When making plans for their 2021 coverage for the set of Welsh Parliamentary Elections, ITV Wales took the opportunity to take a fresh look at what new options were available for their production to meet a variety of needs.
They required a solution that allowed them to quickly and easily build custom graphics themselves that would match their channel branding and allow for data integration. Invariably, with any live election production, one of the major considerations is the handling of data. Not only is the subject matter incredibly important to the audience, but the speed and accuracy of the presentation of up to date data is crucial for the integrity of the production and the reputation of the broadcaster. Fast, accurate data is a must have.
Additionally, the ITV Wales team were keen to explore new cloud technologies in some areas but the video backbone of the operation was still based in SDI so compatibility with that workflow was essential.
Finally, with uncertainty around whether a full production crew would be able to work in a traditional gallery environment due to Covid related restrictions, the flexibility to use a graphics platform either from a remote location or from the gallery was necessary.
Following their introduction to Singular during an IBC initiative, the ITV team chose Singular.live for the Welsh Election coverage, marking the first time ITV had used a cloud-based graphics system in a live television program.
In addition to working natively in cloud/IP environments, Singular can fit into SDI environments. ITV utilized Singular service provider Reality Check Solutions' custom "SDI Bullet" SDI conversion tool. With an extensive background in video engineering, ITV’s Keith Jones worked with the technical team at RCS to put the SDI workflow solution through some rigorous testing to ensure it was going to meet the high production quality demands required.
As a veteran of several Welsh elections, ITV decided to move away from previously used desktop applications which had web interfaces for data entry, and graphics control was spread over several applications developed in C#. Unlike Singular's web-native control interfaces, these applications can be difficult to deploy and update in a short time window, and they wanted to streamline things for this year’s broadcast.
All the live election data was delivered in JSON format to Singular's high-spead and low latency Data Streams for rapid graphic visual display. The ITV team used SVG maps which they were able to manipulate using Composition Scripts within Singular's graphics builder, Composer. This allowed them to isolate any area within the map with the latest relevant data which constantly and automatically updated via their data workflow.
Finally, Ketih noted that “because it is all HTML5 and cloud-based, it was easy to provide access to the graphics and data wherever they needed to be seen and accessed.” Not only was the data uniquely visualized for the coverage, it was visualized in a different manner specifically for the production team as a behind the scenes dashboard of the real-time election data.
Keith Jones, Technical Support Engineer at ITV Wales, stated “the building, linking and updating of the custom overlays worked with ease, allowing for a more time-efficient and stress-free production.” This came as a great relief for Keith and his team, as live election broadcasts are typically intense productions with huge pressure to deliver news quickly and accurately whilst presenting complex scenarios to viewers in an easy to understand manner.