New tool from Vizrt makes it easier to use mobile phones, devices for newsgathering

As mobile and video devices continue to add more sophisticated photo and video capabilities they are also being eyed as a new tool for newsgathering. Vizrt, with Viz|Reporter 1.0, is looking to make it easier than ever for reporters to upload video from a mobile phone into an existing newsroom workflow without incurring any further degradation of the content quality for the purpose of transferring it over mobile networks. Vizrt is also interested in getting it to support live video ingest so reporters’ phones can deliver live video

“As the sophistication of mobile phone technology increases, so does
the potential of Viz|Reporter to impact the way breaking news is
reported,” said Petter Ole Jakobsen, CTO of Vizrt, “Newsrooms that
employ Viz|Reporter will not only be able to capitalize on citizen
journalists; they will more efficiently use their staff in the field.
The product is designed to evolve with the continual improvements
implemented on new multimedia cell phones, and content can be uploaded
from any location where cell phone coverage is available.”

Until now, television news producers and photojournalists with video images captured on mobile phones have faced a time-consuming process to put them on air. Images had to be converted first and then copied onto a PC. During this process, images were compressed and the quality greatly reduced. In the case of breaking news, such a time-intensive procedure could mean the difference between images making it to air in a timely manner or not.

The Viz|Reporter application evolved in response to the needs of a news organization. Norwegian newsgroup, Adresseavisen, sought a way to better utilize uploaded content from field reporters as well as improve image quality and content management. Vizrt and Adresseavisen worked together to develop the Viz|Reporter application. Viz|Reporter is currently in use at Adresseavisen’s regional newspaper, television station and radio station, broadcasting to three counties in Norway. Around sixty photojournalists are using Viz|Reporter to upload content from the field directly into the newsroom workflow via their mobile phones.

Rolf Dyrnes Svendsen, Editor and Director of Digital Media at Adresseavisen explained, “The system has improved productivity by a great deal. It allows us to process content uploads more quickly and get the images published right away. Our previous quality issues with mobile phone content have been resolved, and our multimedia content is now handled in an optimal manner.”

Prior to installing Viz|Reporter on reporters’ mobile phones, video or stills captured via cell phone were uploaded using MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) technology. The compression required for video distribution over MMS resulted in severely compromised image quality. Once the content was received, the newsroom personnel were faced with a complex process of browsing their system to find the newly uploaded file. The company would also use email to transmit files but found that transmission became cumbersome because of the e-mail’s overhead information. Overhead information included in e-mail for the purpose of directing or controlling the transfer added extra information to the actual multimedia content. If the connection was dropped, email provided no means to reconstruct a transfer, which forced the journalist to start the transfer all over again.

Viz|Reporter runs directly on a variety of mobile multimedia phones such as the Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola models. For added flexibility, the software has two methods of submitting video and stills. Users can employ a dedicated J2ME application or the phone’s own browser (WAP or XHTML) to upload content. The J2ME application utilizes functions available according to the security model on the device. As long as the journalist or passerby witnessing a news event has mobile network coverage, they can transmit those images on the air. The content is then immediately accessible for production and control room staff or use online. This allows the station to move quickly, which is vital to reporting breaking news and tracking developing stories.

Viz|Reporter creates an index of images on the mobile phone, sorted based on their time stamp. This helps the journalist access the latest images captured. After selecting the proper time period, the user sees previews of each image and can decide whether to include or omit certain shots.

Not only does Viz|Reporter optimize the process of capturing and uploading content, it also provides metadata templates that allow users to standardize and streamline video for media asset management purposes. Searches in MAM solutions such as Viz|Video Hub or Ardome are simplified through the addition of keywords describing location, date and subject. Metadata are prepared using standard metadata tags and can also be translated to conform to other metadata schemes. This metadata will be directly linked with the video and located on the Viz|Reporter server.

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