News Business

The Press Association

3 January 2010
The Press Association

The Press Association news agency has about 1,600 staff worldwide, of whom some 160 to 200 work in IT. Workflow presentation by James Elliot, introduced by Raoul Cospen, director of Marketing, Dalet Digital Media Systems.

The Press Association has been producing text and still photographs for 40 and 100 years, respectively, but video for only about ten years. Now it produces 30 to 50 news packages per day, for a wide variety of online customers, each with their own format requirements.

"We rely heavily on automation," said James Elliot, its Multimedia IT Business Manager. It chose a Dalet system because it "needed media asset management that could handle video in a newsroom." It already had Avid workstations, but they weren’t connected and it wanted to centralise its storage and allow journalists to collaborate. "Dalet could just sit in the centre of all of our systems, including text and stills," he said.

It went on air in December 2007, running Dalet Plus 1.4 newsgathering and a central hub for MAM and metadata, as well as integrated production tools and open systems for integration with various production systems. PA plans to upgrade to use Dalet’s application programming interface for web services.

PA has a gigabit network, Dalet Application Servers, Dalet Plus clients (which talk to an SQL database in DAS). Although it only uses 25Mbps DV video, "we still require a heavyweight storage area network so that multiple journalists can access the same material at the same time."

Journalists use Liverwire Digital store and forward technology, inputting stories that they edit on location over HTTP or FTP. PA doesn’t have any dedicated cameramen or video editors, relying on multiskilled journalists.

Ingest is done via a Livewire server, coming in as H.264 MPEG-4 at 4.5Mbps. It is transcoded on a Rhozet Carbon Server to DV, and a Job Scheduler transforms the metadata to XML, which is exported to Dalet, which then creates a new video title in the workflow.

"One of the most powerful features of Dalet is how it handles DV and WAV. It uses file chunking to bring in ten second chunks, which are then immediately available to use." The video remains available on the Dalet server for 24 hours.

In the last few months, PA has replaced all of its tape systems, recording directly to hard drives, which has halved its ingest times.

It uses Marquis Medway to repurpose Final Cut Pro XML files to Avid EDL, transcode DV to MXF, and move it to Editshare storage (as PA wanted to keep the Avid and Editshare systems in place where people were used to them). "The Marquis conversion to MXF means that when you drop an Avid EDL on the timeline, the video comes on line straight away. Medway also makes it easy to put video back out to Dalet," explained Elliot.

Most of PA’s customers are web-based, and it distributes cut stories, video clips associated with text and photos, or rough-cut stories suitable for further editing. The Job Scheduler automatically creates the correct formats for individual customers, all of whom want something slightly different, and brands them correctly for particular customers (such as Virgin Media), matching captions and graphics to that customer’s brand using templates and metadata (it uses NewsML).

The Job Scheduler also tells the journalist what is happening with this process. Dalet then uses its Rundown scheduler to deliver the packages to each customer and put an H.264 version into the archive (from which customers can also download). – David Fox

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