TVNZ navigates a network-wide Vizrt graphics migration with Girraphic

Over the course of 2014-2015 TVNZ in Auckland has undergone a network wide migration to the Vizrt product suite for all their newsroom operations.

The shift away from the obsolete graphics platform they were operating on was brought about by the need to bring the network in line with their main competitors in the region and to dispose of antiquated workflows and daily processes. Soliciting professional guidance from the specialists at Girraphic, they were able to transfer all graphics and automation processes over to the Vizrt product line in carefully planned & executed stages while receiving qualified training and integration support during each phase of the migration.

Project Background

Back in June of 2014 TVNZ, New Zealand’s largest broadcaster, made a decision to make a sweeping change to their operational models. The News and Current Affairs department at TVNZ is heavily reliant on robust graphics integrations to assist in the story telling process.  However, they had been operating the now redundant Deko graphics system for the past 10 years. Coupling this with the need to create a number of bespoke solutions to cover the lack of functionality and support for Deko was leaving the network at a loss to reach their goal of ‘news is now.’  Thus TVNZ hit the marketplace with the aim to find a graphics system that would give them the ability to create templated graphics in a real-time environment and integrate them back into an automated newsroom & studio environment.

“Working with Deko the last few years saw TVNZ being forced to develop a number of bespoke applications around the main graphics delivery device in order for us to generate various products like tickers, share markets, weather, animated bugs, etc. By taking up the time of our in-house developers to fill in these holes we began to see multiple problems arise as very few people could troubleshoot and support these individual add-ons.  On top of that whenever one of these extra applications would have an issue it would create problems across multiple shows in different ways. It was time for us to make a sweeping change to our networks graphics platform.” Mark Chapman, TVNZ Solutions Manager, Systems & Technology.

Vizrt gets the green light by TVNZ

After researching all the various vendors for real-time broadcast graphics, a decision to go with Vizrt was made and this decision relied heavily on Vizrt’s ability to deliver streamlined workflows.

While TVNZ recognized Vizrt as a leader in the media sector as a graphics product provider, their decision was also based on several other key products that would allow them to get much more than just a new playout system for on-air graphics. Among the most important of these additional offerings were the following:

  • Fully templated map functionality through Viz World would be available to the newsroom via the Active-X iNews plugin.
  • The Viz Ticker system integration would allow tickers to be compiled and edited from various Ticker Client locations, as well as weather and business data integrations into the tickers.
  • Fully editable Vizrt graphics would be available for the Avid edit suites through the integration of the NLE plugin.
  • Integration with the Viz Mosart News Automation system would allow automated graphic deliveries.
  • Integration of real-time data into business graphics allows up to the minute reports for the business segments
  • Fully templated graphics would available to the newsroom producers via the Active-X iNews plugin.

These functions coupled with a familiarity with Vizrt that was present from a previous integration in the Presentation department and a handful of internal staff with Vizrt experience made the choice a natural one.

On top of the new Vizrt systems to be purchased and integrated, TVNZ decided to complete an entire brand redesign for the news programmes to coincide with the launch of the new graphics solution. Recognizing the large scope of this project from conceptualization, to the new graphic package builds, down to the implementation and training; TVNZ went searching for a professional services provider to aid in the impending workload.

Collaboration between TVNZ Blacksand and Girraphic and on-going consultancy

Initial project meetings had TVNZ acknowledging that being able to fully utilise a sophisticated platform like Vizrt was not something that was going to happen overnight. A decision was made to invest heavily in training to enable the team to take as much advantage of the new toolkit as possible in the shortest timeframe.  After approaching Vizrt for suggestions, TVNZ solicited professional services from the team at Girraphic to take advantage of their expertise and experience moving forward with the multiple integrations.

“At Girraphic we are firm believers in the power of an idea and providing technical innovation and expertise to help create, explore & bring ideas to life. Specializing in Vizrt products and workflows we have over 30 years of industry experience in the conception, production and successful delivery of full turnkey and bespoke on-air graphics solutions across all media platforms.” Nathan Marsh – Girraphic Managing Director

Girraphic and the team at TVNZ set about implementing a project schedule for the months to follow. The process began with a basic Viz Artist training course where the Blacksand Team, TVNZ’s internal design department, began to construct the existing scenes.  During the 5 day course a good foundation was laid down to get the ball rolling in terms of recreating the current on-air looks, as well as starting to migrate some of the smaller News and Current Affairs shows over onto the Vizrt platform.  With this initial basic training out of the way the remainder of the services were able to begin forward movement. They included:

  • Viz World initial maps build & subsequent training course
  • Viz Pilot templates build & training course
  • Template Wizard training and building and implementing the flagship 6pm News Template Package for use in iNews. All templates to be functional for use with Viz Mosart studio automation software
  • Viz Ticker build and integration for all News and Current Affairs shows.
  • Fully automated real-time data integration for weather and business data into the Ticker system as well as the Full Frame business graphics
  • NLE integration into the Avid edit suites for the main news programmes

“Girraphic provided an exceptional depth of knowledge in terms of service, delivery, support & training, not to mention their valuable input into our technical implementation and project planning. Their capacity of understanding for the Vizrt product range supplemented by their experience was invaluable in achieving the final on-screen look we wanted. On top of the Vizrt portion their expertise in achieving integration with other services and data providers allowed us to achieve the flexibility we needed for our dynamic news tickers. We appreciated having mature, experienced resources with strong industry relationships to help guide us through the Vizrt migrations.” Denise Maylin – TVNZ Project Manager

After the initial visit remote support was provided as the graphics build commenced internally at Blacksand with on-site troubleshooting support from Vizrt’s Nick Sladen. As the internal team began to grow more comfortable with their products the time came for a second round of more intense, advanced training. The subsequent 10 day training course saw the core News build being started by Blacksand with Girraphic guiding them through the more advanced sections of the Transition Logic scene designs. Tasks and specific training were also placed upon individuals that will further build and integrate specific workflow related demands. Viz World, NLE operations, and Template Wizard were among the most important additional training grounds during this visit.

As the project progressed the data integration specialists at Girraphic were hard at work building the ticker systems and the business graphics. Ongoing conference calls and remote assistance with work and integrations being carried out via remote login sessions were used as way to continue updating process work.  During the Template Wizard design phase a lot of time and research went into how the end-user would experience and interpret their new workflows. Templates were created to be dynamic and flexible, but also easy to use and navigate and close as possible to the on-air product.  This allowed any person in the newsroom to get a feel for how they are building their own graphics, and taking ownership and pride in the end product.

“Vizrt will enable the News & Current Affairs team to automate the delivery of graphics to air by using templated and stored graphic elements. Templating news graphics means a significant proportion of day to day graphics production can be automated and populated by the newsroom itself. This will require less staff involved in the production of graphics and support of the various systems.  The move to templated graphics means that news reporters and producers will be able to manage many of the daily graphics elements currently produced by a dedicated graphics team, reducing its size.” Mark Fleming, TVNZ Lead Vizrt Designer

The project saw Girraphic flying from Sydney to Auckland for two more visits as the months progressed. Several training seminars for producers, directors, DA’s, and operators regarding new studio workflows and content creation took place. More training for the developed Viz Tickers and maps took place as well as a final visit to oversee the graphics portion of the Viz Mosart automation rollout. 

“The main contributing factor that led to this being a successful project was the excellent communication between TVNZ and Girraphic. TVNZ gave clear indications as to the direction they would like to head and utilized us as a sounding board to see if their ideas were achievable. We made recommendations based upon years of industry experience and continued to develop, build and finally implement their products in the most time-effective and efficient manner possible. It was great working with a network so willing to learn and utilize their new toolkit to its maximum potential.” Stephen Mare, Girraphic General Manager

On July 21st, 2015 TVNZ One News at 6pm went live with full studio automation through Viz Mosart utilising their new Viz Pilot templates complied by producers and journalists in the newsroom. Accompanying the new graphics were the data integrated Viz Tickers, maps populated through Viz World and NLE graphics populated in Avid edit suites. This was a culmination of months of hard work, training and integration done on the part of the staff at TVNZ, Blacksand, Vizrt & Girraphic. This project provided an outstanding model of a broadcaster working hand in hand with a professional Vizrt service provider in Girraphic to transition their network’s graphics & operations over to the Vizrt platform.