Case Study: VICE News Tonight Comes to Life With Vizrt

One of the biggest media brands in America, VICE, has grown beyond their magazine roots to extend their presence to mobile and digital. In 2013, VICE launched a 30 minute weekly show on HBO. In 2016, they expand once again to create the 24-hour channel VICELAND, and a nightly news program for HBO, VICE News Tonight.

VICE has a distinct brand of storytelling that covers world issues, music, tech, arts, travel, food, and sports. “One of the things that we do differently from the very beginning is that we challenge every producer, every editor, every designer to say there are no stories we can’t tell,” says Josh Tyrangiel, EVP of News for VICE News. “So, how are we going to tell them?”

This unique voice required a novel way of producing a nightly newscast. VICE News Tonight has no anchor and uses creative graphical effects to transition from one show segment to the next. The VICE brand also uses a minimalist design, which needed to be carried over to their newscast.

“VICE first came to Vizrt looking for a map solution,” says David Jorba, President of Vizrt Americas. “After seeing what the capabilities are of our production tools, they decided to move forward with a studio automation workflow that gave them greater flexibility in creating a consistent live production with great precision.” David Jorba added that as the needs of VICE News Tonight grew, the platform Vizrt was building adapted to provide template-based tools to assist the production team with creating seamless transitions between stories. “Our professional services team continues to work with VICE so that they have the tools they need as the show evolves.”

Building a Show
When creating the daily show, the VICE News Tonight control room staff use a new tool from Vizrt, Viz Pilot Edge. This tool enables the user to populate graphics and video templates in their Octopus newsroom system. “Viz Pilot Edge is a crucial part of our workflow in building and crafting the show every day,” says Joe LaMonica, Technical Director/EIC for VICE News Tonight. Having all components of the story in one template makes it easy for them to change the run order as they fine tune the show.

VICE also needed a newsroom system that complimented their workflow in an all Mac environment. “The VICE News Tonight workflow is a little different from the traditional newsroom workflow,” says Lukas Kotek, Project Director from Octopus. “A lot of their work in Octopus is centered on stacking the show for final playout. But with they also have complicated transition that required us to create custom scripts to adjust the timing as needed. These scripts, along with our built in communications with Viz Mosart, gives VICE a lot of control over the pacing and transitions of the show, all from within the Octopus interface. And they can easily make changes, adding stories or adjusting the run order, while in a live production.”

The Stream
The entire show exists in what is called “The Stream”. This is the graphics-based transitions that tie together a theme between show segments, or packages. “For us, graphics are that element of the show that carry things on and give a consistent feel to the show,” said Charlie Travis VP of Technical Operations for VICE News Tonight.

The design of the graphics are based on whitespace, with text, images, videos, and maps filling in the white space to act as a bridge between stories. “The graphics being minimalist allow the content to take center stage and they really are just punctuation on top of the stories to draw your focus to the facts we are trying to convey,” said Lucy Paynter, Real-time Graphics Art Director for VICE News Tonight.

To create transitions, VICE News Tonight uses scenes composited in real-time with Viz Engine. Using Vizrt’s technology allows VICE News Tonight to seamlessly combine their video and real-time graphics, creating a dynamic transition between packages as part of their final production. The Octopus newsroom system performs all the calculations for transition times and overlap of clips plus other attributes that are needed to achieve these transitions.

In the hours leading to the live show, the production team is fine tuning the run order to decide how each package relates to the next; adjusting audio, graphics, and transitions. This is all in an effort to ensure the “mood” of the production is perfect for when HBO airs the final show at 7:30pm.

A Layer on Consistency
VICE News Tonight uses a combination of traditional studio automation and an integrated graphics and video workflow. The Viz Mosart automation system controls the production switcher, audio, clips, and overlay graphics. Complex elements such as the custom transitions that are unique to VICE News Tonight, are composted with Viz Engine, combining graphics, clips and audio into a single element. “Viz Mosart gives our editorial team the confidence that we can put together a polished final product in a short amount of time” says Joe LaMonica.

Construction of the control room was completed only two weeks before the first episode of VICE News Tonight went on-air. Using a graphics-based workflow allowed the production staff to rehearse in the months before the control room was completed, and then easily start using the software-based Viz Mosart for the live show.

“Without Vizrt we wouldn’t be able to put together a day-of-show. The amount of time required to output an entire episode would push past our air-time,” says Charlie Travis. “Vizrt provides a layer of consistency to our show that you would only normally find from a host going from package to package.”

Endless Growth
“VICE is global company and we have offices all over the world so the opportunities I see for growth are endless,” added Lucy Paynter. “Working with Vizrt, we’ve been able to develop a format that is absolutely custom to our unique needs and we’re very excited about how the collaboration can bring even more ease and flexibility to our workflow. The goal is, by developing our production environment around Vizrt’s tools, VICE News’s content can be adapted so that we can cover any world event in our own voice, whether that be live on HBO or on our online platforms.”

Password must contain the following:

A lowercase letter

A capital (uppercase) letter

A number

Minimum 8 characters