François Legrand has been with CBC/Radio-Canada for almost ten years. He joined the Corporation as a designer of broadcast engineering systems and became an electronic engineer in 2005. During the course of his career, he has been involved in a plethora of projects and has had a variety of different responsibilities, such as the preparation of plans and specifications, the design of TV/Radio/Internet systems, as well as the financial management and supervision of large-scale projects. He has held the position of Operations Manager, Quebec within the French Services group since May 2010 and his main responsibility is coordinating the technological development of regional stations within Quebec.
The Digital Advantage for the Good of Local Coverage
We were looking at two new territories. The northern and southern suburbs of the Island of Montreal feature 53% of the Montreal census metropolitan area, emerging town centres and people living lifestyles independent from the central city. As a result, we developed Projet 450, now called Radio-Canada Rive-Sud and Radio-Canada Rive-Nord, two interactive websites where suburban dwellers can find and share information and react to everything that affects their daily lives.
Our team, made up of four multimedia journalists, two research editorial webmasters, two conversation editorial webmasters, a data visualiser and a chief editorial webmaster, covers a 4,400 km2 territory with a population of over 1,829,000.
How could we make our presence felt in such widespread regions? How could we quickly become relevant to the people living there? We were presented with a unique opportunity to test out the advantages of digital and develop new, simple and effective working methods that would make journalists self-sufficient in their ability to tell a story.
By creating a context where these benefits could be tested out daily, we hope to become experts in all aspects of the digital advantage.
The following is an overview of the process we are currently using to post audio/video material.
The four multimedia journalists are equipped with devices and software that guarantee them all the self-sufficiency they need to practice their profession on their own to supply all of CBC/Radio-Canada’s platforms.
The iPhone 4S is their basic tool. It provides a summary of the recording and production possibilities of the other devices that are part of their equipment. By using a variety of applications, journalists can be in contact with their offices, capture sound and images, write and access the information necessary for their work. The device is also discreet, which is convenient when conducting interviews or covering events. When equipped with a few extra accessories, it makes journalists self-sufficient, mobile, and fast at an extremely competitive cost.
After three months of use in the field, it is clear that the possibilities of this digital device are key factors in our ability to broadcast observations and comments about an event in real time and react quickly to a comment by a member of the public on our various platforms.
However, the iPhone also has its limits. The screen format and interface interactivity pose several challenges. The device can do everything, but the time saved in the context of quick publication of short items or clips is greatly diminished when it comes to editing sound, image, or text that is longer or more developed.
In these situations, multimedia journalists use shooting and editing equipment that is heavily inspired by the equipment used by CBC/Radio-Canada video journalists.
The Mobile Office
Our regular presence in all the municipalities on our territory is made possible by an economical, connected vehicle with room for multimedia journalists to carry out all their writing, editing, research, content uploading and posting tasks in comfort, wherever they may be located.
The vehicle is equipped with a Sierra Wireless AirLink MP 890 modem that provides an average upload rate of 1.5 Mb/s throughout the territory covered by the project.
Process for posting audio-video items online
How the warpPipe script works
From Editing Software to Posting Video Material Online
In an effort to reduce the time devoted to carrying out mechanical tasks, certain processes have been dissected to highlight the steps that could be simplified or automated. The process for posting video material online illustrated in this article is one of the more striking examples. When the project was launched, posting video material online self-sufficiently and from the field required more than 50 mouse clicks, and over 20 text boxes needed to be filled in. If they did not make any mistakes along the way, seasoned users could complete the process in around 13 minutes. While there is still room for improvement, the same work can now be carried out much more simply in less than eight minutes.
Radio-Canada.ca console at the beginning of the project
After two months in operation, we are still looking to reduce the amount of time it takes for journalists’ work to be viewable by online users. The steps described above provide us with very satisfactory results as far as speed is concerned. We are now exploring a plethora of different posting tools, but we will leave that subject for another article.
In conclusion, we can say that many of the technical challenges we faced at the beginning of the project have now been met. In the early weeks we had to make several adjustments, both in the level of use of devices/software and the file circulation path, to maximise our ability to make information available quickly and minimise the time needed by journalists to carry out mechanical tasks.
Journalists are now at the stage where they can expend their energy on having discussions with local residents in the field, scripting the construction of their stories, and broadcasting them on CBC/Radio-Canada’s multiple platforms.