TVU KMBC Remote Production

Hearst Television ABC affiliate KMBC in Kansas City, MO, overcame numerous technical challenges associated with producing a live, local news special on race and policing at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic restricted in-studio production. Their team brought in guests remotely and allowed them to interact with one another via TVU’s cloud-based equipment.

TVU Producer, the company’s live cloud production platform, with TVU Partyline, a cloud-based video conferencing system for live production, made it possible for the station to supply two return video and audio feeds to the remote guests. They could watch pre-produced segments and see each other during live interview segments, making it possible for them to react to each other’s facial expressions as if they were together in the studio.

“The need to supply two return paths, making it possible for guests to have a more natural interaction, would have brought a number of challenges if we had been using a traditional satellite set-up,” said Neeley Schmitz, director of news operations at KMBC. “You would have been operating two satellite shots, and then we would have experienced a huge delay on the satellite return video. Without cloud-based systems, this would have been very difficult to do.”

To enable the low-latency interaction, KMBC used TVU Partyline with TVU Producer to allow all four remote parties to communicate with each other using return video and/or audio via TVU Partyline’s Real Time Interactive Layer (RTIL) that sits on top of TVU systems like TVU Producer and supports integration across the TVU ecosystem.

Low Latency, Low Complexity

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TVU Partyline

As well as involving lower latency, TVU Networks’ alternative was more cost-effective and much less technically complicated than depending on satellite or microwave feeds to deliver the return video. TVU Partyline can operate with TVU’s IS+ transmission protocol, their proprietary Inverse StatMux Plus algorithm achieving broadcast quality video and audio, as well as signal resiliency throughout a session over the public internet.

Through TVU Partyline, guests and anchors can see each other as well as the program output, and hear each other with mix-minus functionality, which prevents participants from hearing a feedback loop of their own voice, while listening to the director of the show. It is also integrated with TVU Producer 3.0 cloud production software.

The program, ‘Project CommUNITY: The People and the Police’, hosted by KMBC anchor Lara Moritz, examined the demands local advocates of police reform have made to the city to change policing policies and to address the bigger issue of local control over the police force.

Four guests, including Kansas City’s Mayor Quinton Lucas and Police Chief Richard Smith, a local filmmaker Khalid Abdulqaadir and Lora McDonald, executive director of MORE Squared, a faith-based organisation devoted to racial equality, joined the show remotely—three via TVU One cellular transmitters and one via TVU Anywhere, the company’s mobile broadcast smartphone app.

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Producing the Program

The system involved several simple steps. Neely used TVU Producer to create a quad-view box in which the four remote guests appeared. Live video of three guests was shot with ENG cameras and transmitted to the station using the TVU One transmitters. The mayor used the TVU Anywhere mobile app to stream live video of himself from his smartphone to the station.

Each of the four video streams was assigned in TVU Producer to one of the panes in the quad-view box, which in turn was streamed back in HD with no detectable latency using TVU Partyline to the three TVU Ones. Each transmitter was connected to monitors, so the guests could see each other. The mayor, working from his smartphone, listened to the responses via TVU Partyline.

“Initially, we planned for the return video to be delivered from the studio,” said Neeley. “But as we discussed how to do that, we determined we had no way to provide the reaction of guests to each other with the way we switch our shows.

“TVU Partyline, however, was a reliable way to make return video work. While this was one of our first uses of Partyline, it proved to be very easy to set up and delivered the low-latency interaction needed to make discussion of these important community issue natural.”