My job as Technical Support Engineer at the AberFast Division of Aberdeen Broadcast Services is to secure station set-ups for digital media delivery. More specifically, to deliver half-hour programs complete with the FCC-required closed captions. One would think that a procedure that reduces the work of TV station personnel and technical resources would be a welcomed technological advancement. For the most part, it is, but often not without some prodding and cajoling.
Yet this past year since starting at AberFast, there have been many instances where I must plead my case with station engineers about the benefits of AberFast digital file delivery. The reasoning is quite varied – from virus intrusions, internet bandwidth congestion, tapes works well, access into station networks is prohibited, to “We just don’t accept digital media files, period!” At AberFast we work diligently to partner with stations to make their job easier, not harder and yet opposition is faced at every turn.
In order to understand the perspective of my TV engineering counterparts, I did a bit of soul searching from my years as a post-production editor who migrated from linear tape-based editing to the nonlinear digital world.
In video editing, the goal is to work efficiently by minimizing repetitive keystrokes and utilizing automation (macros) as much as possible. Once you get those button clicks in sync, you have rhythm, speed and an incredibly fast creative workflow. Once efficiency is achieved, you’re in a groove…that is until the technology changes or systems and software are no longer supported. Now you have to learn anew, back at square one.
I’ve realized it’s not so much the fear of technology but the fear of change. It’s the fear of struggling with new workflows and procedures in a hectic work environment, especially since the status quo works well. I remember being asked to deliver 30-second TV ads via FTP to our master-control facility across the state. I had no idea what FTP was. I had no idea about video codecs. I didn’t know a "dot m-o-v" from a "dot a-v-i" or "dot w-m-v". I knew I could lay 10 spots onto a beta tape in 5 minutes, blindfolded, and hand it to a receptionist to mail. That procedure worked fine for many years. Why did I have to change my routine to accommodate this FTP thingy? Compressing video files was time-consuming (CPU’s weren’t very fast 9 years ago). Furthermore, it tied up my AVID so I couldn’t edit because I was exporting. FTPing slowed my computer’s resources so editing was problematic. I had no engineering support to teach me about video codecs and compression schemes, and after a department downsizing, my workload was overwhelming at best.
So as the old saying goes, “When in Rome…”. I started to learn about codecs via Google searches. I would run side-by-side codec comparison tests. I evaluated file size with quality. The smallest file that provided the best video quality would be the file I could export and FTP the fastest. I learned to make the most of this new workflow. While my AVID was tied up exporting, I checked emails, wrote scripts, and contacted clients. I learned about and created watch folders to automate file conversion procedures. So because of this change I ended up broadening my knowledge of video files, sped up my ancillary work duties outside of editing, and I kept up with my workload more easily than before. I was back in the groove and a few years later in a new job at Aberdeen.
There’s another saying that goes, “The only constant in life is change” (and death and taxes, but that’s for another blog). Cloud-based file delivery is here to stay and at AberFast we are at the forefront of this rapidly changing technology. We want to partner with clients and stations—not to create more change—but to make change easier. We want to decrease distribution costs while increasing video programming quality. We want to connect program producers with TV stations so that content moves effortlessly. Just … embrace … the change. Otherwise, you’ll end up watching the clouds roll on by.
This blog was written by Vincent D’Amore, Technical Support Engineer for Aberdeen Broadcast Services.