A Revolutionary WAAY to Produce Live News
June 08, 2014 by Chuck Baker
When the ABC affiliate, WAAY-TV decided to transition from standard-def. to hi-def. they faced a typical local station challenge—they needed to create the most visually dynamic and competitive HD newscasts on a very limited budget. After extensive research, they chose TriCaster.
Using TriCaster in a new and innovative way, the engineering team at WAAY connected two TriCasters together; using one for broadcast and live streaming, and the other for delivering video and still images.
But it was TriCaster’s integrated virtual set system that ultimately tipped the scales. The production team at WAAY now had access to the built-in virtual sets that they could customize to their programming. Finally, they could do what they always wanted to do with their studios, without the added cost of set builds and additional space.
Every day, WAAY is finding new and exciting ways that TriCaster can enhance their workflow and help them create newscasts that are even more appealing to their viewers.
The TriCaster 850 serves as WAAY’s main production switcher, and its two DDR’s and DSK’s serve as a dual-channel HD graphics system. Situated right next to it is the TriCaster 300, which essentially serves as a dual-channel HD server capable of delivering both video and still images to the on-set monitors. Its program and “aux” outputs feed video and graphics to two 50-inch LCD monitors on the news set.
The vision to use TriCaster in this very innovative way was the brainchild of Jonathan Crowe, WAAY’s chief engineer. “By taking full advantage of the capabilities inherent in TriCaster, WAAY is spared buying separate components, like the HD switcher, graphics, and server system,” Crowe said. “Those three components are among the biggest expenses in any live HD production control room, and this functionality is already factored in TriCaster’s incomparable price-performance.”
While WAAY is not the first TV station to use TriCaster for live productions, they are now in the vanguard—and possibly the only one—using it to produce live HD newscasts. WAAY’s production staff now produces 5.5 hours of live daily news as well as two hours of news on both Saturdays and Sundays. These newscasts are rich with live video clips, full-screen graphics, over the shoulder graphics, lower third supers, effects like picture in picture, virtual sets, and switching three studio cameras.
Prior to joining WAAY in July 2011, Crowe served as an engineering consultant to WAAY, advising the station management team on the best way to implement their HD news transition strategy. He suggested going with TriCaster based on his years of experience and familiarity working with it in his previous jobs, including as a systems engineer for a NewTek reseller in Birmingham.
“I told them, ‘I know a product that will answer our concerns more cost-effectively than any other option out there,’” said Crowe. “While I didn’t know of other stations using TriCaster specifically for live news, I explained the benefits of doing something far more ambitious than other stations were doing.”
“The demo met with healthy skepticism,” Crowe said. “They were like, ‘A), I’m having a hard time believing how much this thing can do considering B) how much it costs, and if it’s so great, then C) why aren’t other stations using it this way?’”
Before making a decision, WAAY explored other equipment options, including comparably-priced integrated production solutions that compete head-on with TriCaster. But one of the key features that tipped the scales in favor of TriCaster was its integrated virtual set system. While other systems promised this capability, Crowe said those virtual sets just turned out to be glorified chromakeyers.
“TriCaster’s integrated nature makes it capable of doing so many things. And we’re not painted into a corner the way we would be with discreet components that only do specific functions. This frees up capital for other items on our wish list, like a new commercial play-out server or hi-def router,” said Crowe. “And we’re always discovering new ways that TriCaster improved or streamlines our workflow. There’s a tremendous depth to this system that we’re still exploring.”
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