Video Production Trade News – Week of May 1, 2016

Each week I share select trade news articles with students enrolled in my New England Tech video production classes. It’s critical in any field to remain current, follow emerging trends, examine best practices, and learn about various challenges that face the industry.

Below are some articles from the past week that were discussed during class:

1. In the Blink of an Eye – Walter Murch’s Editing Theory Put to the Test

Paying attention to actors eyes can be a key into finding the perfect edit point in post production. This video from editor Sven Pape

2. Happy 60th Birthday to Professional Videotape Recording

Ampex VR-1000 Advertisement 1956
Ampex VR-1000 Advertisement 1956 – Broadcasting-Telecasting, October 15, 1956

The Ampex VR-1000 was a game-changing technology of its time. The First demonstration was on April 14, 1956 at the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters Convention (known today as NAB). Keep in mind before the release of the VR-1000 film was the only viable recording medium available to the TV industry.

For some of the same reasons Hollywood recently shifted to “digital cinema”, TV broadcasters in 1956 saw an opportunity to cut cost and improve their efficiency. Recording east coast broadcasts and having them ready for rebroadcast on the West Coast just hours later was difficult and expensive. This was one of the driving factors to take advantage of Ampex’s new development. Eliminating film processing and development time:

By 1954, the networks used more raw film stock for kinescopes than all of the Hollywood film studios combined, spending up to $4,000 per half hour. – Wikipedia



Low Cost Graphics for Blackmagic ATEM Swtichers

For a while now I’ve been researching low-cost, easy to use Character Generator (CG) system for our Public Access Station’s TV Truck. Today I want to share what I found and outline the solution we’re implementing.

First, just a little background on what we needed out of the CG system. The station is very active, covering more than a hundred community events each year. Many productions require graphics to be updated and modified on the fly. Especially for sports coverage, it’s is a necessity.

We also needed a CG that was compatible with our Blackmagic Design ATEM Switcher.

A quick, but important side note on ATEM switchers. ATEM’s DO NOT have built-in scalers, which means that all incoming video must match exactly what you set in the configuration panel. In our case, we’re using HD 1080i. This is an important note when setting up an external CG.

Users should also know that ATEM switchers CAN store pre-produced, static graphics. If you’re working on a project where all graphics are known ahead of time, you can simply load your graphics into the switcher, DONE. Photoshop is the best graphics software to accomplish this. There’s also a Photoshop plugin that speeds up the process with some automation, but that’s still not ideal for sports production.

Once you decide that you need an external CG there are many solutions to look at, here are just a few:

We first purchased the DataVideo CG350, but found it cumbersome and lacking some basic features we need. Software just felt outdated and difficult to work with, we’ll find a use for the software, but not in our main production truck.

Other alternatives include Compix Character Generators, which is a great solution. Our station has used their product in the past with our SD systems. We’ve avoided this option, mainly for budget reasons, if you have the budget, Compix is likely one of your best options.

For our situation, PowerPoint was actually the best solution. A low-cost and user-friendly experience. A system we can deploy in multiple production facilities and deal with failures quickly. For example, if the CG system dies, a quick trip to Best Buy or and we’re back up and running. PowerPoint is a well supported and modern software used by millions, unlike more specialize CG software that has a smaller developer team and only a few hundred users.

I’m working on a blog post that outlines how to connect PowerPoint to a Blackmagic Design ATEM Switcher. Stay Tuned!

Analyzing Lighting & Set Design of Election Coverage

Hat’s off to Alex McCown (@alexm247) for his latest piece over at, looking at the business of set design and lighting, specifically national election coverage.

Expending such effort to make a bar look like a TV studio would seem to defeat the purpose of leaving the studio in the first place, but MSNBC is loath to diverge from the familiar template.

High Definition Television has had a huge impact on modern set design and studio spaces in recent years. From the wide, rectangular 16:9 aspect ratio, to the sharp image detail, to the improved color rendition…expectations are high.

“They all use the same two designers to build the sets, who make all the stuff at the national level,” Dillon says. “The same designers, the same materials, styling.”

But why do many of the sets look similar across networks and what’s behind the prevalence of the color blue and red in their design. Check out this article!
Source: Why every cable news set uses the same two colors · For Our Consideration · The A.V. Club

My Switch from HTPC to Tivo Blot

I recently purchased a Tivo Bolt to replace my Home Theater PC (HTPC). I currently have the Tivo setup using the antenna (over the air) feature along with the Amazon Prime, which is an app built into the box. We currently do not have a cable subscription.

It just works! While I enjoyed configuring my own HTPC, running open source software and “getting under the hood” it was becoming a time suck. Don’t get me wrong, in the beginning I used Windows Media Center, which was great software, but once Microsoft discontinued updates in 2009 I began experimenting with various open source options: XBMC, Kodi, mythTV DVR…the list goes on.

Time to Move On…

In late 2015 I finally decided it was time to move on from the home-brew setup. I had my spent enough time tweaking and playing around with all the neat software options. The reality was, it was consuming too much time and my pursuit to find just the right solution was coming up short.

In Comes Tivo Bolt

When I realized Tivo had a product that would take in OTA signal, provide an electronic program guide, and DVR I purchased immediately. The program guide and DVR were both a struggle to keep working on the HTPC, the Tivo just worked.

I had looked around several times for a device like this before, but could never find ALL the features I was looking for:

  • Antenna Tuner for Over the Air TV Reception
  • Reliable DVR
  • Electronic Program Guide
  • Ability to Access and Play Personal Video Library (Home Movies and Digitized DVD Collection)

The Tivo Bolt had it all, the only drawback was the monthly fee. I was trying to avoid an ongoing monthly fee, but ultimately decided the modest fee was well worth the time saved.

The Tivo Bolt box is much smaller than any HTPC, less wires, and consumes much less power.

I’ve been using the Bolt for a few months now and just thrilled. The features FAR exceed my expectations, a few that have turned out to extremely useful in our house:

  • Recording FOUR shows at once – you would think with antenna only TV we would never use four tuners, think again!
  • Mobile App – being able to watch DVR recordings on my cell phone or tablet while the kids are using the main TV is a nice bonus. Note, this feature does not work outside the house/remotely. You need to be connected to the same wifi network that Bolt is located.
  • Skip Mode, jumping past an entire commercial break works remarkably well, but not available for all programs.
  • Quick Mode – the feature that allow you to watch 30% faster with pitch perfect audio. A great way to get through news programs and other talk show formats.
  • PLEX App – This is the final piece of the puzzle for me. Tivo Bolt comes with the Plex App installed, allowing the Bolt to connect to a remote Ple Server where I can have all my home movies and digitized DVD library available. This weekend I finally had an opportunity to setup a PLEX server and have it working. So far, so good. I’ve run into a few glitches, mostly minor ones. I hope to write a short blog post about my setup shortly.

Tivo Bolt is great product for my situation, initially cost is less than a home built HTPC and the monthly fee is reasonable considering the long list of features and reliability. My first experience with Tivo, well done!


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