Currently marking its 65th anniversary, Independent Television News (ITN) is one of the UK’s most prominent and respected television production companies. Although it has increasingly diversified into producing content such as documentaries and sports programmes, news and current affairs remain the bedrock of its output. From its broadcast centre on London’s Gray’s Inn Road, ITN produces daily news programming for UK broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
Reuben Such, Densitron’s Global Business Development Director IDS, traces the relationship with ITN back to an enquiry “about four years ago when they were searching for a suitable timing solution for Channel 4 News that would allow the gallery to push information out to the studio – for example, incremental timing and countdowns to the weather slot. In particular, they needed the ability to manually input timers depending on the length of individual programmes.”
These requirements ultimately led the ITN team – including Senior Programme Director Martin Collett and Technical Director Lee Sanders – to invest in Densitron’s IDS (Intelligent Display System) control and display solution for use in the C4 News galleries.
But as it turned out, notes Such, this was only the very beginning of the story because ITN “is the embodiment of a broadcaster that has really ‘bought into’ IDS, seen its capabilities, and adapted it to their own particular needs.”
As a result, the past few years have seen the incorporation of IDS into the production workflows of news programmes for Channel 4, ITV and Channel 5. Although individual details do vary, Such says that “similar workflows have been adopted for each channel’s news output, with the overriding objective being to streamline the operation in the gallery and free up PAs for other tasks. For example, previous to the use of IDS, the PAs had been doing programme timing with an outdated countdown timer. Now that worked and they were great at it, but it was clear that they could be more usefully employed concentrating on other production work if they had access to a reliable timing solution.”
That has certainly been provided by IDS, which is now used to control custom timers and tally lights which are small signal indicators on equipment such as video cameras and monitors. But over time the deployment of IDS has “expanded to include tasks such as controlling the DMX lighting around the gallery, which changes colour for different modes like ‘on air’ and ‘in rehearsal’. There are also large screens in the studios that display countdowns to a news programme going on-air, and these are also under the control of IDS.”
The solution has also been fully integrated with the Avid iNEWS Newsroom Computer system, which enables the creation of rundown presentations comprising news clips and slugs contained in the iNEWS database. In addition, IDS is now being used to display production information on screens situated in waiting areas outside the studios.
With ITV News regional operations such as Meridian and Tyne Tees also implementing IDS, it is clear that the wider ITV group is now extremely comfortable with the IDS system. The relationship between Densitron and ITN also continues to strengthen, with some user interface customisations overseen by Collett subsequently being incorporated into IDS updates.
“It has become a really fantastic partnership with ITN, and from a personal perspective I would mention that Martin and Lee are also two of the nicest people in the business,” says Such. “It’s great to see them take the IDS solution and apply it to so many aspects of production as they have become more and more confident in its capabilities.”
Martin Collett remarks that “reliability and ease of operation are absolutely critical in news production. Having a robust display and control solution that can be used day in, day out across multiple channels and programmes has been hugely beneficial to our production operations. IDS is a very versatile solution and has taken the stress out of a lot of routine production tasks, while the support we have received from Reuben