A different approach
For major events, it is common to use advanced design tools to build and fully render premium-quality graphics. Instead of using a real-time character generator to play back graphics templates, the original design tool can render fully finished graphics that are then transferred to the playout device, which can be either a video server or a graphics device. What if this approach could be used for all branding graphics? It can.
Major design tools have external APIs that provide control over content and rendering capabilities. The ability to automate the creation of branding graphics from a template created within the design tool provides high-quality graphics in a finished format that can be easily validated and recalled.
Automating the creation of branding clips from traffic lists, directly from automation or third-party systems, using the design tool as the render engine, allows information from many sources to be consistently processed and presented with quality.
This approach is a departure from standard real-time graphics creation that is typically used in branding graphics and, as such, there are some graphic types for which it is not the best workflow. Difficult graphic types would be, for example, news or sports information, and voting or poll results that require real-time data.
Advantages can exist with this workflow in each of the steps. The creation step is completely done within a single design tool, without compromise. Designers typically use Adobe After Effects with the full support of websites, tutorials and examples.
A modern automation system can drive versioning to ensure that graphics are kept up to date with the channel’s schedule as the system of record. Versioning can be automated through the API, creating a finished clip that can be easily verified. A fully rendered clip can then be played back from a simple automation command, airing exactly as it was verified. Clips can be automatically moved to the playout device for each outlet, and removed when no longer needed.
Choosing a workflow
Each step in the branding workflow has multiple approaches, and each approach has benefits and limitations. Additional branding does not necessarily require more hardware, but it almost always requires a more efficient workflow.
The selection of a branding workflow must take each step into account. For creation, careful consideration must be given to the types of graphics to be created and where that creation will take place. Decisions about versioning will be driven by the static or dynamic nature of the branding data. Verification decisions depend on the data’s timing, as well as its ability to be accessed and controlled by a skilled operator. Playout control depends on the connection with automation and decisions made upstream. Additionally, thought must be given to how media is managed, moved and expired when no longer needed. The one constant with each workflow is that how changes are managed plays a key role.
It is unusual that a single graphics workflow will address every graphic need for a network or family of channels. Graphics should be grouped by common needs, such as graphics complexity, number of repetitions, information sources and output formats. The key is to understand which approach is best for each kind of graphic given its particular requirements.
—Eugene Plawutsky is product manager, graphics and master control, at Miranda Technologies.