Germany sees major breakthrough for laptop field editors

ZDF turns purple

by Reinhard Wagner
Textfeld:  As announced in December 2000, German public broadcaster ZDF is now using 10 Purple.Fields from Fast Multimedia for its new programme ZDF.reporter. Dipl.-Ing. Wolfgang Koob, senior executive of Studio Production and Transmission Operation at ZDF, explains the installation and background.

“The new laptop field editors arrived in Mainz at the end of last year. We have been using them now since mid-January.” The idea behind the investment into future editing systems is that reporters should use the editing laptops when investigating new stories. The material is used both in news and features. “For the very first time we have trained personnel, where some of them did not have any prior experience in editing or computing on the new DV-editing systems,” Koob adds.

In conjunction with the training department, Fast Multimedia, who delivered hardware and software, trained ZDF reporters on the new equipment. The three-day session covered software features, editing basics, hardware overview and encoding/transmission techniques. “We did not expect such a huge amount of acceptance of the new equipment,” Koob says. “The working conditions and ways of shooting and investigating are new, and the reporters are dealing with it all in a very professional manner.

“Reporters who travel without a cameraman, sound engineer or any other technician, always carry a consumer DV camera with them, just in case, and for location purposes,” he says. “When they believe they have shot a valuable scene or location, an interview or event, they can then immediately edit on the spot. There is no need for a crew to follow. After finishing the rough edit they can transmit the signal via ISDN modem connection to our parent station in Mainz.”

Reporters for the new magazine at ZDF are equipped with AJ-AZ35 camcorders from Panasonic. These camcorders are high-level consumer products with three CCD chips, which offer a good price-performance ratio. FireWire cables are used to transmit video material from the camcorder directly onto the Purple.Field. All reporters are equipped with a headset with noise-cancelling microphone and a handheld reporter microphone to perform voiceovers and commentary, or to record an M & E version. Four audio track editing is standard on Purple.Field and fulfils all needs for field audio mixing at ZDF.

All 10 Fast field editing systems (HP Omnibook 6000) are equipped with 256MB of RAM, a 700MHz Pentium III CPU, an 18GB System HDD, a PCMCIA ISDN card, Purple.Field XL software (current version V2.55) and MediaCleaner Wizard 4.0 from Terran Interactive as soft encoder for MPEG/Realvideo streaming onto the internet. Sony’s broadcast-certified software codecs, full support of DV, DVCAM and DVCPRO formats, and Fast’s editing software enable the ZDF use of this solution.

“For our new programme format ZDF.reporter, we use Purple.Field only for pre-investigation,” says Koob. “When the reporter shoots a valuable scene, the material can be either edited or transmitted for preview purposes, or it is ingested onto our web server for streaming video downloads. The last action is under the full control of the reporter.”

Textfeld:  Koob says ZDF did not evaluate any other product because of “the tight time schedule between ‘go’ from our management and the first broadcast. We relied on the experience and knowledge of our planning department and our own first hands-on experience at IBC in Amsterdam,” says Koob.

“Our experience to date confirms our decision to invest in Purple.Field. The hard- and software works to our satisfaction. In addition, just in case, if one machine breaks down there are always local manufacturer subsidiaries that support us. That was also one of our main concerns before investing,” declares Koob.

Meanwhile, Fast Multimedia recently announced that Norwegian broadcasting corporation NRK has decided to base future news editing on the Purple and Purple.Field systems. At the same time, a recommendation has been made to all regional broadcasting stations to use Purple and Purple.Field for news editing.

The decision followed a three-month internal testing phase with products from different manufacturers. Excellent integration in the news environment, native support of the DVCPRO format, preparation for future network environments as well as the reliability of the system were cited as deciding factors.

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