Adapting To A Smarter Graphics Workflow

Tech Across America

FKT 12/2022
IP Workflows
Producing broadcast graphics can sometimes be like a factory production line. In the current broadcast environment, broadcasters typically find themselves running several production lines in parallel. One serves linear, one serves social media, one is pointing at online, and so on; each producing content but with variations to accommodate different target outputs.

There are several problems with this scenario. First, it wastes resources; artists end up repeating work when they could be moving on to other creative projects. Second, everything is multiplied from equipment cost to carbon footprint. Third, it encourages drift away from a consistent corporate identity, as individual users meet different challenges in their own workflows in a variety of ways.

With adaptive graphics everything is produced from a single production line and the final output is only locked in as the very last process. Everything up to then is fluid, editable, and consistent. They allow broadcasters to run a single graphics production line rather than multiple ones in parallel. This enables users to create once and then publish many times, using an easy-to-use new toolset that allows them complete control over how their graphics will look on everything from a mobile phone to a giant city center video wall. 

This means that, rather than preparing titling and graphics for the unique specifications of a single medium – TV – content creators and broadcasters must now quickly optimize the titling and graphics in their shows and ads to suit the myriad of output resolutions, screen sizes and aspect ratios today’s savvy, mobile viewers require, without compromising the viewing experience.

Whether for live television, streaming media or video on demand, the prospect of creating rich, animated graphics and titles – that look like they were designed for whatever platform or device the viewer is using – now presents significant creative and technical challenges for broadcasters and content creators. Adaptive graphics are the latest innovation to solve this dilemma of how to efficiently create titles and other on-screen elements for multiple distribution platforms. Under the orchestration of a single user interface, the concept provides an automated way to deploy graphics to multiple output formats simultaneously, saving time, effort, and reducing workflow complexity.

The advancement is that now a single operator can populate both linear TVs as well as mobile phones with the same graphics software, which automatically adjusts resolution, format, and layout to support specific display devices, ensuring the graphics are optimized for each different viewer. This evolution for real-time graphics effectively enables graphic artists to save time, reduce errors, and improve the quality of production.

Once templates are set up for the desired outputs, content creators can be confident that graphics will be impactful, readable, and adjusted to perfectly suit whichever destination they are headed for. Adaptive Graphics also ensure a better look and unified identity across all platforms, protecting the most valuable asset of any media provider: its brand.

Consolidating multiple full production lines into one with multiple outputs also allows graphics artists to spend more time focusing on creating more original material, and broadcasters to streamline productivity. 

Software vendors like Vizrt are now promoting such workflows as a way to implement an “adaptive storytelling approach” that allows user-generated rules-based automation to adapt content to target platforms without consuming additional resources. At this years’ IBC Show in Amsterdam, the company introduced Viz Engine 5 rendering server that supports adaptive graphics.

An automated workflow engine could be used to create and insert titles into proper places within the media streams quickly and accurately with no human intervention. It combines with “smarter” graphics templates that can adapt themselves to automation on the fly while supporting the technical requirements of design, editing and playout. 

Various types of HTML tags can be inserted into workflows that leverage newsroom computer systems or graphics sharing. The user can decide whether they want to do creative work in Unreal, HTML, or Viz Engine and the tools and workflows are all the same. HTML provides a standardized way for tagging text files to display desired fonts, colors, graphics, and hyperlink effects.

Along with the benefits, however, facilitating this new level of efficiency introduces a set of complex questions. For example, how can we design, author and test templates so that they work across multiple output formats, from small mobile screens to large, high-resolution displays? How can we maintain design balance and readability? And how do we automate the way that data, such as a temperature reading from an RSS feed, populates that template in a uniform way across the entire content creation and production workflow? 

To solve these problems, smarter templates are needed that can adapt themselves to automation on the fly while supporting the technical requirements of design, editing and playout. 

We need for this automation solution to understand auto-positional placement of data within live streams while avoiding the burned-in graphics and titles already present in the media. It would also need to know intrinsically how long to leave a particular title or graphic on-screen, since longer text will take longer to read. 

By giving artists the tools to create flexible, adaptive content that automatically adjusts to pre-defined output formats on the fly, broadcasters can collapse multiple, parallel workflows into a single pipeline that automatically optimizes the content for the delivery platform. Automating these types of complex scenarios requires technology that employs deeper-level analysis, artificial intelligence and advanced automation.

For broadcasters, achieving both a consistency of brand and a consistency of information across all screens is one of the key challenges they face. It is a task that consumes unnecessary resources and leads to pronounced inefficiencies in the workflow, not to mention an increased possibility of error when it comes to the broadcast. 

Special software, augmented by artificial intelligence, is now making that a reality.

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