BitCentral Wins Large Gannett Deal

NAB 2010: Complete Coverage from B&C

BitCentral, whose low-cost Precis new production servers and Oasis content sharing systems have gained favor with station groups like Raycom as well as big-market stations like WCBS New York, has won a large, multi-year deal from Gannett Broadcasting.

Gannett, which operates 23 stations in 19 markets, will gradually deploy Precis and Oasis servers at its stations as it overhauls the news production infrastructure across the group and replaces its current Avid iNews newsroom computer systems, editors and storage systems. The Precis servers will connect to new nonlinear editors, which Gannett is still in the process of selecting, and the Oasis distribution servers will allow Gannett stations to easily share content through the Internet.

Precis, which uses commodity storage and works with a number of editing systems including Grass Valley Edius, Sony Vegas, Apple Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere, is currently installed in a little over 100 stations, says BitCentral president and CEO Fred Fourcher. Its selection by Gannett, which spent about six months evaluating a dozen vendors, is a big win for Newport Beach, Calif.-based BitCentral.

"We're very proud of winning Gannett, as it really validates our solution," says Fourcher.

Nine Gannett stations will switch to AP's ENPS newsroom computer system this year, says Gannett VP of technology Jeff Johnson, who was tasked with replacing existing news production systems at a cost 40% lower than what the group previously spent. Five of them will get the BitCentral servers, which were selected by a cross-discipline team of Gannett GMs, producers, news directors and engineers that evaluated all the competing products. A big selling point was the ability for journalists to quickly browse proxy-resolution video from a remote Oasis server.

"We looked at everything," says Johnson. "First of all, one of things we had to have was commodity-based hardware. Then it was just the tie-in with AP [ENPS] and the overall flexibility."

Gannett is taking a similar collaborative approach to selecting a new nonlinear editor as well as new camcorders, which a team of photographers and multimedia journalists will spend time evaluating at the NAB Show this month in Las Vegas. Gannett has already deployed multimedia journalists who shoot video with Sony HDV handheld camcorders and edit on laptops using Avid software.

It will likely use a mix of handheld and shoulder-mounted camcorders going forward, says Johnson. A key consideration for Gannett's new editing solution will be how well the software can take advantage of powerful new processing chips in laptops to handle a mix of formats in an editing timeline, such as combining legacy DVCAM footage with MPEG-2 Long GOP [Group of Pictures] formats like HDV and XDCAM HD.

The need to perform file conversions between various formats has made the workflow slower today than when Gannett first bought DVCAM tape-based camcorders, going from 4 times faster real-time when ingesting footage to slower than real-time today in many instances. So Johnson is seeking a nonlinear editor that is "an intelligent renderer" which applies the processing power of new laptops as efficiently as possible.

"We need something that has enough power to conform [an edit] and send it to shared storage, and we want it to be real-time or faster," says Johnson, who is currently leaning towards Sony's Vegas editor over Adobe and Edius systems because of its file-conversion capabilities.