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Rogers Vancouver: breaking down the silos with Enterprise sQQuantel helps Canadian media powerhouse realize "one of the most advanced broadcast facilities there is"
This is no idle claim; City, OMNI and Sportsnet share all their resources and a single Quantel Enterprise sQ production to cover all their production needs. And it's a triumph. City's flagship live morning show BT (Breakfast Television) runs for three and a half hours each weekday, four OMNI multicultural news shows span two and a half hours in the evening, and last but not least, Sportsnet Connected puts out one and a half hours of news and chat daily, centered around the Vancouver Canucks, the hugely popular local Hockey team and other NHL (National Hockey League) news.
The three channels came together under the same roof in May 2012 when the Enterprise sQ system was installed. "We went HD at the same time as putting the Quantel system in - a lot of change all happening simultaneously!" remembers Marisa Doolan, Manager of Operations, who oversaw the equipment installation and integration process. "We had changed the studio set within a month too and received very positive feedback from our viewers."
The Enterprise sQ system includes 1000 hours of AVC-I 50 storage with 20 bi-directional ports. The system has two sQ Record video ingest applications, 15 sQ Load applications for ingest of XDCAM and P2 media, and Fileflow, which handles rules-driven ingest and archive. Scheduled recordings are controlled via Harris automation using the Quantel VDCP interface. Two sQ Play applications provide playout back-up to the station's Ross Overdrive automation. Archive database service is handled by Inmagic software, a system which brings together archives across several Rogers facilities.
The system incorporates 30 sQ View and sQ Cut shot selection, review and editing applications to which every editorial staff member has access. These are integrated with the iNews NRCS desktops.
Craft editing is handled in nine sQ Edit suites, and commercials editing on two Qube craft editors. Finally, remote review and editing is supported with two QTube Browse and four QTube Edit applications - "it's a major asset management tool that enables us to share media across the country," says Marisa Doolan.
It is said that preparation is everything, and Rogers Vancouver paid particular attention to training staff prior to changing over to the Quantel system to ensure a smooth transition. Gautam Arora, OMNI Supervising Editor, recalls, "We decided that if we were going to move to Quantel, then we have to change the workflow so journalists should be able to make WIPs ('Work In Progress' - shot selection and a rough cut) and have a better understanding of how the story will look. The onus is more on the reporter - they have to make their stories in terms of clips - it saves us a great amount of time and gets a better result. Also having the reporter look for relevant archive footage on Inmagic helps too."
The Quantel training team was therefore involved very early in the project, not only training staff but also helping in configuration and workflow discussions. "Change gets people a bit nervous. The training process was phenomenal - very personable and very professional," says Marisa Doolan. "It also saved us a lot of extra work and reconfiguring."
Putting journalists in the picture
"All journalists have been trained to use sQ Cut to make their selects," says Kurt Schubert, who was one of the 'super users' trained by Quantel to pass that knowledge onto the other editors and journalists. "News editors love the fact that journalists have made many content decisions before arriving in the edit suite; the editors have learned to love that the journalists do the shotlisting and the editor does the finishing. News even purchased an extra QTube Edit they were so
OMNI News Producer, Nathen Sekhon, was also trained as a 'super user' and carried out editing training for the OMNI journalists. "What's really great about Quantel is that what you do at your desktop is exactly the same as what you do in the edit suite - just with more tools for the latter. At our end we're dealing with people to whom technology doesn't come so easily - I was pleasantly surprised to know that people on my team took to Quantel quite easily. They're mostly over-40s, with English as a second language. Once they'd got used to it, they loved the flexibility of everyone having access to everything. I'm amazed at what my people have been able to accomplish because the system's so flexible - and I mean people who started out just typing up stories."
The effect on workflow of everyone having access and editing facilities on their desktops, and also all three stations having access to all the media, all of the time, has been dramatic. "Having all the stations under one roof changes your life - how to share the resources? The beauty of Quantel is that it enables all of them to share more easily," says BT Producer, Mike Bow. "The way editors bring things in - the fast turnaround - is a very positive thing. When I'm in the control room and I need a quick change, I'm grateful for the speed of reaction! Knowing a fix can be done in a minute or two is a huge relief. Also being able to make things better quickly - refine them and quickly update stories as they develop is a great plus too. Our reporters in the field are doing live hits all the time - reporters are sending back live from microwave trucks and we have to turn it around in a flash," Bow continues. "The big questions remain - 'Is this going to be ready?' 'Will it be done in time? 'Can you fix this?' - but now with our Quantel system and our editors, 95% of the time the answer is yes!"
Gautam Arora adds, "The Quantel system has changed our lives - changed the workflow. It doesn't stop the reporter from doing a lot of things, because they can see footage on their desktops and create WIPs without having to go into an edit suite, so tying it up, which also enables the editor to concentrate on ensuring that the story flows nicely. This is a quadruple blessing!"
BT Supervising Editor, Kristin Johnson, is equally happy with the new workflow enabled by Enterprise sQ. "The fast turnaround side of Quantel is great - we do 20 different items per editor, per day - re-edits and fresh pieces. An average day has 60 items, but a busy one can be up to 100+. After the live show, they get down to preparing stuff for guests who may be coming in - and digging out relevant archive. I think everyone's able to comfortably jump on the system and edit - it's straightforward to learn and use."
Johnson also looks after media management alongside Kurt Schubert. "Around 650 clips are created every day, and we clean up the server regularly to win back around 200 hours of free space. Local archives are created in the edit bays with all versions together, then they make an Inmagic entry, an iNews entry and the XDCAM file goes to the library. As a final step, we also do a paper back up in a book; no media gets lost here!"
All three stations make extensive use of QTube connected workflows, each applying its capabilities in slightly different ways. "For our national daily Punjabi show we use QTube to look at what's on the Toronto servers so we can get the footage sent over," Nathen Sekhon reports. "QTube allows me to see all the available media and I can get the raw footage for each bit so I can cut it for my own language [for the daily Punjabi news show] without compromising. So I don't have to download the whole clip - just the odd 10 second clips I need - a real time saver. We also record Reuters, CNN etc for local staff and we're constantly pulling in content from different directions (including our Calgary and Edmonton bureaus) using QTube. As soon as I've created the WIP, the editors can pick it up. It's accomplished so much, yet it's such a simplistic tool, that I can have my entire national segment WIPed within minutes. Being able to do that so efficiently allows me to do more things - so a better show results.
Connected mobile editing
"I also got set up with QTube Edit on my laptop so I can do mobile editing. This is tremendously helpful when I'm travelling some distance away from base for a story," Sekhon continues. "For example, the Punjabi language community we serve has gradually moved outwards from the city to Surrey and beyond into Fraser Valley - at least a 90 minute drive away - so I use QTube remotely to edit my story as soon as I've captured the footage. It's a much more efficient way of working, and enables us to get late-breaking news to air more quickly too."
Senior Engineer, Nathan Pachal, is impressed with the flexibility QTube offers from both a technical and operational standpoint. "From an enterprise network management perspective, the system accommodates security best practices and integrates with Microsoft products. With QTube and Microsoft technologies, you can edit at home or on the road, and your experience is like you were at the station; all without compromising security. Reality is you need a mobile workflow today. For example, QTube Edit is used by our Victoria news bureau (on Vancouver Island) for cutting local footage together with media on the server. And we can take a laptop into the field - for example to LA for the Academy Awards - and publish to the Vancouver server and then send it on to Toronto."
Pachal is also pleased with the reliability of Enterprise sQ. "From a technical perspective, our Quantel newsroom system is much more stable than our previous system, which we had to reboot every weekend. We can also upgrade the Quantel system without taking the station down - we can discretely upgrade each section one at a time." City Technical Director Grant Marling agrees: "We were having issues with our previous server system due to reliability - we would frequently have to do sections of the show without server playback, so were having to playout from the edit bays instead. The Quantel servers are workhorses - they're there every time I need them. It makes my life easier and less stressful - one less thing to worry about! I just take what our editors have done and put it to air - if it works, I'm happy, and with Quantel I'm a lot happier!"
So how's it gone looking back one year on? "We now have a tool that's efficient, easy to access and very flexible," says Marisa Doolan. "Quantel has raised our expectations of what can be done in a very short time - now you just go to a workstation and it's ready on your desktop in minutes. For our environment the cleanliness, flexibility and ease with which things can be done helps us enormously. For a newsroom I think it's wonderful," Nathen Sekhon concludes.
Related Keywords:Quantel, Enterprise sQ, HD, Broadcast Production, Rogers Broadcasting
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