Meeting Topic: Audio-Automation for News: the SRF Approach
Moderator Name: Gabriel Leuzinger
Speaker Name: Alfio di Fazio, Bruno Keller
Meeting Location: tpc, Zurich
Around 20 members gathered on this Thursday evening at the premises of SRF (National Broadcaster for the German-speaking part of Switzerland), in Zurich.
Alfio di Fazio and Bruno Keller introduced the audience to one of the main targets of the project "News 2015": a reduction of the cost for the production of HD-News. The project has been successful as instead of 8 people being required for the "Classic" production of SD-News now only 3-4 production people are required for the HD-News. Next to the technical automation, new workflows and also two new professions have been created: a Multi-Technician (previously audio- and video-technician) and a so-called Realizer (previously graphics-technician, editor, director).
One of the major workflow preconditions for the automation of audio is to have it in the correct format, which means: audio on the correct tracks, loudness levels normalized according EBU R128, correct phase and good intelligibility. Pre-produced content needs to be completely finished before playout. This means that some of the workload involved has been shifted to a previous stage or to other departments.
Detailed pre-programming of a news-production is required. During the project, every manual step of the production experts has been analyzed and is now available in the system as a template. The production must be composed in advance with these templates and will then be controlled by the run-down-list in the MOSART-automation-system. This means that today, news-editors have to program all the work in advance that had previously been handled in real-time by audio professionals. This is not only true for audio, but also for camera-systems, light-systems, clip-servers, graphic-systems, video-mixer, video- and audio-routers and audio-contribution.
Few areas of the automation are left to fully automated audio-processes. One is the "ducking"-process of mixing the off-speakers with the main tracks. Another is gentle loudness-levelling of the line-output-signal, using a TC DB6.
The ISOSTEM algorithm is used for automated 3.0 (5.1) up-mixing, while keeping the downmix quality of the signal intact. A separate center channel allows individual control of the voice level to the audience and therefore improves intelligibility for hearing impaired listeners.
Alfio and Bruno pointed out some real-world-problems. Levels of remote-, telephone- or Skype-signals can vary up to 20 dB, they need to be equalized, or they need to be filtered to reduce wind and other noise. For special news-productions, there is still the requirement for a large manual-desk next to the small automation-desk used for the every-day-productions. And finally, there is a lot of education required.
The event concluded with a tour of one of the automated control rooms and to one of the automated studios. And as always, the discussions continued in a nearby restaurant. We would like to thank Alfio di Fazio, Bruno Keller and SRF/tpc for kindly supporting this interesting event.
Written By: Gabriel Leuzinger