Vizrt graphics add spice to new Fusion Network in Miami

Fusion utilizes a template-based workflow including the graphics order management package with Viz Pilot, Viz Artist and Viz One.

The Fusion network, which launched in the fall of 2013 in Miami, is a joint venture between ABC News, a division of the Disney/ABC Television Group and Univision Communications, Inc. and is carried throughout the region on TV as well as online. Fusion provides a unique mix of news, lifestyle and comedic shows targeted at 18 to 34-year-old viewers.

Mark Lima, Fusion's vice president of news, said “We want to infuse humor into almost everything we do, and we want to be smart and informative and kind of break some of the conventions of traditional television news and information presentation.”

The new Fusion “NEWSPORT” facility features an open floor plan for the newsroom that supports both the Fusion and Univision News channels. More than 950 miles (1500 km) of cable carry the signals for five high-definition video control rooms and five production studios. The layout features two large studios located side-by-side: one for Fusion, the other for Univision. Other production equipment between them includes 15 robotic cameras, production switchers, servers, and more than 1,000 Terabytes of online storage–enough, they say, for approximately 1,450 years of playout time. Lastly, because the facility is located in a hurricane zone, engineers have installed two 2.25-megawatt generators on the site.

A different look

This unique Latin-focused programming strategy calls for a different on-air look from the traditional news channels in the U.S. All graphical elements, both on screen and on set via a 9x40 foot (3x12 meter) Barco video cube video wall, are designed to attract a web-savvy audience with “flat, minimal 3D esthetics,” according to Michael Berkman, vice president of Creative Services at Fusion.

“We’ve developed a graphics style that is pretty unique in the news space,” Berkman said. “This allows us to do things very quickly, because it’s a flat style, not a lot of 3D, which allows us to crank out our projects faster and not spend a lot of time on layering and other fancy graphical things.”

Graphics Hub, part of Viz Engine with 7 TB of storage capacity, serves as a central repository for all graphical elements. This flexible production server is tightly linked to three separate workstations that utilize customizable interfaces called templates. These templates are populated by a reporter or producer with text and graphical elements and then sent to air or online immediately. The templates, developed using Viz Pilot software, allow non-technical staff to get stories to air faster.

Template-based workflow

The graphics templates used at Fusion were initially designed by Berkman and others to convey a “bold, fresh, irreverent and unique” look, one which every Fusion image adhere to thanks to the Vizrt real-time production platform.

“Even though we are owned by ABC and Univision, we didn’t want to look like either of our parents,” Berkman said, “so we consciously went for a look that is very two-dimensional. I would say our graphics convey a more Scandinavian look. I knew coming into this project how I wanted the workflow to be. I allocated all of the initial design work to the Adobe After Effects side of the team, so they could focus on the esthetics. Then the Vizrt designers in Viz Artist take care of consistency and the proper placement of the graphics within stories.”

“We need the Vizrt software to incorporate the images into our video wall and to manage the templates we have created for all of our information-laden graphics and get them on the air,” he said. “That’s how we’ve made sure that projects are completed fast and efficiently.” 

[Of note: Vizrt is developing a new way to import Adobe After Effects files directly into the Vizrt production environment. Berkman said “That’s going to be huge for us because we can create elements faster and we can be more creative in how we import our elements into the Vizrt templates. Basically, it will streamline the process tremendously.”]

Order management

Streamlining the workflow by getting graphics (bumpers, ID, titles, etc.) to air faster while making the best use of available resources is critical to an operation as busy as Fusion is. The network produces four programs in Miami and four out of Los Angeles, although all of the graphics are produced in Miami. To help manage his staff and available systems, Berkman has installed Vizrt’s Order Management, which is a suite of software tools integrated with Viz Pilot and Viz One used to track workload, staff availability and network bandwidth.

Using it also results in graphics being produced faster, and avoids having to create the same or similar graphic twice. Indeed, being able to closely manage the facility’s capacity is a critical component of the workflow at Fusion.

“Order Management gives us the ability to see the workload, because we’re producing so many graphics on a daily basis,” he said. “We’re able to see if one show needs more than another and can re-allocate resources accordingly. Right now we’re at 100 percent delivery, producing and delivering every graphics that is requested. The intelligence of the Order Management package is critical to a new network like ours, where you don’t really know how many resources you’ll need until you start doing the show on  a regular basis.”

 “Order Management really represents a different way of working on and ordering graphics,” said David Jorba, Executive Vice President of Operations at Vizrt Americas.. “Any producer or journalists can search a database for a picture, clips (bumpers, IDs titles, etc.) or graphic and place an order to have it created in minutes.”

The producer can order exactly what they need when they need it, simply by filling out an online form. Once the order is saved, the graphic is placed and then the image is fed into a Viz Pilot template. Lead art directors like Berkman can assign a task to a specific graphic artist or more than one simultaneously. The finished graphic is then uploaded to a Graphics Hub server, where all of the media is stored. The system then automatically puts the graphics into the right template before it goes to air.

“Once a journalists orders a graphics, they do not have to do anything,” Jorba said. “It all happens automatically. The system can also be set up so that once the order has been fulfilled, the journalists gets an email confirming it has been done. They can follow the whole process from beginning to end.”

Industry adopts flexible platform

At the end of the day, the best part of the Vizrt technology, according to Berkman, is that the graphics production at Fusion is now exactly tailored to the team’s individual requirements and it’s working very well. Work orders—from both Miami and LA—get completed in a timely fashion and costs are kept to a minimum.

“I think Vizrt has become the de facto industry standard in graphics production,” Berkman said. “It’s not hard for us to find graphics artists well versed in Vizrt technology and it’s way of working; and remember we’re not in New York or LA, we’re in Miami. I like the fact that Vizrt continues to improves the platform and add new capabilities as time goes on. We personally don’t need all of the bells and whistles the system offers, but it’s nice to know I can implement a new feature tomorrow without too much disruption to our working staff. We don’t have the luxury of ‘downtime.’”

Fusion case study.pdf  

Fusion workflow diagram


About Vizrt

Vizrt provides real-time 3D graphics, studio automation, sports analysis and asset management tools for the media and entertainment industry. This includes interactive and virtual solutions, animations, maps, weather, video editing, compositing, and playout tools. Vizrt has customers in more than 100 countries worldwide including CNN, CBS, Fox, BBC, BSkyB, Al Jazeera, NDR, ITN, ZDF, Star TV, Network 18, TV Today, CCTV, NHK and the list keeps growing. Vizrt has nearly 600 employees and operates in 40 offices worldwide. Vizrt is a privately owned company by Nordic Capital Fund VIII.

Press Contacts

Chris Black Global Evangelist CBlack|V:ZR7