Network Ten move to Vizrt control room automation

Network Ten gets staff on board for move to Vizrt control room automation

After much planning and months of integration work, Viz Mosart broadcast automation systems are now fully operational in the network’s total of four control rooms spread across the country.

About a year ago, when Network Ten, a free-to-air television network located throughout Australia, began mulling the pros and cons of moving to automated control rooms and streamlining the in-house workflows to become more productive, it brought together a group of its top directors, technical directors, producers and engineers to collaborate on the project. Over a period of a few months, the network developed a migration plan that takes into account all of the facility’s departments and how they like to work.

This groundwork for installing two Viz Mosart broadcast automation systems from Vizrt proved to be very valuable throughout the installation and training process. For example, there are a lot of names created in templates used by the network’s ENPS newsroom computer system that also appear in the ActiveX lists within Viz Mosart used by editorial staff. The multi-department discussions and careful planning led to a series of common terms that were understandable and logical to all parties involved, saving a lot of time and effort later.

Collaborating staff input

After much planning and months of integration work, Viz Mosart broadcast automation systems are now fully operational in the network’s total of four control rooms spread across its news studios in Brisbane, Sydney (the channel’s headquarters), and Melbourne, where two studios controlled by a Viz Mosart system produce news bulletins for Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth viewers. The network has also integrated the Viz Mosart systems with its online publishing system to support its website and other digital publishing channels.

The publishing system takes the as-run information from the Viz Mosart system as soon as the story has gone to air and uses it to automate the preparation of the news content for an online catch-up service called “Tenplay”. This unique workflow dramatically reduces the manual process of clipping content for online and allows the digital producers at Network Ten to select the clips they want from the rundown, adjust any descriptive information and quickly publish to Tenplay.

“There are a couple of reasons why I think Network Ten had a good approach to this project,” said Michael Namatinia, President Vizrt APAC. “The editorial staff (producers) had an ownership of the project from day one. So when they later were building ENPS templates and rundown skeletons, they understood not only how to do it but also why. This made it easier for them to train the newsroom staff in this new workflow. The key was that we created an environment where no one felt that a new workflow was being forced on them by others.”

He added that with the participation of editorial staff, directors and engineers the network created the best workflow to suit Network Ten’s individual needs. “The input from editorial staff helped put the automation template creation process on the right track from the start, and the producers from the group were also consulted whenever we saw that we had to deviate from the path that was agreed upon in the group,” he said. “Since Viz Mosart is a technical installation controlling technical devices in the control room it is left to engineers and directors to decide how to design the system. But the choices made in the implementation process have a great impact on the workflow in the newsroom, and I think the participation of the editorial staff was very valuable. The challenge is to merge technical and editorial needs into one smooth operation. Network Ten are now users of all major Vizrt product lines; graphics, MAM and studio automation.”

Viz Mosart boosts productivity

Leveraging the MOS protocol, the Viz Mosart system takes input from the network’s ENPS newsroom computer system, controls systems and devices, and allows a single operator to maintain control of both regular broadcasts and unpredictable live breaking news events. Producers, reporters or technical staff input various commands for the equipment to be used in the NRCS rundown, in the traditional fashion.

Most of the traditional (and familiar) newscasts and studio production processes are maintained (such as story rundowns), however they are handled in a different, much more efficient way. For example, a “camera template” will contain a crosspoint command for the production switcher to cut to a given camera at an exact time during the newscast – either relative to another action taking place or responding to a keyboard command. The same template also defines which audio channels should be open while the camera is on air, and can even contain other items such as adjustments to lights, router switching, firing DVEs etc. To begin the process, a producer or journalist will fill in the commands, then a director or TD uses the Viz Mosart “Rundown Window” to check and make sure all of the commands correspond correctly to what he or she wants the newscasts to run and look like on screen.

[In addition, any changes made to the show rundown in the newsroom computer system are automatically updated within the Viz Mosart rundown list immediately. All story rundowns are considered “live” until the last story has aired.]

Understanding how workflows are (positively) affected

Jason Tuendemann, Chief Technology Officer at Network Ten, said the biggest challenge to implementation was getting everyone to understand how the system was going to work for their particular show and what the changes in workflow were going to be.

“We need to understand how our various roles would change and who would be responsible for which part of the workflow,” he said. “Change is always the hardest part and you need to provide confidence to staff that the future state will work successfully and the entire project team is supportive and committed to making it a success.”

However, the main reason for the move to production automation was a desire to increase the efficiency of its operation while not reducing the flexibility or impacting the consistency of the news programs and special “bulletins” it produces on a daily basis.

John Polley, Broadcast Operations Manager at Network Ten, said they immediately saw the efficiencies and other benefits of having a common interface and operation across multiple sites whereby the team could move and share stories without having to worry about the differing underlying technologies of each studio facility.

Tuendemann added that they chose the Viz Mosart system because it is hardware agnostic, meaning it could control the different third-party video and audio equipment—such as the ENPS newsroom computer systems, Grass Valley, Snell and Sony HD video production switchers, Harmonic Spectrum servers, Calrec and Yamaha audio mixing consoles, across the network’s four studio control rooms (located in different cities).

“While we replaced some components we didn't want to have to replace everything for this project,” Tuendemann said. “Viz Mosart allowed us to integrate and control existing and new hardware which reduced our up front capital requirements and fitted into our infrastructure investment cycles. The other reason we chose the Viz Mosart system is that it abstracted the newsroom system from the control room hardware and looked after all the associated mapping of crosspoints. This means the news and operational staff do not have to worry about where the story is going to be played from or having to change crosspoints or inputs depending on the studio being used.”

Tuendemann said he and his team found Vizrt as a company to be very responsive and open from the very first discussions. “We asked for a demo and within 24 hours of providing some server hardware they had integrated and setup a demo in one of our studios with our equipment. That was pretty impressive and the demo was opened up to other potential customers of Viz Mosart to view.”

Operational Benefits Are Clear

For the Network Ten staff, the Viz Mosart system has brought immediate benefits, according to Polley, such as a reduction in operational requirements for each news bulletin; the ability to share common stories across studios; a sharpness and consistency that you would expect of automated events; unlimited visibility into the control room by being able to extend the automation views and timing information to the newsrooms—including across geographical locations such as Melbourne to Perth, Australia.

However, the main reason for Network Ten’s highly successful implementation of the Viz Mosart system into its existing facilities – without negatively affecting on-air operations – was its willingness to get every one involved with the production process to weigh in early with their requirements for how they wanted it to work.

“Ten has done a number of these types of projects over the years and recognizes that the more collaboration you have among your staff, the greater success, so it is essential,” Tuendemann said. “Our Operation teams are very focused on the changes to workflows, staff training, rehearsals and procedures. This level of detail and engagement provides the News department with comfort that everyone is committed and focused to support it going to air and making it a success. In the background there is regular dialogue between the head of departments to check in on progress and the level of confidence of the teams.”

This healthy collaboration throughout the implementation process also included the product engineers and other staff at Vizrt, he said.

“To have a successful technology project you not only need a great project team, as we did, you also need a good technology partner which is responsive to the customer’s needs and understands the value of a long term relationship,” Tuendemann said. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with Viz Mosart and seeing a tighter integration to the broader Vizrt products.”

Download the Network Ten Australia Case Study.pdf