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Ease, Speed, Cost Lead When Picking Character, Graphics Generator

All-in-one systems favored by government video producers

Harris Graphics’ Channel ONE system. Photo courtesy of Harris Graphics
Easy to use, quick and inexpensive are what government users of character generation and graphics equipment want from those devices, especially during live broadcasts when it is vital to have a lawmaker’s name on the screen.

by J.J. Smith

Roanoke Valley Television (RVT), located at Roanoke, Va., has been in operation broadcasting local government meetings since 1994, said Elaine Bays-Murphy, RVT’s cable access director. “We are using the character generator for the live government meetings that we cover,” she said.

With government meetings broadcast by RVT, the station needed a character generator in which multiple names and titles can be input, and which can be recalled during a live meeting, Bays-Murphy said. To fulfill that need, RVT acquired Compix’s—of Irvine, Calif.—LCG single-channel desktop character generator, she said. “There are probably 40 stored keys in that system, and we’re simply bringing the title pieces in and out during the meetings,” she said.

George Warner (in the foreground) and Preston Seaman oversee the Roanoke Valley Television booth including character generation of lawmakers’ names. Photo courtesy of Roanoke Valley Television Lan Merrill, the vice president of technology for Compix, says, “We have a diverse number of ways we can fit into a customers’ applications and facilities, probably one of the most common is the local government access usage where our machines are used to place either manual, semi-automated, or automated information regarding local government council meetings, and different meetings of that sort.”

Merrill said an aspect of Compix products that government video producers find interesting is the “diverse range of ways they can be used.” Obviously, the government does not have a lot of extra money to throw around, and local producers are “incredibly budget conscious,” which is why Compix offers software that is very easy to use, that is intuitive, and quite powerful, he said.


To increase the ease of use, Compix has established the hypothetical “city of…” for use at city council meetings, Merrill said. “In some of our installations, the clerks can enter information into text files, and the information is placed onto preformatted graphics, and those graphics are then put on the channel, or something that is streamed on the web. “That’s one example of the ‘city of’ function,” he said.

In addition to live production, Compix’s local government video clients can also use the equipment to produce training or public service videos, Merrill said.

Nonetheless, RVT remains singular in its use of its Compix LCG system. The character generator is used for our live government meetings, Bays-Murphy said. “That is the only way we use that piece of equipment,” she added. RVT does produce “monthly television shows, stand alone videos and public service announcements,” but the character generation for those projects is created through RVT’s non-liner system, she said.

Jon Morgan at his editing station. Photo courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission While live broadcasts of government meetings are RVT’s primary focus, Jon Morgan’s—a visual information specialist for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—focus is video and website production. “I’ve been doing all of my recent work on a Mac, and have been using Final Cut Pro for editing.”

“Cost is definitely an issue,” Morgan said. “We have tight budgets for our videos, and basically, I do everything except the interviewing,” he said. “I’m shooting the video and doing all the production and post production, and posting everything to the web,” he added. What helps is Final Cut Studio suite, “it has everything in it to go from start to finish,” he said. “After I shoot the video, I bring it in and edit it, and lay down titles and even do effects, and bring them back into ‘Motion’ and compress it for the web,” he said.

Because both Bays-Murphy and Morgan have tight production schedules, they—and other government video producers like them—might be interested in Harris Graphics’ self-automating graphics, said Brian App, senior business development manager for Harris.


“When it comes to government video production, a reoccurring issue is the need for self-automating graphics,” App said. Much of government video is live, fast and moving, so Harris offers a rapid-fire keyboard with Channel ONE, that has custom keys for fast action. It provides video producers with the ability to call up templates quickly, he said. In addition, “rapid-fire software capabilities,” allow the user to assign numbers to templates, so it can be quickly accessed using the appropriate number, and a lawmaker’s name and the topic being discussed can be typed in, he said.

But the same system can be used to produce the graphics for non-liner video, like with Avid or Final Cut Pro, App said. The user can fill in the same information he or she would when they are on the air live, and render it on a separate system from the system being used to do the editing, he said. The advantage of that is the user might have complex 3D animation, and with the rendering being done on a second system, and with the frames being passed to the non-linear editing (NLE) system, the NLE can maintain real-time scrubbing, he said.

One of the challenges video producers face, is the high processing power to scrub high-quality high-definition (HD) video in real time, App said. So by pushing the HD rendering off onto another system, it allows the user to still be able to do real-time scrubbing, which is useful for video editors.