When Television News24 was launched in May 2002, it was the first channel in Albania to broadcast exclusively news 24 hours a day. Ten years later, and with five similar channels delivering news, it still commands the largest news audience in that country.
The channel operates from a studio complex in Tirana, the capital of Albania, with regional facilities in the principal cities of Shkoder, Durres, Elbasan, Fier, Gjirokaster, Vlore, Berat and Korce.
“In Tirana, we have one studio of 20 metres by 10 metres which we use for the main news programmes,” states Arianit Filopati, programming and producing director for News24. “The other studio is 28 metres by 12 metres wide, but this can be divided into three different studios, if necessary, to suit other programming demands.”
In addition, News24 operates three OB units, and to coincide with the launch of high definition transmissions in September, the channel is commissioning a similar number capable of handling that format. There are plans for a SNG truck to be purchased in the near future.
As part of the upgrade to HD, News24 has purchased eight Sony HXCD70K studio and 10 Sony PMW 320 field cameras. A further 10 Panasonic AG-HMC81 AVCCAM camcorders will be used in the regional studios.
The main gallery is equipped with a FOR-A HVS 350 HANABI HS vision switcher and a Yamaha LS9/32 audio mixer. Studio communication is handled through a Chroma telecom hybrid intercom system.
Editing is carried out using Sony Vegas. “Currently, we do not have a tapeless environment, but we are working towards that goal. All the cameras we have purchased recently have memory cards and we will spend much less time ingesting into the editing computer. The tape’s era is over now.”
Within the newsroom operation, the station opted to use a VSN package to provide automation, playout, storage, ingest, and the video server facilities. “This system is new to us, and News24 is the first TV station in Albania to integrate such automation,” reveals Filopati. “Our philosophy is speed in broadcasting the latest news, and based on the experiences of television channels in other countries, the automation of this system offers the response in reporting the information and stories that we need.”
He goes on to explain that the VSN package integrates with the upgraded Chyron systems that have also been recently purchased. “The decision to upgrade to HD allowed us to look at various systems. After some careful research for a system that could provide realtime graphics quickly and consistently, we decided that Chyron was the one.”
Filopati says that because around 60% of the News24 screen is made up of graphics, and the remaining area is live video in a DVE box, dependability is essential. “With this system we have gained several benefits. First, there is a significant improvement in quality. Secondly, we have reliability as the computer can stay on air for weeks without needing a restart. Next, the updating of news, titles and so on is very fast. Then, many of the tasks in the production cycle can be automated. Finally, we can produce 3D effects in realtime.”
The package supplied to News24 comprises Chyron Channel Box EX with various software options bundle, a 2D DVE, and a Clip player, and LEX 3.1 with Lyric Pro.
“Channel Box is for the channel branding, while LEX is the studio Graphics Generator,” explains Viktor Tatai, regional sales manager at Chyron. “They also can operate as a backup of each other.”
He says that by adding Chyron’s Channel Box 2 and LEX 3.1, News24 has taken a significant step in simplifying workflows and accelerating delivery of complex news content.
“The Channel Box data fields are filled through xls sheets and txt files which are produced by the journalists, enabling the screens to be updated automatically. All of the active fields are data driven from data sources like xls or txt, XMP driven from a picture bank or Intelligent Interface driven from the VSN. LEX is more of a manual CG, allowing fast reaction to last minute changes. But it allows the display of multiple elements at the same time, plus various data sources just like Channel Box.”
Alongside the Albania language broadcast, news crawls are also displayed in English for an international audience. Channel Box uses a graphics-processing unit (GPU) render to enable multiple layers of graphics to be displayed. From one single Channel Box, the News24 team is able to generate and playout 13 different graphical components, including text, crawls, video DVE, animated logos, hour and date, and various clips in support of the current news topic.
Tatai states that whatever the hardware is capable of rendering, it can be put on air. “The software has no limitation like layers. Each element of the onscreen display may require different resources of the system, but that doesn’t present a problem. For example, a movie clip needs disk performance and Central Processing Unit power, a background texture requires GPU, a visual effect uses the built in DVE and so on. There are so many resources inside the system that every layout can be built up in multiple ways. A careful designer knows how to use the resources to produce unbelievably complex graphics. The News24 screen is built up in a creative way – but without glitches or freezing.”
When it comes to handling on-air transitions, Chyron’s Conditional Transitions technology is employed. Here, every page of graphics has an embedded intelligence that allows all the elements – for example, top line, second line, bottom line - to interact with each other according to predetermined parameters. No matter how the playout is controlled – whether through the inbuilt Sequencer of Channel Box 2, the Playlist of LEX 3.1 or manually, Conditional Transitions technology makes the transition that has been specified. Even if last minute changes in the run down were made, the appropriate transitions would be applied, no matter how many elements are on the screen at the same time.
Filopati says that he is very pleased with the results that have been achieved. “With a single computer, we can now perform the job that three separate systems and three different software licenses were doing before. The new systems have accelerated uploading and delivery of news to air, and since our journalists are spending much less time on graphics presentations, they can focus on their real work of gathering and delivering the news.”
He continues, “From September News24 transmits in full HD, and the plan is also to broadcast via cell phones and tablets, such as Android and Apple. To complement the latest and best technology we have adopted, we are working on constructing new and multifunctional studios to produce different programme formats. However, we are keeping the detailed plans to ourselves for the time being!”