News, you had to search two different systems.
And to get that back into your production system, you had to go through all sorts of things in a Web interface to import it into your production system and then match it up once again with the text.
How does Masstech for News handle this?
For the archive, in the newsroom system we are writing, adding or replacing the pointer to the original production with one to the archive at the time it is archived.
So, you can search for the “man bites dog” story in ENPS or iNews, and when you find that story it has the link to the archive right there. You aren’t having to open up a separate tool to go and find that.
You mentioned two sides of the same coin. What’s the other side?
The other side of the coin is sharing. It’s basically the drag-and-drop workflow.
If I want to restore that clip with Masstech and iNews or ENPS or whatever, all I have to do is drag that story into a rundown.
We see that through the integration with the system. So Masstech for News says, “Oh, someone dropped this into this rundown. We know what to do with it now. We are going to restore it and put it back in the production server.”
With other types of archive systems, you have to get into the interface. You have to click on something. You have to say, “Export.” Then you have to go find it in production system and marry it back up again.
So you are bouncing back and forth between these systems. With Masstech for News you are working in your newsroom system and that link to the video system is acting really like people would expect it to act.
You mentioned sharing.
Sharing is an offshoot of this. Again the video follows the story. Now instead of having a rundown associated with my local production server, I have a rundown associated with a station across town, or I see they have content and I drop it into my system.
As I move that story back and forth between what used to be walls between stations in different areas then Masstech is making sure that that video is following that text.
Before this, people had to do separate FTP transfers.
What made FTP transfers unattractive?
If somebody was using straight FTP, they would have to export the content from the production server in the first station. They would then have to transcode it to H.264 or something to get the bit rate down typically.
They would then have to open up an FTP program, log in with the user name and password that they would have to know, and they would have to drop it into the receiving system.
On the other side, somebody would have to know that the file showed up, wait for it, or keep looking in a directory to find that content. They would then have to transcode it again and copy it into their production system. That process only describes moving your video.
Text generally would have had to go through email or some other means to get it from point A to point B, and when you finally got the video and text at point B you would have to marry them back up again.
We have automated that entire process. At stations where we have done this, they say our system has replaced anywhere between a dozen to 18 or 20 steps.