Case Study: Matrox’s DigiSuite real-time video editing tools

News and Sports television coverage needs real-time video editing tools. For the 1996 summer Olympics the BBC successfully used...

News and Sports television coverage needs real-time video editing tools. For the 1996 summer Olympics the BBC successfully used Matrox’s DigiSuite to provide a competitive edge

Early in 1996, the BBC's Post Production and Graphic Design Department needed to develop a new computer system to create animated graphics in real time for production clients covering live news and sports events. A suitable system that could support multi-user input and provide tight integration of sophisticated graphics output with a database was not available off-the-shelf.

The BBC Computer Graphics Workshop, the software development group within Post Production and Graphic Design, with broad experience of graphics systems development on a wide range of platforms, turned to Matrox DigiSuite for a high quality, reliable, cost-effective broadcast graphics system.

The new DigiSuite DTV card combines the DigiSuite real-time editing engine with support for the complete range of compression formats, audio and video I/O, and connectivity interfaces that are important in the era of digital television.

In many facilities, the interface between camcorders, VTRs, and non-linear editing systems has been analogue or SDI video regardless of the compression technology used in each individual device. The ability to exchange compressed video between devices using a common compression scheme, combined with the ability to edit in the native compression format, offers two important benefits:

Quality is preserved throughout the production process by avoiding multiple decompression/compression passes, since equipment is interoperable at the bitstream level

Productivity is increased by faster than real-time transfers of video material via SDTI

The Computer Graphics Workshop team worked closely with Matrox to ensure the functionality they required was designed into the graphics hardware. With the advantage of the leading-edge technology on the Matrox DigiMix board, the BBC system was designed and implemented within a few months. The relatively short development time and the economical hardware meant considerable cost savings for the BBC.

BBC Sport were the first to use the Matrox DigiSuite-based system to produce graphic displays at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA. BBC and Atlanta Olympic Games branding was incorporated into the graphic styles used to display lane orders and results of heats and finals for over twenty different sports. Using data supplied directly from the Olympics host computer systems, graphics were generated automatically, getting them 'on-air' more rapidly, accurately and using fewer staff than conventional graphics techniques.

Following the success of its use on the broadcast coverage of the Olympic Games, the DigiSuite-based system was used again by BBC Sport during live coverage of the Grand National. As well as results of the races, the system displayed statistics and information on horses and jockeys from the BBC horse racing database.

By the time of the UK General Election in May 1997, the DigiSuite-based system had proven itself an obvious choice for live broadcast and was used by BBC Scotland to report the election results. A graphics system incorporating three DigiMix boards was used to generate "fullforms" (complete graphics pages showing the election results), maps and histograms, and to provide graphics and keys for overlay on live video. Associated with the multi-output graphics system was a database, also built by the Computer Graphics Workshop, holding full candidate and party details.

Combining the database information with vote figures entered as results were declared enabled the automatic creation of instantaneous graphics to match the live reports from the outside broadcasts at the counts. After the election, the producer of the BBC Scotland coverage said, "Our new graphics system gave our election coverage a great look and was very easy to use and we will certainly use it on future events."

Compiled by Will garside

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