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How the Press Association embraced the cloud

Ian Brotherston, CEO of content management company TVT, tells how the Press Association was able to move to a new level of journalistic coverage by embracing the cloud

From the opening of the Forth Bridge in Scotland, the world’s largest cantilever structure in 1890, to the EU Brexit debate of 2016, the Press Association has been reporting on news from across the UK and Ireland for the last 147 years.

Beginning with reporters filing hand written journals to today’s era of modern multimedia content provision across web, mobile, broadcast and print, PA has adapted to a news industry increasingly focused on the immediacy offered by the internet driven news cycle. However the next iteration of the PA journey is seeing a massive increase in the demand for video.

Video footage of breaking news stories is a vital component for both broadcasters and websites in today’s world. With the rapid advancement of electronic news gathering technologies including low cost, yet broadcast ready, cameras and high speed 4G connectivity, PA reporters in the field are able to deliver stories into the workflow within minutes of their being shot.

Building a video news workflow

PA has built its video handling capability in various stages over the last decade, adding in different elements of ingest, transcode, editing and delivery, using products from multiple vendors. The workflow is run by an expert team of editors, but with growing demand, faster news cycles and diversity of individual client requirements, in the middle of 2015, PA decided to work with us at TVT. TVT deployed its ContentSelect platform to transform PA’s video workflows and achieve some outstanding results.

“With the production team now using ContentSelect, videos are now taking up to an hour less to transcode and deliver to customers. Video resolution is now full HD and we are able to provide a number of delivery methods to suit our customers,’ says Alex Rothwell, head of video at PA.

“As the system is cloud-based, reporters are able to file their footage directly from their phone, tablet or laptop from anywhere in the field.” Rothwell estimates the new system has enabled PA to halve the time it takes to process video.

As the system is cloud-based, reporters are able to file their footage directly from their phone, tablet or laptop from anywhere in the field

As a content-focused organisation, PA was keen to streamline its workflow process but avoid investing in and having to maintain a large in-house IT infrastructure footprint. This approach made the use of cloud a preferable option. As a result, PA chose TVT’s cloud-powered ContentSelect to manage its editorial cycle. This starts with incoming ENG video rushes as well as live video feeds and third party content ingested into the platform, logged and made available as low resolution proxies for viewing and online editing.

By utilising this centralised approach, both curators at PA offices and reporters out in the field can perform simple edits with outputted packages automatically transcoded, based on selectable video encoding settings suitable for broadcast and online streaming. The cloud platform also facilitates the creation of metadata through a mixture of automatically generated tags around format, length and source along with expert driven metadata tagging based on the content. ContentSelect is integrated with PA’s video archive to enable easy retrieval and re-use of content, taking advantage of associated metadata to facilitate searches of relevant content.

AWS hosting

From a technical standpoint, ContentSelect is built using web-scale architectures and, for PA, is hosted on Amazon Web Services. The system is deployed as a single, per client instance with the ability to scale up compute and storage.

TVT used a set of interconnecting modules which cover all elements of channel and VOD preparation such as QC, compliance, metadata creation, transcodes and deliveries using either our own modules or via third party integration. However, a crucial element is that the application is delivered in such a way that the offered feature set and even the user interface is relevant to the specific task that the logged in operator is working on which makes it a much simpler and effective process.

The system also manages distribution, with PA able to specify content delivery direct to its clients, which include the majority of the UK national press, broadcasters and major online brands.

With the migration to the new cloud-based platform complete, PA is continuing its mission to meet the exacting schedules of its customers while giving its reporters more flexibility.