A next-generation news operation with ITV and PXW-Z280

May 14, 2020

For over 60 years, ITV has brought breaking news to people across the UK. Three times a day, the broadcaster gives viewers national news, with 14 regional segments covering local events across England, Wales, Northern Ireland (UTV) and Scotland (STV). And its success depends on a fast, efficient news operation, powered by world-class journalists and intelligent technology.

Back in 2014, ITV invested in Sony’s PMW-200 cameras and XDCAM workflow, to equip local correspondents across the UK with the tools to deliver award-winning coverage. Five years later, those cameras were still delivering, but ITV wanted to upgrade its news operations, to make sure it could meet the growing appetite for content for years to come—wherever the viewer is and whatever device they’re watching on. And so they turned to freelance cameraman and trainer Mark Smith, who already had the Sony PXW-Z280 in mind:

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Self-shooting journalists need to work fast, with a camera that shoots well—anywhere—and a workflow that helps them get clips out of that camera and into the edit. Sony’s PXW-Z280 and XDCAM workflow deliver that, while helping editors and controllers work more efficiently too.

Fast, efficient workflow

With vast quantities of footage captured all over the UK each week, and hours of broadcasting, the ITV news machine needs to be fast and efficient. After investing in Sony’s XDCAM workflow a few years before, the broadcaster wanted to use that robust foundation to build a more agile news operation. 

ITV quickly integrated a fleet of PXW-Z280s into its news workflow, giving 180 local correspondents the camcorders they needed to shoot news on the go. And these camcorders even helped those journalists get footage back to their newsrooms and editors faster. 

Smith says: “It’s simple to shoot on the camera, offload clips from the memory card, and then send the footage via a laptop. But the Z280 can actually use 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi to transfer footage directly to a server, saving precious time on media transfer.”

Getting a low angle shot with Z80 Camcorder

Smarter transfer

High resolution proxy files can also be sent from the camera back to the studio, so editors can pull together rough cuts before the full resolution files arrive. Or, in the case of the STV teams in Scotland, those proxy files can be used for social media content. And the Z280’s Dual Link Cellular capability means double the uplink reliability and performance, avoiding file transfer issues or signal interruptions—even in more remote locations.

Smoother edit

Field correspondents can use the Content Browser Mobile app on their phones to select the proxy and full-resolution files they want to send to the studio. They can even set start and endpoints to avoid transferring unwanted footage in larger clips. Meanwhile, editors receive clips with useful metadata, comments, and recommended shots, helping them prep packages faster, with all the information they need to hand.

Familiar, user-friendly controls on side of Z280 Camcorder
SxS memory card slots which can record in Simul, Relay or Back up mode

Faster upload

In the months to come, XDCAM air will allow ITV to upload proxy footage to the cloud from multiple cameras at once—and that content could be accessed from any location. Journalists will even be able to start wirelessly uploading these clips while they’re still shooting, saving valuable time on breaking stories.

Agile content capture

In the field, ITV’s journalists want to set up and start recording as quickly as possible, in order to make the next news broadcast. Mark Smith knows this means cameras have to be both user-friendly and adaptable:

“The PXW-Z280 is built to be useable without compromising on image quality, and that’s why I recommended it. The fast-working auto-focus and 17x zoom help journalists get all the footage they need, while the mobile app allows them to check their shot even when they’re stood in front of the lens.”

Meanwhile, the two MI shoes on the camcorder allows journalists to use a dualchannel radio mic receiver from Sony during interviews. Now they can wirelessly record the feed from their mic and their interviewee’s, direct to the camera, powered by the camcorder battery. And dedicated channel controls on the side of the camcorder mean correspondents can adjust their audio without spending time going through the camera menu. All these additional improvements help efficiency of audio recording for the camcorder users.

Smith adds: “The customisable buttons on the side of the camcorder mean ITV can save its journalists even more time, with quick access to the functions they’ll need every day. The ability to format media with one button-press, for example, is fantastic for fast-moving correspondents.”

Looking to the future

The 24/7 nature of news won’t change any time soon. But newsgathering will evolve, and the PXW-Z280 is ready to meet those changes head-on. The 3CMOS 2/3-type sensor can capture 4K HDR footage, ready for a higher definition future with rich colours. That sensor already provides a deep depth of field and wide dynamic range that suit any number of creative shot choices.

ITV will soon take advantage of Sony’s unique QoS technology too. Full resolution video will be streamed straight from the PXW-Z280s over 3G/4G networks, without worrying about dropped frames or glitches. ITV’s news operations will be even faster and more efficient, helping it to deliver more award-winning coverage for years to come.