Global BC automates election coverage with Viz Mosart

The Viz Mosart control room automation system allowed Global BC to focus on the content of the election coverage instead of the process to create the coverage.

Going into the election, there were some at Global BC who had to be convinced that any automated system could react with the speed or agility required on election night. Less-capable automation systems require that everything be planned out and scripted in order to have a successful broadcast. Past experience had shown, however, that the Viz Mosart system is intuitive enough to allow staff to adapt to the unfolding story faster with automation than they could with a traditional crew. Nevertheless, Global BC put a lot of thought and planning into the use of Viz Mosart automation on election night.

While Viz Mosart had been used regularly for morning newscasts, which are fairly routine four-hour shows, election night called for five hours of intense coverage. Because keeping on top of a rundown for that long is impractical, operators needed to abandon set patterns and instead “freewheel” on the keyboard and GUI — something they had done for short time periods on morning shows, but never before for an extended period of time. Thus, technicians and directors spent two weeks prior to the election refining the workflow, using rehearsal scenarios to determine the functionality needed and where to place that functionality on the keyboard.

“For a simple show, one operator using Viz Mosart automation can take care of everything,” says Gerry Belec, director of technology and design for Global News. “For more complex broadcasts such as elections, which require ad hoc and even improvisational operations, the system allows us to ‘plus up’ and add more tools and people as needed.”

Viz Mosart automation gave Global BC extensive flexibility in tailoring the desktop configuration and keyboard layout for the unique requirements of its coverage. When, for example, the leader of a political party arrived at his or her headquarters and the director decided that that’s what she wanted to cover, she could use a single button press to pull up live video, audio, and associated graphics. This "single-button" operation has proved to be much more efficient than asking an audio technician for a feed on a particular receive channel, telling the technical director create a double box with the video source, and requesting the necessary images from graphics as well. During the actual broadcast, the flexibility of the automation system made it easy to adapt the predetermined workflow in response to the changing needs of election-night production.

Making News on Election Night

During the evening’s production, Global BC used two Viz Mosart control rooms. Global’s news channel utilizes many virtual set components, such as elements rising up out of the floor, which in itself is a complex proposition, so one Viz Mosart group was tasked specifically with management of live integrated sets. While one Viz Mosart control room functioned as a virtual set, focusing on reporting results with a host and a three-person discussion panel, a second system served as the main integration room. This integration system had an anchor and political expert on-set, but also used the first control room as a source, along with 12 remotes from across the province adding commentary from lead reporters and anchors. In a conventional approach, this would have required more than a dozen technicians, but working instead with Viz Mosart, Global BC needed no more than eight.

In this most time-sensitive of environments, with Global BC competing with other networks to bring news and images to air first, Viz Mosart automation provided a fundamental advantage by supporting a faster, more agile workflow in which a greater part of production resources were dedicated to the editorial content and quality of the broadcast.

“We got a lot of positive feedback that indicated that our coverage surpassed that of our competitors by leaps and bounds,” adds Hinde. “A lot of that had to do with the technical quality we achieved through Viz Mosart, creative elements we added with our virtual technology, and the added production value we realized by redirecting resources into newsgathering. With more people turning their eyes on the election rather than watching the technology, we were able to focus on the results, the calling of the election, and identifying and telling the best stories.”

Following the election, a simple recall of the standard template set on the Viz Mosart system allowed Global BC to revert instantly to the configuration used for its regular live news programs. Lessons learned in the 2013 provincial elections will enhance the broadcaster’s ongoing live news coverage, as well as future news and elections coverage at other Global TV stations across Canada.

“We used Mosart for a year and a half before deciding that it was our model for the election, and now it is safe to say that, for everything we do from here on in, we will think in terms of our Viz Mosart workflow," says Belec. "Viz Mosart automation is not the type of tool that you take out of the toolbox as needed; it is our tool. When we embark on any new production or enterprise, it will be taken in the context of how it works in Viz Mosart. It is our production interface, plain and simple.”

Download the Global TV Viz Mosart case study