The modern, computerised rundown program is much more than it seems.
The running order or lineup for a live radio or TV program was originally a paper document, usually typed and copied so that everyone on the production team knew exactly what was going to happen during the broadcast. It was a table of contents for the show and little else.
The main screen you see on many rundown computer programs is very much like a typewritten rundown. It shows the basic information such as the page number, the story slug, the running time and so on. But under the hood a lot more is going on. Computer power handles all the timing arithmetic (base 60!) and, as we demonstrated in the first two articles in this series, that alone is a valuable aid to producers and directors to ensure the show runs to time.
Modern rundown programs take advantage of the digital, connected age to make all members of a newsroom and the production team as efficient as they can be — often across continents.
Here are some of the many things a modern rundown program, often called an NRCS — or Newsroom Computer System — does to enhance the television production process.
First and foremost the software works in a computer network environment and is designed so that everyone in the newsroom can contribute to information to the rundown and everyone sees the most up-to-date version of the rundown at all times. In a way this is similar to what you can now do with Google Docs shared among many people. They can all edit simultaneously. That may seem pretty standard today but twenty years ago it was revolutionary. The two screens below, taken from LineupNX, show how two members of the team in a newsroom can be working on the same rundown at the same time. Each one is working on information about a different story.
Beyond that, the Newsroom Computer System is the face of a very complex database of television program elements including scripts, video, character generators, teleprompters even camera remote controls. The software often has built-in links to news services and satellite feeds, so journalists can select potential story material for the show without ever having to leave the rundown. They can select clips and that are automatically included in the video server playlist that will be used to play-out video to air.
Direct links to the television station's digital video library enable journalists and technical staff to quickly find and identify library footage. Search tools permit database queries to the meta data kept in the video library and built-in video preview players let team members look at the potentially useful video right from the rundown screen.
The software can often generate playlists for digital video playback systems, with video tied directly to the rundown. Direct links to a text editor let reporters, producers and writers write copy for the teleprompter and link it to the actual items in the rundown. The teleprompter software communicates with the NRCS (or is part of it) to put all the teleprompter copy in the correct order. If the running order is changed while the show is actually on the air, that is communicated automatically to the teleprompter and the prompter copy is rearranged.
NRCS software often communicates behind the scenes with the Character Generator so a journalist can create keys and supers and have them sent directly to the CG system without any retyping. In fact a contact database can be linked to ensure correct spelling and titles.
Links to the graphics computer software lets designers and artists assign specific graphics to the rundown items. Producers and directors can preview graphics directly from the rundown and approve them for use on the show.
Many newsroom systems actually let journalists do rough cuts of their items using low-resolution, proxy video that can be conformed in final editing with the full resolution video before air.
And this is just the beginning.
Next time: a look at some novel ways teachers and students can use a modern rundown program.
David Mowbray is a journalism and broadcast trainer and is CEO of Baobab Productions, creators of LineupNX, www.lineupnx.com.