The Final Cut Pro X success stories keep on coming. This time we look at Norway's largest newspaper VG, whose TV arm switched to FCPX enabling them to expand their online media production.
The media and entertainment world is going through some interesting changes. Newspapers and printed magazines are losing double-digit percentages of revenue each year, linear television networks fight for shrinking audiences and advertising money, Hollywood is merely a fraction of what it used to be, and large post houses and historic film studios have shut down or struggle to survive.
At the same time, the independent film industry is booming, niche production houses and post boutiques are flourishing, and quality online information and movie channels are more popular than ever.
VGTV Norway is a perfect example of this trend. This video operation spin-off of the leading Norwegian newspaper VG has several online and linear television channels, including a 24/7 news channel, that provide very popular high-quality content to a vast and loyal audience.
Their team of roughly 70 staff members produces breaking news videos, entertainment programs, documentaries, the ongoing sports news for Eurosport (the pan-European broadcast sports channel), and VG’s Snapchat Discover channel launched in 2017.
And what's more: they already produce more monthly advertising revenue than does VG’s seven-day print product.
We have talked briefly about VGTV in a post-IBC article on FCP.co. But in this case study I would like to give you a more detailed look behind the scenes of this network.
Because the success of the VGTV operation clearly shows what you can achieve when you are not afraid of abandoning old and overly complex structures for simpler workflows based on modern technologies, without making any concessions to your quality standards. That is the secret sauce for any media venture that wants to succeed today.
First off, content is king. And that's especially the case for news and factual television. VG’s news journalists are expected to feed stories to the television channel as well as to a variety of online portals. The VGTV staff works closely with VG, especially during breaking-news events, and they share the same office.
Every day, loads of content gets ingested, tagged, edited, and streamed to various channels. Information comes in from various sources: reporters in the field, live feeds from VGTV's own OB truck and SNG satellite truck, presentations and interviews from one of VGTV's in-house studio's...
From the start, they adopted a classic media workflow using Final Cut Pro on an X-SAN for editing, ingesting of live feeds and collaborating, and this worked well for many years. But as their operation expanded quickly, they realized that their setup would not be able to cope with the ever changing acquisition formats and the increasing demand for higher quality and faster turnaround content.
So, a few years ago, they switched their entire organization over to Final Cut Pro X. Besides working much better with the new acquisition and delivery formats, FCP X is considerably faster and more stable when you need to work against fierce deadlines. It is also less technical and convoluted than classic track-based NLEs, which is a major advantage when working in news and sports where everyone should be able to put together a story if needed.
Christian Pettersen, Technical Operations Manager at VGTV, explains: "We are a small organization compared to the amount of content we deliver, so the need to have technical solutions that work without requiring constant attention are essential for our business."
"We try to remove the technical barriers and streamline our production in a manner that allows as many employees as possible to deliver content."
They knew that switching to a new and fairly disruptive workflow could carry some risks. But the advantages that the new software offered clearly outweighed any concerns, so they went ahead with it. They provided inhouse training for their journalists and online editors, and the transition went exceptionally smooth. After only one day of training, everyone was editing with the new program as if it had always been there.
At the beginning of 2017, VGTV claimed 420,000 daily unique viewers and more than 25 million video stream plays per month on its own platform. Quite impressive, if you know that Norway has a population of just 5 million. They deliver hundreds of hours of content each year, and they do everything inside Final Cut Pro X: from organizing to editing, audio mixing, color correction and final delivery for play-out.
They have customized Final Cut Pro X to integrate editorial seamlessly with their custom-built MAM. Custom Roles assignment protocols allow them to instantly share any given program in many different versions, and all FCP X metadata are transferred flawlessly in any files exported to the MAM.
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But their ambition to bring the VGTV operation to the next level did not stop with switching to Final Cut Pro X. They realized that their old X-SAN would not be able to keep up much longer with their growing workloads and faster turnarounds, so they looked at replacing it.
Christian: "We started early on with X-San to make editing on growing files and collaboration easy. In 2016, we decided that our setup with two SAN systems, that had grown to more than one Petabyte of storage, was simply too big and complicated, and represented a great risk of downtime losses. So we wanted to spread the entire workload over a number of smaller and more modern storage units for each department, and to tie everything together in our custom-built MAM-system."
So Christian (photo right) and VGTV Operations Manager Pål Hansen (photo left) started looking around for a powerful and expandable shared storage configuration that would work flawlessly with Final Cut Pro X and that would allow them to spread their workloads over the different departments in VGTV.
They had heard about the FCP X integration that we did with LumaForge at Swiss National TV, so they contacted me to discuss their requirements. I have always been a huge fan of spreading workloads over different servers instead of clinging to the old paradigm of having one big system managing an operation. Because this makes the server a single point of failure for the entire setup. So we immediately understood each other, and a few months later we delivered the first JellyFish Mobile to VGTV.
They tested it extensively over a long period, and the rest is history. Today, the entire VGTV broadcast operation operates with no less than 8 LumaForge servers. A combination of JellyFish Mobiles, Towers and Racks, handling everything from ingest over editing to playout, and delivering 530TB of shared storage for a total of 86 connected users integrated with the custom VGTV MAM.
If you want to find out more about their setup and their workflows, watch this great video that was recorded at VGTV in Norway by Bradley Olsen and Patrick Southern:
VG and VGTV are companies of the Schibsted Media Group.
Schibsted is the largest media group in Scandinavia. In 2017, Schibsted had approximately 7.300 employees worldwide. The company is a major player in 13 European countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Italy, Hungary and Belarus), two Asian countries (Indonesia, Thailand), five Latin American countries (Mexico, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Chile, Brazil) and two African countries (Morocco, Tunisia).
More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schibsted
© 2018 Ronny Courtens/FCP.CO