In Depth

L.A. Times, KTLA team up with BOT

Tribune Co.'s KTLA-TV station in Los Angeles and its Los Angeles Times newspaper have implemented a pilot project to transmit news reports from the print publication to the broadcast station-a project that could ultimately extend across the media company's 24 TV stations and 12 newspapers.
Taking advantage of new technologies has been the key to a new inclusiveness among media. Earlier this year, the Washington bureau of the L.A. Times installed a ``BOT'' from systems integrator Digital System Technology. The BOT operates as a mobile remote camera system and studio to produce video for broadcast and streaming. It allows reporters to transmit live shots and reports back to various stations. While sharing resources between newspapers and local stations is not a new concept, the Tribune project is noteworthy because it relies on a one-person TV-studio-in-a-box and because it can stretch across the company.
The company is currently ironing out some of the kinks in the D.C. feed with the expectation that such reports will in time be available to all Tribune broadcast stations from a variety of Tribune newspapers, said Tim Williams, regional manager of multimedia for Tribune Intergroup Development in Los Angeles. Tribune relies on its asynchronous transfer mode network, a means of digital communication that is capable of very high speeds, to connect its media properties, allowing them to send reports from the D.C. bureau to KTLA. Eventually, that feed could be disseminated via satellite to all Tribune stations, Mr. Williams said.
KTLA reporter Ron Olsen, who works out of the L.A. Times offices in Los Angeles, currently interviews the D.C. reporters for stories using the BOT. He also interviews newspaper reporters in Los Angeles. Since many newspaper offices have limited space, a device was needed that wouldn't swallow a major footprint of the newsroom, Mr. Williams said.
The BOT doesn't require an operator and is designed as a simple recording station for on-camera talent to file a video news report, said Dwight Crumb, VP of engineering for DST in Irwindale, Calif. The device allows such regular camera functions as pan, tilt and zoom. The machine is run by only one user-the reporter-eliminating the need for a full crew and space to accommodate them. The BOT is designed to roll easily through a standard office doorway, which means it can be moved around to different sections of the newspaper's facility to enable a reporter to file from a different desk or department.
The BOT is about 30 inches by 30 inches by 41/2 feet high. When its lights are extended, the BOT expands to a height of 71/2 feet. The remote-controlled camera comes with a 14-inch monitor and a computer for compression of audio and video signals as well as an audio mixer. ``In order for them to file in the past, a crew would have been sent out with a remote truck, truck engineer, etc.,'' Mr. Crumb said. ``You don't need anyone else to operate the BOT [besides the reporter].''
The BOT makes it possible for Tribune to further its goal of interconnecting its vast array of TV and print properties.
The L.A. station relies on news reports from the Washington bureau and the BOT about once or twice a month. Mr. Williams intends to increase its use to a few times a week. ``It will be more once we have ATM-send capability at the receive centers,'' he said. Tribune is in the process of implementing ATM capability at its TV stations and newspapers that don't have it yet.
Tribune has cameras installed at New York's Newsday, The Orlando Sentinel, The Hartford Courant and the Chicago Tribune for news reports from those papers to local stations. Those cameras are not the sophisticated BOTs, however. But Newsday is in the process of having a BOT designed for its Queens facility. ``We will tweak it for that facility and might scale it down a little in terms of overall size,'' Mr. Williams said.
Tribune does not plan to install BOTs at all of its papers. ``In those markets where we have a media partner it makes sense,'' he said.