Author Archives: Georg Hentsch

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Elector Used by Global TV for 2 Thrill-a-Minute Elections in May

May has been an exciting month for us here at Bannister Lake. Our election software, Elector, was used by Global TV for two incredibly dramatic and historic elections. On May 9th, we had the British Columbia General Election which produced a thrill-a-minute result where 2 major parties and a minor party were able to produce an unlikely minority government. Throughout the evening, we kept flipping between the Liberals and NDP gaining a majority and a minority lead in both directions. That with the Greens only contesting in 3 ridings. How was that possible? When I finally packed it in around 2am ET, there was a tie between the Liberals and NDP. By morning while Elector kept chugging along, the Liberals took it by a minority.

Next up, the May 30th Nova Scotia General Election with the polls looking like the Conservatives might spoil the Liberal’s hopes for another majority win. Early results had the Conservatives leading the way but after an hour of results, the Liberals took an edge. From there on, we were in another flipping mood where we were seeing Liberal minority move to Liberal majority and back. When I packed it in around midnight ET, it was a Liberal minority lead. I woke up in the morning while Elector was cranking away to a narrow Liberal majority win.

Elector started out with an emphasis on generating all the graphics for a standard election broadcast. But over time, it has become an editorial tool helping talent make sense of the election, mathematicians make calls, producers show the ridings graphics that matter at any particular time, augmented reality show information and graphics, news department show breaking news and websites provide the most up-to-date data.

Our web interface to Elector, Flow, is what pulls it all together. At any particular time, we may have large numbers of users using the data in different ways. And with Flow’s user classes, each type of user sees things tuned to their needs and editing privileges. Flow lets us compile the details about ridings, candidates and parties. It also has support for historical elections giving the users a way to see past election data to provide a historical perspective.

Elector has a collection of tools that work together to generate valuable insights into the real-time election results. It starts with as much of the results from the previous election as is available. From there we add information about current candidates indicating which ones are candidates of interest for reasons such as being a star candidate, a subject of a media scandal or an independent with a chance, etc. Predictions for the results in each riding are also added on a party basis. As the results start to come in, Elector goes to work to help mine the entire collection of past, present and predictions for interesting results. While users are reviewing the individual riding results in the Results Summary page the Interesting Agent is busy identifying interesting events such as an incumbent losing, close races and a party taking the lead in a riding they were not expected to win. As these events are identified they are presented to users of Elector via quick popups that identify the interesting events for the riding. As the results accumulate, Elector highlights each riding which may be ready to declare a candidate elected. An analyst can quickly popup the detailed riding results allowing them to make the final call and elect the candidate right there on the summary results page.

I’m always thrilled when I see our users utilizing our software. For example, David Akin, Global TV’s Chief Political Correspondent posted screenshots of Flow on twitter throughout the evening. He was using the screenshots to describe some of the riding results.

Elections are a hectic and scary event for all news departments. It often requires a small army to pull it off. Elector, which got its start from a New Brunswick election in 2006, has come a long way. Not only does it include all the editorial, watchlists and number crunching tools in Flow but it has a rehearsal tool providing a way for teams to test different scenarios pre-election, a RESTful api making the data available to other sources like websites and virtual devices and data parsers which are tuned for the quickest and most accurate results.

Special thanks to Gerry Belec and Deb Zinck at Global TV for all the great suggestions, feedback and patience which has made Elector a success.


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8 Years of XPression

Our CG Journey.

 

As we approach our 8th anniversary of being Ross Video XPression developers, I reflect upon how we got here.

 

Up until 2009, all of our broadcast graphics development had been on the Inscriber platform using the RTX api. It had served us well but there were concerns about whether the Inscriber platform was keeping up technically. Also, with the acquisition of Inscriber by Leitch and then Harris, there were worries about Inscriber’s future.

 

In 2008, we started our investigation into an alternative CG. We had a close look at many of the leading CGs and even a few obscure ones, some of which have faded into the sunset. They were all fine but Francis and I were never satisfied with the programming api to those CGs.

We continued our search during our annual visit to NAB in 2009. D’Arcy and Francis raved about a CG being shown in the Ross booth which came about from an acquisition of Media Refinery. I finally popped by the booth an hour before the final bell and was given a demo by my old friend Hans. Within minutes, I knew we had found our CG.

 

Ross Video Tick It

I look back at all the software, both products and custom, we have developed which use XPression. With pride, we identify ourselves as XPression developers. And we thank Ross Video for keeping XPression on the top of the charts. Unlike most acquisitions, Ross poured resources into XPression and the product continues to evolve.

It’s easy to take for granted but BL wishes to thank Ross Video for their support of XPression. BL will continue to ride the XPR wave forever.


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Bannister Lake Powers Financial Broadcast Graphics for Live Video Network Cheddar

CAMBRIDGE, ON, Canada, October 5, 2016 – Bannister Lake, a leading provider of broadcast data aggregation and graphics solutions, today announced that the company’s software is powering financial graphics generation for live news and entertainment company Cheddar.

Cheddar is a live and on-demand video news network focused on covering the most innovative products, technologies, and services transforming people’s lives. The network covers this news through the lens of the companies and executives driving these changes. Cheddar broadcasts from Post 10 on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, the Sprint Flatiron Building Store, and NASDAQ Marketsite. Aligning with the viewing preferences of millennial audiences, Cheddar is available through social media platforms, over-the-top (OTT) services, mobile apps, and online on its website, cheddar.com. Complementing its flagship Facebook Live streams, Cheddar announced a partnership earlier this month to bring exclusive, live ‘Closing Bell’ coverage to Twitter.

Seeking to expand and enrich its live, on-air graphics capabilities, Cheddar selected software from Bannister Lake to drive financial data management and graphics creation in conjunction with a Ross Xpression broadcast system. Seamlessly bridging Xpression with the Xignite Market Data Cloud, Cheddar’s chosen financial data provider, the Bannister Lake software gives Cheddar’s operators an easy-to-use interface to create and display up-to-the-second stock charts within their live broadcasts. Bannister Lake also generates Cheddar’s on-screen, real-time, crawling stock ticker from Xignite data, while an array of additional features allows Cheddar to trigger lower-third graphics, sequence elements into playlists, and define distinct layouts for the network’s various shows.

“The Bannister Lake software makes it easy for us to call up stock quotes and quickly create live charts for our broadcasts,” said Peter Gorenstein, chief content officer at Cheddar. “That ease and speed are critical, since financial data is time-sensitive. So many graphics solutions are inflexible, expensive, and confusing or complicated to work with. The combination of Bannister Lake software with Ross Xpression has given us the ease of use, reliability and flexibility we need as we expand our brand, programming and reach.”

Gorenstein’s satisfaction with Bannister Lake goes deeper than the software itself. “In a broadcast production environment, there is always a lot of integration required between many varying systems and components, and Bannister Lake has been tremendous in helping with that as our infrastructure evolved,” he added. “They have been responsive, met all of our deadlines, and have been a great partner all around.”

“Cheddar is a great example of the evolution of broadcasting, as new media companies emerge with a focus on the latest distribution platforms to fit the shifting viewing habits of their target audiences,” said Georg Hentsch, president, Bannister Lake. “Our solutions enable efficient, data-driven graphics workflows for any size of media enterprise on any platform, from online broadcasting start-ups to the largest traditional networks. We’re excited to be chosen by Cheddar and to be playing an important role in the growth and success of their innovative content offerings.”


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Bannister Lake Meets Google

by Georg Hentsch

Here on The Lake, we rely on Google to get us through the day: Drive, Communities, Hangouts, Calendar, Gmail, Search, YouTube, Play and Photos. We may even have one of the most enthusiastic Google Evangelists imaginable; I won’t name names. So, it’s no surprise we’re always looking for opportunities to use Google in our software.

So, we’re proud to announce these Google api projects:

  • Google login support
  • Google Calendar support for Super Ticker
  • Google Sheets support for Super Ticker

On top of our LDAP support in Flow, we’ve added Google login support which is especially attractive for cloud users. No more dealing with yet another login/password. It even has the benefit of bypassing the login screen if the user is already logged into Google. We’re initially supporting this in Super Ticker and Community but it’ll find its way into Brando.

For Google Calendars, we’ve taken the standardization approach by supporting RFC 2445 also known as iCalendar. Since Google Calendars also support this standard, we can now read any publicly shared Google Calendar into our Events data type. This opens up 1000s of public calendars for our customers to use in Super Ticker.

Finally, we’re using the Google api for Sheets to read sheets into standard data types like scores and closings. We’ll follow that up to also support reading sheets into our Custom data type giving us a way to contain basically anything.

What’s next? I’m sure our in-house Google Evangelist will push us into more Google projects and our products will be the better for it.


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The New Data Types Are Coming!

Our customers have always pushed us to provide containers that can store their unique data requirements. Take a sports score. At one point, it was enough to show the teams, score and status. But over time, customers wanted to show ball possession, the count, shots on goal, team rankings, standings and records.

content control

We solved “Creeping Featuritis” simply and expansively: dynamic fields. And added dynamic fields to all data types.

This made it possible to contain anything using one of the existing data types. However, what also happened is we ended up hacking stories because that became the most common container for storing those “custom” data types.

So, what better way to solve a custom data type than to create a custom data type. Look for a new icon in that Content Control in the near future called Custom. It’ll be similar to stories without the story. It’ll have a way of organizing using topics and playlists as in stories but custom gives dynamic fields preferential treatment. No longer do you have to open a dialog to see them. They are given primetime.

Custom is a great way to store anything you can dream up. It’ll get all the other great data treatment like rundown, BLADE and Query support.

Query you say? What is that? Have you ever wanted to create a playlist of all close election races where incumbents are losing, scores of games in progress, stocks that are tanking or stories that include a certain keyword? That’s what we call dynamic playlists and they were essentially impossible to do until now.

We’ve added a new Query data type which is essentially a database query. If you can dream it, it can be described in SQL. And these queries also get the full data treatment: rundowns & BLADE. Here are some examples:

queries

The reason Query is dynamic is because the actual SQL gets executed at runtime. So, when in a rundown for a player, the player executes the Query as late as possible. Same for BLADE: the query gets executes on the api call.

What’s more, Query can be shared among all Super Ticker users. If you have a Query you think is useful to others, you can publish it. Once published, users can see and deploy the query. As you’d expect, once deployed, the query can be fiddled as required. The main reason for publish/deploy of Queries is we can’t expect all users to be SQL experts. But that being said, we do provide a Query Wizard to make life easier for those less than hardcore users.

With Custom’s and Query’s inauguration, we say farewell to Ski Reports. We’re phasing that oddball out. If you want Ski Reports, use Custom!

Also, look for big enhancements to some of our other data types like Closings, Events, Media and Weather but I’ll save that for a future blog.