Radio Free Asia found that a relatively
small amount of money can be applied creatively to develop a quality video
product. Now it has an impressive studio space and a multi-disciplined staff
that can create Web content for www.rfa.org.
Gordon Burnett, production engineer III, and AJ Janitschek, director of
program and operations support, have been working on bringing video services to
RFA in Washington since their purchase of a Canon GL1 DV mini camcorder in
The video operation is set up in what
had been a conference room.
“It has been a 12-year growth,” says Janitschek of a process that led to
the studio and production equipment now in place.
They will discuss affordable creation of Web video in an NAB Show
session in Las Vegas. Burnett plans to detail the process
of content creation, to help broadcasters who want to launch or expand an
online video presence.
“Radio engineers who are curious about the convergence of radio and
video can get in on the game with some basic retraining and repurposing of
resources common to both,” Burnett said.
“If a radio engineer thinks the future is still only radio, they are
mistaken. They need to embrace video and bring it to their station or network.
“I looked the subtotal of everything that we have done over the years,
and it occurred to me that we could have spent a lot more money; but then we
didn’t do too badly considering we were nickel-and-diming it.”
The technology team at RFA knew that the amount of video being posted
online was on the increase. Burnett was attracted by the medium’s capacity “to
retain visitors to well-designed websites and its ability to tell stories in
ways that audio alone could not.” The individual language services of RFA were
also beginning to pick up on the importance of adding value to their online
“The more enterprising services picked up on it by themselves. The
Vietnamese had started taping in the radio studios and they put out a pretty
decent product, but the setup wasn’t sustainable since the space needed to be
used for audio. So we started talking about the new space,” said Burnett.
To support the Vietnamese service and others, RFA converted a conference
room into the new video studio. Funding was the biggest roadblock. Radio Free
Asia is a U.S.-government funded, non-profit organization operated by the
Broadcasting Board of Governors.
“None of these [video expenditures] were a line item in our budget. When
the opportunity presented itself, end-of-year funds, etc., and funds were
available, we got in line and stated our case,” said Burnett. Little by little
the money to purchase equipment did come. Cameras, teleprompters, lighting
ensued. Slowly the video studio acquired the necessary gear to produce the
Vietnamese and other language shows.
Personnel was another issue, though it helped that RFA already employs
18 radio production engineers to support their 24/7 operation.
“We took a bunch of audio engineers, and in some cases people had no
knowledge of video, and in other cases people did have knowledge. It made them
more familiar with it (video) and now those same audio-only engineers are
running a camera and a Tricaster [video production system] for multiple
language services in the period of a day.
“All of these audio engineers are in essence multimedia people, because
they picked up video skills, or as needed sharpened those skills. So they can
be doing Master Control, then as needed jump into the video studio, and then go
downstairs to the studio to run a live on-air radio program, and go wherever
they are needed throughout the day.”
Tricaster XD300 Production System
GY-HD250 Cameras and studio package
Camera Control Units
LMD-1750W and LMD-2450W LCD Monitors
Vision Ped Plus Studio Pedestals
TD904Pro Wireless intercom system
O1V Audio Mixer
Design Sync Generator
44B Lavalier mics
Systems T-Series Videoconference Fixtures
Lighting 200 DMX Lighting Console
Also helping RFA save budget is the availability of inexpensive IT-based
Web video solutions.
“There’s a plethora of new, relatively low-cost streaming solutions
available like LiveCast, which is a suite of complimentary software
applications,” Burnett said. RFA uses LiveCast for live streaming projects, and
Digital Rapids TouchStream for users to stream video from the field.
A visit by the Dalai Lama in July 2011 was streamed live for the Tibetan
service from RFA’s studio. The video is available at Radio World’s links page
for this issue, http://radioworld.com/Mar-28-2012.
“We have done quite a few live streaming projects, but that is not our
bread-and-butter. We have much better control over the product when we record,”
In all, the RFA language services “couldn’t be happier” with its video
capabilities, says Burnett. A quick look at RFA Vietnamese Service’s YouTube
channel shows why. The daily shows bring 10,000 to 20,000 views, and the
channel has close to 4,000 subscribers. Along with Khmer, Tibetan, Lao and
others, RFA’s single studio is booked from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Burnett and Janitschek are hopeful RFA can continue to expand its video
capacity. They hope to add another studio, at least, and more people to support
“We are running into a lack of resources,” said Janitschek. The language
services “are talking about expanding video production into the weekend.”
Burnett says that RFA will just have to continue “to be fair and
judicious in the kinds of things we choose to acquire” — wisdom to which all
engineers can relate.
The presentation “Creating Real Web Video With Virtual (Few) Resources”
is part of the session “Graphics for Radio” in the Broadcast Engineering
Conference on Thursday morning.