Producing audio and video content for a major news website means implementing a fast and furious workflow that’s performed as efficiently, and cost-effectively, as possible. There’s no other way to stay on top of breaking news in a timely fashion.
Split between offices at NBC headquarters (30 Rockefeller Center) in New York and on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash., the MSNBC.com multimedia team is responsible for producing video and other types of media on a daily basis. This content is married with segments from NBC/MSNBC broadcasts and from various wire services.
Working as a one-person team, a staff member from either of office shoots, produces, and edits video in the field. Each producer is equipped with a Mac laptop loaded with Avid Media Composer 5.5 editing software, connected to a Matrox MXO2 Mini MAX I/O box with built-in Thunderbolt connectivity. This allows them to convert signals on the fly, as required.
“The Matrox unit is really like a nice Swiss Army Knife for video editors because it offers so many capabilities in a portable package,” said David Friedman, one of the site’s senior multimedia producers. “Portability and utility together are of especially high importance when a team member is traveling solo and responsible for carrying camera equipment, tripods, a laptop, and other gear.”
The MXO2 Mini MAX provides the video and audio I/Os the staff needs to quickly capture and edit footage in the field, and the Matrox MAX H.264 real-time encoding feature saves them a significant amount of time in compressing and delivering finished news content to the studio for approval. When footage must be sent for editing elsewhere, the MAX encoder allows a “loose edit” with about five minutes of footage to be exported in just five to seven minutes. Friedman said this is a significant improvement when compared to the 40 or 50 minutes it once took to generate the same material.
In addition to cutting down delivery times, Friedman said the MXO2 Mini MAX often supports broadcast monitoring during edit sessions.
“The box also can serve as a capture device for external content,” he said. “MSNBC.com reporters who cover the video game world and tech shows such as CES can run an HD line straight from another device into the Matrox unit and capture video—HDMI or component video—into DNxHD files for immediate editing in Media Composer.
Some times, while a staff member is out covering a news event, they’ll get a request for footage from some part of NBC. In this case, the MXO2 Mini MAX makes it easy to move compressed QuickTime video from their Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera SSD card to the laptop hard drive, and then play out the video from the Avid timeline or Matrox’s Vetura Playback program right into a satellite truck or broadcast facility “in a TV-friendly way,” he said.
The MXO2 Mini MAX now features full compatibility with Apple/Intel’s Thunderbolt high-speed connections, which Friedman said has solved another nagging issue: portability. They want to work with the lightest equipment package they can and still produce high-quality work.
“Many of our field staff prefer to work on 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops because of their small size and light weight, and now with the addition of a Thunderbolt adapter to the same MXO2 Mini Max, we were able to shift to this smaller Apple system and drop the larger and heavier 17-inch model with ExpressCard/34 slot,” he said. “The MXO2 Mini MAX with Thunderbolt gives us the freedom to work with either model, and it also provides a more stable connection that we’re much less likely to knock out of place, breaking a connection and possibly crashing a machine.”
While the versatility and portability of the MXO2 Mini MAX simplify the team’s field operations, the largest benefit is the time it has saved.
“The time savings that our users realize through MAX H.264 encoding can present the opportunity to add a few more elements into a piece,” Friedman said. “The speed with which footage from game systems and other devices can be recorded and moved over to a laptop for editing allows our team to capture more footage and possibly produce a more complete or compelling story.”