Television Broadcasts Ltd., commonly known as TVB, has set itself a target of upgrading its current SD equipment to full HD by the middle of 2013. In order to meet the growing demands of HD production, TVB in 2011 initiated a step-by-step process of converting their workflow – from acquisition all the way to the finished product for on-air and archiving. After a rigorous selection process, TVB chose to partner Sony in their migration from SD to HD, due to the easy operation of Sony’s products and the best fit with TVB’s own tapeless workflow. A range of XDCAM HD system cameras, camcorders, recorders, field decks and drive units were introduced to TVB’s equipment list in addition to Sony’s Mediabackbone Sonaps™ digital news production system. The acquisitions are part of TVB’s quest to transform the entire process of delivering quality programming to dedicated viewers in Hong Kong and approximately 300 million households around the world.
The first wireless commercial television station in Hong Kong, TVB was established on 19 November 1967 with only around 200 staff. The Group has since grown to its present-day staff strength of about 4,200 including contract artistes and staff in overseas subsidiary companies.
The major activities of TVB include television broadcasting, programme production and other broadcasting related activities such as programme licensing, video distribution, satellite broadcasting and more. TVB transmits over 17,000 hours of programming on its Chinese Jade channel and English Pearl channel free of charge to 2.34 million homes in Hong Kong. It is one of the largest producers of Chinese language programming in the world – many of its Chinese programmes are dubbed into other languages and distributed to more than 40 different countries and cities, accessible to over 300 million households.
In recent years, the broadcast and production industry in Asia Pacific has raced ahead to meet growing demands for HD programming. With the goal of consistently delivering high quality programmes to viewers, an urgent need developed for TVB to add HD equipment to its acquisition and editing systems. Its SD equipment was fast becoming dated, and unable to meet the requirements of TVB’s standards for image capture, efficient editing and system flexibility for future expansion. TVB also wanted to avoid issues arising from equipment interoperability and workflow complications which could lead to unexpected costs.
Since TVB is involved in the production of a wide variety of popular movies and TV dramas, they needed to acquire system cameras with multi-format capabilities and greater operational flexibility which could be used in studios and in the field. There was also a need to upgrade their camcorders used in different productions including ENG applications. The new equipment had to be easy to operate and fit well into TVB’s workflow, plus be able to cope with future developments in HD production.
Moreover, TVB’s existing news production system was ageing and not able to keep up with the ever-increasing demands placed upon it in high-pressure news operations, where speed and efficiency is critical. TVB needed to implement an integrated video production system for broadcast news, sports production, and post-production – ideally one which is agile, scalable and saves valuable time.
Lam Chun Wing, Chief Engineer (Broadcasting) for TVB says, “These were just a few of the numerous considerations we had to take into account when selecting a partner to work with for our upgrade. Besides technology and hardware, we wanted someone with the expertise in workflow management to come in and custom-design solutions that fit our needs and infrastructure.”
Working with Sony consultants, TVB decided to add 8 units of Sony’s HDC-2400 3G Multi-format HD system camera to their acquisition equipment. The multi-format capability, operational flexibility and image quality captured by the camera’s 2/3-inch CCD allowed for more creative and realistic rendering of various productions. TVB also purchased 30 units of Sony’s PDW-F800 XDCAM HD422 camcorder which employs file-based recording utilizing high-capacity and reliable Professional Disc media. The workflow was a critical deciding factor, as the XDCAM HD422 format enables very high quality HD recording at a data rate of up to 50Mbps using the MPEG-2 4:2:2P@HL compression. Other plus points were the PDW- F800’s Multi-format recording flexibility, HD/SD conversion and cross conversion between 1080i and 720P, all of which would be highly valuable to TVB in migrating to HD.
To complement the system cameras and camcorders, TVB also purchased Sony’s PDW-F1600 XDCAM HD422 Professional Disc recorder suitable for both in-house and field operations, and Sony’s PDW-U2 XDCAM Professional Disc drive unit which handles all XDCAM file formats. The PDW-U2 is suitable not only for use with nonlinear editing systems but also for simple viewing and logging operations with a laptop or desktop computer. In addition, TVB also added Sony’s PDW-HR1/MK1 XDCAM Field Deck with SxS Card Slot Option that enables users to review material recorded on either Professional Disc or SxS Card media. The additions allowed TVB greater flexibility and ease of use in the whole editing process, improving their productivity while enjoying a smooth transition to HD production.
TVB also made the decision to implement Sony’s Mediabackbone solutions – the Mediabackbone Sonaps network production system which integrates every aspect of the news production process, and Mediabackbone Ensemble content management software that transforms overall workflow of its newsroom from ingest, editing, playout to archiving. The new system will provide a complete file-based operation from acquisition to finished product for on-air. TVB’s Lam says, “The system will simplify the system architecture and provide us room for expansion. It supports a variety of codecs, file formats, and metadata for content transfer to editing environments that include third-party NLEs. This system will be treated as the backbone of the News Department – it will link different sections of the news production such as ingest, editing, distribution and archive together, and will have a positive effect on the efficiency of news production.”
“TVB is always open minded in selecting new equipment, and we often invite various companies for demonstrations. We make it a point to let our operational staff have hands-on experience with the products and provide feedback or comments. We then select products which fit our requirements and offer the most value to our operations,” says Leung Wai Boon, Deputy Controller for TVB. “Sony and TVB have been working together as partners for several decades. Throughout these years, Sony has provided reliable products and services, so we know we can trust them to deliver. In this instance, Sony proved to be the most suitable for us in terms of workflow, cost-effectiveness and future expansion.”