Electronic news-gathering

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The TV4 and BBC HD satellite uplink trucks at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, Finland
Microwave trucks seen transmitting. Modern news employs these trucks extensively.
On location outside Baltimore, cameraman Jim Furrer, sound recordist Bill Porter, and director David Ryan interview participants in a public rowing clinic as part of an early electronic journalism shoot in the 1980s

Electronic news-gathering (ENG) is a broadcast news industry description of television producers, reporters and editors making use of electronic video and audio technologies for gathering and presenting news. The term was commonly used in the television news industry in the 1980s and 1990s, but it has since been less frequently used as the technology has become ubiquitous.

Electronic news-gathering can involve anything from a lone broadcast journalist reporter taking a single professional video camera out to shoot a story, to an entire television crew taking a production truck or satellite truck on location to do a live television news report for an outside broadcast newscast.

Beginnings[edit]

Shortcomings of film[edit]

The term ENG was created as television news departments moved from film based news gathering to electronic field production technology in the 1970s. Since film requires chemical processing before it can be viewed and edited, it generally took at least an hour[citation needed] from the time the film arrived back at the television station until it was ready to be broadcast. Film was also difficult to handle, subject to easy scratching and other damage. Film editing was done by hand on what was known as "color reversal" film, meaning there was no negative film. Since editing required cutting the film into segments then spliced together, a common problem was film breaking during the newscast. News stories were often transferred to bulky two inch video tape for distribution and playback, which made the content cumbersome to access.

Film remained important in daily news operations until the late 1960s when news outlets adopted portable professional video cameras, portable recorders, wireless microphones and joined those with various microwave and satellite truck linked delivery systems. By the mid 1980s film had all but disappeared from use in television journalism.

Transition to ENG[edit]

Since ENG reduces the delay between capture of the footage and broadcast, it meant that the news gathering and the reporting process became one continuous cycle, with little pause between arriving at a news site and putting the story on the air. Coupled with live microwave and/or satellite trucks, reporters were able to show live what was happening, bringing the audience into news events as they happened.

CNN began its news transmissions in 1980, as ENG technologies were emerging. The technology was still developing and was yet to be integrated with satellites and microwave, which caused some problems in early CNN transmissions. However, ENG proved to be a crucial development for all television news.[citation needed] Television news recorded using videocassette recorders was easier to edit, duplicate and distribute. Over time,[when?] video production processes passed from broadcast engineers to television producers and television writers. This made the process quicker and more reliable.[citation needed]

However, initially the ENG cameras and recorders were heavier and bulkier than their film equivalents.[citation needed] This restricted camera operators ability to escape danger or hurry toward a news event. Editing equipment was expensive and each scene had to be searched out on the master recording.

Technology developments[edit]

Equipment inside a KSTP-TV news van.

The development of half-inch cassette formats (such as Betacam), removed the need for a separate recorder to be carried. These "camcorders" no longer a needed an "umbilical cord" between the camera and recorder, which reduced health and safety risks for crews.

Digital video and audio formats, which emerged in the 1990s and early 2000s, meant that various new forms of recording devices could be used, including hard disc drives, solid state media and smaller video tape formats, such as DVCPro.

Point-to-point terrestrial microwave signals to backhaul the remote signal to the studio became increasingly used.[when?] More recently, satellite and digital satellites are used to transmit audio and video.

Improvements in video encoding for IP have provided lower-cost and more compact alternatives to microwave transmission.[citation needed] Using technology such as multicast or RTP over UDP, these systems achieve similar performance to high end-microwave. Since the video stream is already encoded for IP, the video can be used for traditional TV broadcast or Internet distribution without modification (live to air).

As mobile broadband has developed, broadcast devices using this technology have appeared. These devices are often more compact than previous technology and can aggregate multiple mobile data lines to deliver a HD quality content live.

Outside broadcasts[edit]

Outside broadcasts (also known as "remote broadcasts" and "field operations") are when the editing and transmission of the news story are done outside of the station's headquarters. Use of ENG has made possible the greater use of outside broadcasts.

Microwave spectrum channels[edit]

In the U.S. there are ten ENG video channels set aside in each area for terrestrial microwave communications.[citation needed] Use of these channels is restricted by Federal regulations to those holding broadcast licenses in the given market. Channels 1 to 7 are in the 2 GHz band and channels 8,9 and 10 are in the 2½ GHz band. In Atlanta for example, there are two channels each for the four news TV stations (WSB-TV, WAGA, WXIA-TV, WGCL-TV), one for CNN, and another open for other users on request, such as GPB.

Traditionally, the FCC has assigned microwave spectrum based on historic patterns of need and through the application/request process. With the other uses of radio spectrum growing in the 1990s, the FCC made available some bands of spectrum as unlicensed channels. This included spectrum for cordless phones and wi-fi. As a result, some of these channels have been used for news gathering by websites and more informal news outlets. One major disadvantage of unlicensed use is that there is no frequency coordination, which can result in interference or blocking of signals.

Audio journalism[edit]

A common set-up for journalists is a battery operated cassette recorder with a dynamic microphone and optional telephone interface. With this set-up, the reporter can record interviews and natural sound and then transmit these over the phone line to the studio or for live broadcast.

Electronic formats used by journalists have included DAT, minidisc, CD and DVD. Minidisc has digital indexing and is re-recordable, reusable medium; while DAT has SMPTE time code and other synchronization features.

In recent years more and more journalists use their smartphones or i-pod like devices for recording short interviews. The other alternative is using small field recorders with two condenser microphones.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Higgins, Jonathan - Introduction to SNG and ENG Microwave - Focal Press, 2004; ISBN 0-240-51662-1
  • Higgins, Jonathan - Satellite Newsgathering - Focal Press, 2nd Ed. 2007; ISBN 0-240-51973-6
  • Shook, Fredrick - The Process of Electronic News Gathering - ISBN 0-89582-082-X Morton Publishers
  • Anderson, Gary - Video Editing & Production: A Professional Guide -ISBN 0-86729-114-1 Knowledge Industries, 1984
  • Bensinger, Charles, - The Video Guide, 3rd edition - ISBN 0-672-22051-2, Sams Publisher, 1982
  • Bensinger, Charles, - Video As a Second Language: How To Make A Video Documentary - ISBN 0-915146-06-1 VTR Publishers, 1979
  • Millerson, Gerald, - Video Camera Techniques - ISBN 0-240-51225-1, Focal Press, 1983
  • Wood, William - Electronic Journalism - ISBN 0-231-02875-X, Columbia U. Press
  • Feinberg, Milton - Techniques of Photojournalism - ISBN 0-471-25692-7, Wiley-Interscience 1970
  • Eden, Clifton C. - Photojournalism: Principles & Practices, 2ed ed., - ISBN 0-697-04333-9 Wm.C.Brown 1980
  • Hicks, Wilson - Words & Pictures: An Introduction to Photojournalism, - ISBN 0-685-32645-4 Ayer Co. Pub.
  • Roy, Frank P. - Photojournalism: The Visual Approach (Illus) - ISBN 0-13-665548-3, PH.
  • The Broadcast News Process (third edition) - by Frederick Shook/Dan Latimore, - ISBN 0-89582-164-8 Morton Publishing
  • Broadcast News, Reporting & Production - by White, Ted & Meppen - ISBN 0-02-427010-5, Macmillan Press, 1984