Snypes and Squeezes

Got a second? Apparently, you don't—at least when it comes to on-air promos. In an age when every second counts, TV stations increasingly find themselves faced with the challenge of plugging local news or programming with less and less available airtime. The creative part of on-air promos is no longer in simply making them interesting: It's in making sure they actually make it to air.

"It's all about trying to create inventory where there is none because we can't use any inventory that the sales teams can possibly sell," says Dave Folsom, vice president of technology for TV-station group Raycom Media. "Broadcasters are under tremendous pressure now, and it's a tough business."

As a result, the most important tools in TV's promotion toolbox aren't necessarily the editing and graphics packages that give them a look. Instead, it's products like The Branding Iron from Spencer Technologies. Used by such groups as Raycom, Sinclair, Tribune, and Media General, the system allows broadcasters to find ways to get the promos on-air without interrupting the program. Squeezing back closing credits to open up on-screen space for a video and audio tease is just one method. Another method growing in popularity is the "snype": an animation that flies into the corner of the screen to plug an upcoming program or special event. The key, says Spencer Technologies President Paul Lines, is to stop people from clicking their remote at the end of a program.

"The snype will fly in and tell the viewer what is coming up next," he says. "That hooks the viewer who might be leaving. Then you fly in another snype to hook the viewers who are surfing through the channels. So you hook them on the way into the break and then out of the break."

The Branding Iron stores stills and video clips and also has Digital Video Effects (DVE) and a linear keyer to allow switching. According to Lines, the original market was live news production, but then it began to be used for master-control and on-air needs. Spencer Technologies responded with a more tailored application designed for master control.

The system works by storing the promo clip and then squeezing back the end credits on one channel of DVE and unsqueezing the promo on the rest of the screen. "It's an elegant look that starts the squeezeback and then automatically figures out when it needs to start closing the promo," says Lines. "The advantage is, no one has to sit there hitting a button, removing the possibility of airing a promo with a frozen frame of video."