November 18, 2015
When Access Hollywood relocated to their new premises in Universal City early this year the production team received a graphics boost with the addition of 20 channels of Abekas Mira Production Video Server. With three daily shows the Mira Servers are kept pretty busy. The Access Hollywood team produce a morning show, an afternoon show and a Live show that is aired at 6:00pm on the east coast and then airs at various time slots across the country.
The Mira Servers are controlled by Access Hollywood production operator, Cathie Lazarus, who was new to the product in July and now considers herself an old hand but is still finding useful features as she puts the Mira through its paces daily. The 20 channels of Mira Server are divided into three working groups: Four channels are used to feed on-set displays and provide graphics backup in the event that things go wrong with the CG. Eight channels are used in a video/key configuration to playback graphics throughout each show and do the lion’s share of the work, and four channels are dedicated to the GVG Kayenne switcher which controls the Mira directly to recall opening graphics and transitions with audio.
Each of the three daily shows are planned in advance and the production run down is loaded into iNews, but last minute changes occur regularly. Graphics for each segment of each show are created in the graphics department in the adjacent building and transferred to a watch folder on Mira via gigabit Ethernet. The Mira Import function is used to transfer the QuickTime animated graphics and PNG static graphics into the Mira storage. As dozens of new graphic elements can be created daily, Access Hollywood has established a robust naming convention to make the operator’s job easier in creating playlists for each segment of each show.
The Mira Servers are used extensively throughout each show with the afternoon show being the most graphics intensive. Operationally Mira needs to be ready for last minute changes – given the nature of the show and the entertainment focus breaking news stories need to be covered with the same degree of presentation flair and professionalism as the remainder of the show. Last minute graphics are common place and show segments may only arrive within minutes to air – the Mira Import tool and speed of loading are a key benefit to reducing stress in this high stakes environment. Just recently the news surrounding Charlie Sheen and his testing positive for HIV required just such a last minute change causing the Access Hollywood production team to scramble. The Mira contains several hundred graphics, including celebrity images, can be reused for this occasion. One-time use and for-fee use images are tagged as such which prevents inadvertent airing of costly stock images.
The new Access Hollywood set features three separate areas used throughout the show and for different shows. The main central set features a large display behind the on-camera talent where the production team plans to display 4K images in the future by utilizing the 4K Features of the Mira Server.
According to Erick Diaz, Technical Operations Manager, Access Hollywood/NBC Universal “The Mira is the perfect tool for the job. It’s easy to use and technically very reliable. Getting everything ready for the switch to the new facility in July this year was a struggle but we made it possible in thanks to products like the Mira that just work as advertised.”
It is the flexibility and speed of operation that makes Mira so perfectly suited to the programing delivered by the crew at Access Hollywood and their sister show in the adjacent building E! (see blog).