At Sky News, we went for a high-impact launch of our high-definition news channel, coinciding with the night of the UK general election. The biggest technical challenge was to keep the existing channel on-air and maintain high production standards, while preparing for the separate HD channel. We also set the task of presenting HD news in a new way.
For Sky News, the problems were matched by fantastic opportunities. It gave us the chance to take stock of our equipment and workflows, and to make some fundamental changes. In went new studio cameras, lighting, a gallery and a server system — just part of the newsroom transformation. For the server solution, we partnered with EVS.
During the HD upgrade, our main gallery was twice switched to a specially constructed temporary gallery. This happened once for a three-month refit and later during rehearsals. The countdown to that 9 p.m. launch carried the adrenalin-fueled hopes and fears of a project team who’d spent the previous 12 months meticulously planning for the night. Separate project teams were set up for key areas of technical implementation, and most of this work was kept in-house, drawing on the support of BSkyB’s technology division.
The first creative step was to prioritize HD service over SD, which was crucial if we were to unleash the creative potential of the new format. Although driven by the same production stream, we developed separate screen architecture for HD and SD services, with the HD service liberated from the normal constraints of 4:3 safe. In addition, a whole new grammar was developed to provide additional content on side panels.
These premium panels are an innovative new way of storytelling for Sky News HD. They add compelling detail to our journalism, using the widescreen format of high definition to give rich context to the key stories of the day. The panels are producer-controlled graphics templates, which are triggered by codes in the rundown. They include live video, graphics, analysis and data during live, guest and breaking news.
At the heart of the brand identity is a 3D world of light and glass, and more than six months of high-end 3D work went into its execution. The channel has lost none of its immediacy, yet the graphic identity fully exploits the rich aesthetic potential of high definition and has undoubtedly changed our approach to design. We integrated Panasonic P2 (AJ-HPX2100) in the field, an EVS server system, Final Cut Pro editing, Avid iNEWS as the newsroom production tool and an Ardome Ardendo tapeless library system. Chyron equipment was predominantly used to run the panels. We have 40 lines coming in through our news operation center (NOC) and 16 recording lines. The NOC team can arc and amend feeds accordingly to comply with the 16:9 format.
Our philosophy is that we are now an HD channel that also does SD. Fortunately, because we are shooting in HD in the UK and around the world, and because we have transformed our entire newsroom infrastructure, we are able to deliver on this 21st century broadcast engineering challenge.
Submitted by BSkyB Technology
BSkyB Technology: David Tinney, mgr.; Bruce Kruger, mgr.; Oliver Pitkin, design; Peter Esdaile, proj. mgr.; Julian Wright, server; Stuart Ross, studios; Louis Starnwoski, graphics; Ann Chiang, transmission; Steve Tilston, server technology
Sky News: Bevan Gibson, tech. lead; Andrew Crofts, assistant; Richard Pattison, assistant; Clive Van Der Heever, assistant; Richard Westwood, assistant; Dustin Grubish, assistant; Simon Buglione, creative; Jon Bennett, studios; Jackie Faulkner, ops.; Steve Bennedik, proj. coord.
Technology at work
Apple: Final Cut Studio
Ardome: Ardendo tapeless library system
Avid: iNEWS newsroom computer system
Axon: Digital glue
Chyron: HyperX3 graphics with CAMIO cluster, LUCI system with Active X
Evertz: VIP multiview monitor and 3G router
EVS: ActiveX plug-in database browser, IP Director, Xedio HD and 200 +thin client browse tool, XS and XT production servers, 200TB Xstore2 SAN
Grass Valley: K2 Summit servers for GFX playback, Kayenne switcher, LDK 8000 Elite WorldCam HD studio cameras
NVISION: HD router
Techex: HD in-house IPTV system