Turner turns to new tools

For Suzanne Donino, senior vice president, network operations at Turner Broadcasting, NAB is not just about the technology, it's about learning how to facilitate business processes in an ever-changing environment.

"It is a challenge to try to move from the very traditional approach to now converging to a more software-driven application," Donino says. "The good thing is we're not alone in this. A lot of people in the industry are rethinking what their businesses look like."

To support its "incredible growth," Turner is building a new broadcast facility slated to open later this year. Turner is looking at ways of centralizing master control in the new plant to give it greater ability to share media across its network.

"Turner is the content king. We have huge libraries, and we exploit them as much as we can," Donino says. "We want to get out of the business of making multiple copies of tape. We'll be able to take this programming that has existed in silos, network it and share it among these services."

In March, TBS will be converting to Pinnacle video servers under the control of Pro-Bel automation.

"We all struggle in the industry with this issue of interoperability, and we're really pleased with the direction that Pinnacle has taken-their willingness to provide a commitment to their RND and interoperability strategy," Donino notes.

As Turner moves toward centralized operations, it will need a robust monitoring system that will work across multiple systems.

"We need a more efficient way to detect errors in the hardware and software," Donino says. "If you have a problem, you don't want to have to find a needle in the haystack."

Turner is hoping to find a system that does more than just alert you to where a particular failure is occurring and will be looking at equipment from Grass Valley, Chyron, Philips/Thomson and NVision.

"We want the system to prioritize what the failure is," she explains. "If it directly affects on-air, it tells you to fix that first. That would allow you to do diagnostics in a quick period of time, rather that dispersing a group of engineers."

Turner also will be focusing on other areas of production, including MPEG editing that will seamlessly integrate with the Pinnacle server and will allow the network to continue to add value to its content. For example, Turner used squeezed-back credits and moving bugs.

"Having a lot of ancillary content and layering over content has been a real challenge in our master control," Donino says.

She adds that she'll be looking at Pinnacle's new Vortex system and will also be looking at new offerings from Avid and other major manufacturers. "I was amazed at how much the market has progressed in this area last year, so I'm not predisposed to one vendor or a another," she explains.

As Turner brings more bells and whistles to its production, it will also need powerful production switchers to handle multiple keys and support those functions.

Turner also will be looking at DVD storage for short-form material. DVD storage would enable Turner to store volumes of short-form material on a single disk.

"I like that it's compact and doesn't take up a whole lot of room," Donino says. "Our commercial library will have 30,000 [commercials]. You could imagine the real estate and what it takes to move those tapes around."

Turner is hoping to be able to use DVD for near-line storage for playout to a server, but so far most of the DVD solutions for broadcast have been developed for deep storage.

"The challenge is being able to retrieve the material from DVD," Donino says. "We saw introductions last year that looked very promising but in the infancy stage. We think we will see some enhancements this year."