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ITN wins RTS Award with Vizrt virtual set technology

Vizrt supplied virtual studio technology for ITN’s ‘Theatre of News’ studio design, which has helped ITN to win the prestigious RTS Technical Innovation Awards 2004.
Keith Cass, Director of Technology for ITN, said: “Vizrt technology and engineering expertise played a huge part in making our Theatre of News a success. The system has worked reliably since we went on air in February and we have now begun our preparations to make further use of Vizrt’s real-time 3D capabilities for conventional CG-type and data-driven graphics for next year’s general election.”
ITN uses Vizrt real-time 3D software to generate the background and foreground graphics that appear on the ITV News programmes and on the 24-hour ITV News Channel. In Studio 2 the news comes from a revolutionary studio design - the centrepiece being an oval, silver presenting desk with a curved ‘news wall’ video screen, 22 metres across and 3 metres tall, behind it. The curved translucent screen is rear-illuminated with green light for the chromakey. The virtual parts of the set use this screen as a background onto which any combination of up to four live sources can appear over a moving background - the live sources being shaped by the VR system to place them in the correct perspective in their designated place on the background. It allows a reporter to tell a story by walking from one side of the semicircular studio fixture to the other.
The aim was to move away from the traditional window and graphic presentation style, into a ‘Theatre of News’ using a curved 22m by 3m high video wall. This provides a canvas on which the unfolding events would be told in a unique and innovative way.
The studio is equipped with five cameras: one fixed and the other four free to move, one of which is a jib (overhead unit). The camera movement is tracked in three dimensions using the Radamec Free-d system.
The Vizrt software provides ITN with two full bandwidth transmission channels plus three lower-quality preview channels, while two transmission channels allow us the ability to mix between cameras. The complete image is 'glued together' using an 'Ultimatte 9' keyer, one per camera.
The whole operation - camera cutting, scene selection and animation - is controlled through a Thompson DD35 Xten vision mixer. Four back-projectors provide low-level pictures to aid the presenter to interact more naturally with the virtual reality environment. ITN provided custom-designed software to ensure a smooth operation, utilising a total of 24 standard PCs running the Vizrt software. In addition, ITN have a second studio, also equipped with Vizrt technology, which is fully virtual and allows the illustration of news stories using fully immersive graphics in the foreground and background.
The RTS judges were: “Impressed by the fact that the technology does not intrude into the story being told. This appears to be the result of close co-operation between the users and the providers in the planning of the project and the provision of training in new production techniques required for a much more involved studio operation. The judges also noted that the project had achieved the difficult task of operating complex chromakey operations in a live and near-live environment.”
Rex Jenkins, Director of Sales for Vizrt added, “ITN richly deserves this award. They have demonstrated the courage of their convictions by taking our technology and really putting it though its paces. They have created a unique studio environment that strongly reinforces the ITV brand across both channels. This is the third award they have won using Vizrt graphics, and I look forward to working with them on winning the fourth.”
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