CNN, NBC Tap New Sony Format

Among the sales and deals announced by Sony last week were the decision by CNN to test and deploy the manufacturer's new optical-disc ENG system this fall and by NBC's to use the format to acquire material for athlete profiles for the 2004 Summer Olympics.

At CNN, according to Senior Vice President, Strategic Digital Systems, Gordon Castle, the initial deployments will be to prove out the different workflow configurations that the system introduces. "We want to see how it can be integrated into the standard production environment. We'll start slowly and then deploy units from there."

Sony's optical-disc system offers up to 90-minute recording on one disc and can transfer a proxy video copy of full-resolution content into an editing system at 50 times real time, making it strongly suited for use in laptop-based field editing systems.

"Our move to a system like this actually began two years ago when we put nonlinear editing systems in the field," says Castle. "That allowed us to start transferring files between editing systems over different types of networks."

With the exception of deep archives on tape, Castle says, CNN is looking for an end-to-end data-based production system, something Sony's new format allows. With Macintosh G4 laptops coupled with Final Cut Pro nonlinear editing systems, the loop is almost complete.

CNN's Atlanta-based photo pool will be the first test of the format, which will be used for acquisition of on-air material. "We don't have a history of testing things that aren't planned for deployment," Castle observes. "We don't have time for that sort of approach."

For Castle, one of the key aspects of the system is that it allows the network to realize one of its technical dreams: moving the exact file shot in the camera all the way through the production process and then into the archive fully intact. Right now, the material that comes into the Atlanta facility is raw material but is not the entire camera-originated footage.

He expects the bureaus to retain the discs and send copies of all the footage to CNN. "But, because we'll be able to move that file into the studio without recompressing it, what will go into the archive will be [all] the camera original [content]."

This capability will also help smooth the transition to HDTV. Castle says the move will be more natural. "You can load a new operating system or program on a computer; you don't have to replace it per se."

Sony's deal with NBC is part of a broader deal to provide technology through 2009. NBC Olympics Senior Vice President of Engineering Dave Mazza says the system offers new workflow advantages that will allow NBC to cover more ground quickly when assembling the human-interest stories that set Olympics coverage apart from other athletic events.

"We'll be able to review and edit material more quickly and efficiently than ever before," he says.

Sony also announced that The Dispatch Broadcast Group will also deploy optical disc camcorders to WBNS(TV) Columbus, Ohio, WTHY(TV) Indianapolis and the Ohio News Network.