In today’s technology article, “Gray TV Takes Aim At Hybrid News Sets,” I relayed the story of Gray Television’s plans to launch hybrid news sets made up of real-world and virtual components at a handful of stations in the third quarter.
The topic of cost came up during my interview with Jason Effinger, Gray Television SVP of media and technology, for the story.
One of the things that make the hybrid sets attractive to Gray Television is the relatively short shelf life of a hard set. “Let’s face it, a traditional set can get tired in a very short period of time — two to three years depending on how it is constructed,” says Effinger.
“The virtual component allows you to really build the supporting structure and have a lot of virtual involved in it so that the supporting structure — whether it’s an angle or a simple background to support a section of the set- those things can be changed out a lot cheaper than tearing out a full set and reconstructing a new one,” he says.
Isaac Hersly, president of Vizrt Americas, and Bruce Takasaki, Ross Video’s marketing product manager for robotics, the two vendors at the center of many Gray TV hybrid set deployments, also had interesting perspectives on the financial equation when it comes to virtual sets.
“There’s no question virtual is more affordable,” says Hersly, “and it is also flexible.” Adding a virtual component to a set, as Gray is doing with its hybrid set, or going 100% virtual makes it possible to enhance branding of shows and stations, and “where appropriate leverage sponsorship, for example, of a sports segment,” he says.
Virtual sets are also easy to repurpose for other shows, potentially making it possible for a broadcaster to spread the cost of the technology across multiple programs, he adds.
“To do a real [cost] comparison [between virtual and hard sets], you have to compare the full cost of the sets,” says Takasaki. “When you factor in the flexibility and the fact that you can use one space for multiple shows, it really becomes far more cost effective to do this with virtual than to do it with a hard set.
“There aren’t a lot of bricks and mortar involved. You hang a green screen, you throw a few chairs and a desk in there, and the rest is done on a computer.”