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Easy Does It

Gordon Castle, senior vice president of technology for CNN, will head to NAB with three things on his mind: integration, extension and simplification. “That’s our mission statement,” he says.

With CNN relying more on moving content around as files, Castle is heading to NAB looking for tools to make that even easier. Getting content in from CNN bureaus and out to CNN Newsource (the service that provides video to member stations) is one of his top priorities. Enhancing the media-management tools related to such file movement is another.

“Media management, editing systems and so forth are still on our list of things to look at,” he says. “There’s always new-product appetite for those types of systems.”

Media management continues to be a tricky area because it is increasingly incorporated within products like video servers, editing systems and even acquisition formats. Castle says CNN approaches media management as if it is an entity unto itself and then ties it into those other products.

Two previous projects, an asset-management system based on Informix and Virage technologies, and a digital archive based on IBM and Sony technologies are in place at CNN.

“Enterprise-level media-management systems are still a developing art,” Castle says. “So we’re still focusing on it because we don’t yet have immediate access to all content by all of our areas.”

For example, major bureaus have no problem obtaining access to low-resolution proxy video, but smaller bureaus might have.

As for simplification, Castle and his team will head to NAB looking for journalists’ tools. Scheduling, searching and media-management functions have been integrated loosely or directly into the Avid iNews newsroom system. But it is still a complex environment, and journalists need to be expert users to understand how to use all the tools.

“We’re looking at the integration framework for journalists’ tools as well as the tools themselves,” he says. Bottom line: CNN wants gear that connect journalists to the stories they need—faster.

Field production is an important focus, as CNN wants to extend the file-based world out to story sites. The network has found success with laptop-based editing in the field and delivery of some stories as files, but Castle will investigate some of the new tools that use wireless Internet networks to deliver content. “There’s still a quality-of-service issue with those networks, but we’ve had really good luck,” he says. “You can still tell a pretty big difference in the live stuff, but it is pretty hard to tell the difference on the store-and-forward stuff.” One thing he’d love to see: a Wi-Fi–enabled Firewire connector allowing video to be streamed over a modest distance from a camera to a laptop or other editing device.

HDTV still will be one of the big stories at the show, and while CNN doesn’t have an HD plan, it has been laying an infrastructure for HD including routers, cameras and production switchers. HD gets Castle’s attention only when the price is right.

“We’re already deploying HDV cameras because they’re only marginally more expensive than the DV cameras,” he says. “And we’re starting to see products like that, which can bridge the SD/HD gap, because we can use it for both.”

Shopping List

  • Media-management tools
  • Nonlinear editing systems
  • Tools for journalist workstations
  • Field production equipment
  • HD gear