Welcome to the 1990s

July may be an interesting month to monitor WAGA’s news. The station is slowly making a major technological change that will affect how its edited news packages are created and presented on TV. It represents a significant learning curve for the staff. And it drags WAGA into the 21st century, the last Atlanta station to make this switch.

For most of the last thirty years, WAGA has used 1970s-era tape-to-tape editing technology. Sometime in July– the date keeps moving back– it’s scheduled to make the switch to a non-linear editing system. Non-linear systems have been in use for years in Hollywood. WXIA and WGCL pioneered it in Atlanta. It’s computer-based. It’s faster (excluding ingestion of tape into the hard drive) and much more forgiving of mistakes. And it’s a completely new system that can, at first, boggle the minds of old-school photogs and editors.

WAGA’s first foray into non-linear editing is believed to have taken place in 2003, when it sent a crew to cover the invasion of Iraq. The crew quaintly edited pieces on Apple’s I-Movie program.

WAGA will also eliminate videotape from its electronic newsgathering, switching to Panasonic P-2 cameras that shoot video on computer chips. This will be a rare instance where WAGA is somewhat ahead of the curve, technology-wise

The idea is to eliminate videotape from its newscasts, putting all of its video elements on hard drives. This eliminates the classic newsroom scene of an editor running down a hallway, carrying a freshly-edited videotape package to the feedbay seconds before its scheduled newscast slot. It means that computer hard-drives will perform this function instead. As everybody knows, hard-drives are great until they crash.

The disappearance of videotape may create some serious challenges. TV reporters are notorious for squirrelling away field tapes from ongoing stories. Beta tapes are cheap. A 16GB P-2 card costs $900.

It’s a rare step forward for WAGA, a TV station that is reluctant to equip its reporters with laptops and its live trucks with GPS units out of sheer cheapskatedness. Every summer, interns show up at WAGA aghast that this big-market TV station hasn’t caught up with the non-linear editing technology found in college journalism schools. Sometime in July, the interns may be able to edit with more proficiency than much of the staff.

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Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

7 thoughts on “Welcome to the 1990s

  1. Chas

    I’m amazed it has taken a station of WAGA’s stature to make this switch. Regarding the field tapes being squirreled away, I’m sure WAGA’s edit bays will have a beta machine to dub from p2 to beta… or in about 5 years… p2 to DVD.
    Also, WSB got p2 cameras in 2007 I believe.

  2. Ima Believer

    What’s even sadder than this? The fact that WGCL will probably beat WAGA in broadcasting news in HD. I may be wrong about this, but I don’t see any signs of WAGA going to HD anytime soon if they’re still messing around with editing.

  3. Wrangler of Found Light

    Most O & O’s, with decent numbers, are last on the “upgrade” list. Bean counters figure they already have the numbers they need in those markets. However, its hard to believe that anyone is still in the linear age.

  4. Scott Hedeen

    non linear editing is the way to go. it does however… call for a more use of the brains in setting up a workflow.

    shoot less… less the ingest on a real time basis. don’t waste take. shoot to edit. once that is achieved.. the process is a breeze.

    (please however.. don’t use the FX’s because you can… It looks really amateur)

  5. Scott Hedeen

    “Beta tapes. All over our house.

    by Mrs. LAF June 30, 2008 at 11:16 am ”

    Hmmm… sweet sweet BETA CAM… miss ya my long ago sweetheart. miss yr gray lines…


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