Electronic news-gathering

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The TV4 and BBC HD satellite uplink DSNG at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, Finland BBC HD SNG.jpg
The TV4 and BBC HD satellite uplink DSNG at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, Finland
Microwave trucks seen transmitting. Modern news employs these trucks extensively. MSH04 news media trucks at CVO office 10-02-04 med.jpg
Microwave trucks seen transmitting. Modern news employs these trucks extensively.
On location outside Baltimore, cameraman Jim Furrer, sound recordist Bill Porter, and director David Ryan interview participants in a public rowing clinic as part of an early electronic journalism shoot in the 1980s. Electronic journalism crew shooting interview on location.png
On location outside Baltimore, cameraman Jim Furrer, sound recordist Bill Porter, and director David Ryan interview participants in a public rowing clinic as part of an early electronic journalism shoot in the 1980s.

Electronic news-gathering (ENG) is when reporters and editors make use of electronic video and audio technologies in order to gather and present news. [1] ENG can involve anything from a single reporter with a single professional video camera, to an entire television crew taking a truck on location. This term was coined during the rise of videotape technology in the 1970s. This term was commonly used in the television news in the 1980s and '90s, but is used less frequently now, as the technology has become commonplace. [2]


The vehicle on which the electronic equipment is fitted it is called DSNG (digital satellite news gathering).


Shortcomings of film

The term ENG was created as television news departments moved from film-based news-gathering to electronic field production technology in the 1970s. Since film requires chemical processing before it can be viewed and edited, it generally took at least an hour from the time the film arrived back at the television station or network news department until it was ready to be broadcast. [2] Film Editing was done by hand on what was known as "color reversal" film, usually Kodak Ektachrome, meaning there were no negatives. Color reversal film had replaced black-and-white film as television itself evolved from black-and-white to color broadcasting. Filmo cameras were most commonly used for silent filming, while Auricon cameras were used for filming with synchronized sound. Since editing required cutting the film into segments and then splicing them together, a common problem was film breaking during the newscast. News stories were often transferred to bulky 2-inch videotape for distribution and playback, which made the content cumbersome to access.

Film remained important in daily news operations until the late 1960s, when news outlets adopted portable professional video cameras, portable recorders, wireless microphones and joined those with various microwave- and satellite truck-linked delivery systems. By the mid-1980s, film had all but disappeared from use in television journalism.

Transition to ENG

One of next-generation ENG mini-truck fleet of ABS-CBN. 02292jfHoly Wednesday Good Friday processions Baliuag Bulacan Augustine Parish Churchfvf 12.JPG
One of next-generation ENG mini-truck fleet of ABS-CBN.

As one cameraman of the era tells it, [3]

One of the very first examples of reliable, news-style video was revealed at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. I was a 16mm cameraman at that convention and turned in the street violence one day to eye the first portable "Portapak" video package from Sony in Japan. It was the first truly portable video package I had ever seen and it made quite an impression on me while carrying that back breaking film camera. The Sony Portapak was a two-piece, battery powered, self-contained video tape analog recording system that could be carried and operated by one person. Because earlier "portable" television cameras were so large, heavy and cumbersome, the Portapak made it possible for individuals to record video easily outside the studio.

This portability greatly contributed to the rise of electronic news gathering as it made portable news more easily accessible than ever before.

Early portable video systems recorded at a lower quality than broadcast studio cameras, which made them less desirable than non portable video systems. When the Portapak video camera was introduced in 1967, [4] it was a new method of video recording, forever shifting ENG. [3]

By the time videotape technology advanced, the capability for microwave transmission was well established (and used in the 1960s by the BBC's ill-fated Mobile Film Processing Unit). But the convenience of videotape finally allowed crews to more easily use microwave links to quickly send their footage back to the studio. It even made live feeds more possible, as in the police shootout with the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. Also in 1974, KMOX, a station in St. Louis, Mo., was the first to abandon film and switch entirely to ENG. Stations all over the country made the switch over the next decade. [2]

ENG greatly reduces the delay between when the footage is captured and when it can be broadcast, thus enabling news gathering and reporting to become steady cycle with little time in between when story breaks and when a story can air. [5] Coupled with live microwave and/or satellite trucks, reporters were able to show live what was happening, bringing the audience into news events as they happened.

Television broadcast crews line up on a San Diego dock awaiting arrival of USS Vandegrift (FFG-48) crew after the sea rescue of the Kaufman family, 2014 Television broadcast crews line up awaiting arrival of USS Vandegrift crew.jpg
Television broadcast crews line up on a San Diego dock awaiting arrival of USS Vandegrift (FFG-48) crew after the sea rescue of the Kaufman family, 2014

CNN launched in June 1980, as ENG technologies were emerging. The technology was still in its developmental stages, and had yet to be integrated with satellites and microwave relays, which caused some problems with the network's early transmissions. However, ENG proved to be a crucial development for all television news as news content recorded using videocassette recorders was easier to edit, duplicate and distribute. Over time, as editing technology has become simpler and more accessible, [ when? ] video production processes have largely passed from broadcast engineers to producers and writers, making the process quicker.

However, initially the ENG cameras and recorders were heavier and bulkier than their film equivalents. [6] This restricted the ability of camera operators from escaping danger or hurrying toward a news event. Editing equipment was expensive and each scene had to be searched out on the master recording.

Technology developments

Using technology such as multicast or RTP over UDP, these systems achieve similar performance to high end-microwave. Since the video stream is already encoded for IP, the video can be used for traditional television broadcast or Internet distribution without modification (live to air).

As mobile broadband has developed, broadcast devices using this technology have appeared. These devices are often more compact than previous technology and can aggregate multiple mobile data lines to deliver a high definition-quality content live.

Broadcast video equipment

Easyrig Inventor Johan Hellsten with DP Mark Schulze wearing Easyrig at NAB 2015 Easyrig Inventor Johan Hellsten with DP Mark Schulze.jpg
Easyrig Inventor Johan Hellsten with DP Mark Schulze wearing Easyrig at NAB 2015

The ongoing Technological evolution of broadcast video production equipment can be observed annually at the NAB Show in Las Vegas where equipment manufacturers gather to display their wares to people within the video production industry. The trend is toward lighter-weight equipment that can deliver more resolution at higher speeds. There has been an evolution from Film to Standard-definition television, High-definition television and now 4K.

Video production on Carlsbad beach using Sony FS7 camera, Sachtler carbon fiber tripod and Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ monitor Video production on Carlsbad beach.jpg
Video production on Carlsbad beach using Sony FS7 camera, Sachtler carbon fiber tripod and Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ monitor

As of 2016, highlights included Unmanned aerial vehicles aka drones for the delivery of aerial footage, various lines of cameras that can deliver 4K resolution, graphics packages for news stations, which can be utilized inside their microwave and/or satellite vehicles, Wireless technology, POV cameras and peripherals from GoPro and other Action camera manufacturers, and the Odyssey 7Q+ monitor with Apollo multi-camera switcher/recorder from Convergent Design. This monitor fits on the back of a broadcast video camera and allows photojournalists to live-switch a multi-camera production in studio or on location.

Outside broadcasts

Outside broadcasts (also known as "remote broadcasts" and "field operations") are when the editing and transmission of the news story are done outside the station's headquarters. Use of ENG has made possible the greater use of outside broadcasts. [7]

"Some stations have always required reporters to shoot their own stories, interviews and even standup reports and then bring that material back to the station where the video is edited for that evening's newscast. At some of these stations, the reporters sometimes even anchor the news and introduce the packages they have shot and edited." [8]

News Reporters Gather at San Diego Home of James Holmes's Parents after Colorado theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, July 2012 News Reporters Gather at Home of James Holmes's Parents.jpg
News Reporters Gather at San Diego Home of James Holmes's Parents after Colorado theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, July 2012

Short-form news stories are what local news reporters deliver to their stations. Longer-form stories about the same topics are covered by national or international broadcast news magazines such as Dateline NBC, 20/20, Nightline, 48 Hours, 60 Minutes and Inside Edition. Depending upon the scope of the story, the number of crews vying for position at the story venue (press conference, court house, crime location, etc.) can potentially be dozens.

Natural disasters, terrorism, death and murder are topics that reside at the top of the news-gathering hierarchy. For instance, in the U.S., the series of events culminating in what would thereafter be known as 9/11 galvanized every news division of every network.

"Especially on that first day, you were really just going to whomever had a piece of information," says "48 Hours" executive producer Susan Zirinsky, whose team produced the primetime coverage that first night. "You were getting cameras up, you were putting people in place, you were trying to wrap your brain around it. You wanted to step back and synthesize some of the information, which is what we were trying to do ... At that point, we thought there were many more dead, and it was still a search-and-rescue mission. It was a very, very complicated day to try to give context to." [9]

"There is a hierarchy of news. It's a hierarchy of judgment, I guess. All deaths are equal to the victims and their families. But all deaths are not equal in the calculation of news value." [10]

After she was lost at sea near San Clemente Island for 5 weeks, Luna the Dog is Reunited with Nick Haworth at San Diego Tuna Fleet Docks, March 2016 Luna the Dog is Reunited with Nick Haworth.jpg
After she was lost at sea near San Clemente Island for 5 weeks, Luna the Dog is Reunited with Nick Haworth at San Diego Tuna Fleet Docks, March 2016

"Feel-good stories" such as the homecoming of a military parent, saving of a life, or selfless act of kindness, sometimes make their way into the news stream. [11] [12] [13]

Microwave spectrum channels

In the United States, there are ten ENG video channels set aside in each area for terrestrial microwave communications.[ citation needed ] Use of these channels is restricted by federal regulations to those holding broadcast licenses in the given market. Channels 1 through 7 are in the 2  GHz band and channels 8, 9 and 10 are in the 2½ GHz band. In Atlanta for example, there are two channels each for the four news-producing television stations (WSB-TV, WAGA-TV, WXIA-TV, WGCL-TV), one for CNN, and another open for other users on request, such as Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Traditionally, the Federal Communications Commission has assigned microwave spectrum based on historic patterns of need and through the application/request process. With the other uses of radio spectrum growing in the 1990s, the FCC made available some bands of spectrum as unlicensed channels. This included spectrum for cordless phones and Wi-Fi. As a result, some of these channels have been used for news gathering by websites and more informal news outlets. One major disadvantage of unlicensed use is that there is no frequency coordination, which can result in interference or blocking of signals.

Audio journalism

A common set-up for journalists is a battery operated cassette recorder with a dynamic microphone and optional telephone interface. With this set-up, the reporter can record interviews and natural sound and then transmit these over the phone line to the studio or for live broadcast.

Electronic formats used by journalists have included DAT, MiniDisc, CD and DVD. Minidisc has digital indexing and is re-recordable, reusable medium; while DAT has SMPTE timecode and other synchronization features. In recent years, more and more journalists have used smartphones or iPod-like devices for recording short interviews. The other alternative is using small field recorders with two condenser microphones.

See also

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Kinescope, shortened to kine, also known as telerecording in Britain, is a recording of a television program on motion picture film, directly through a lens focused on the screen of a video monitor. The process was pioneered during the 1940s for the preservation, re-broadcasting and sale of television programmes before the introduction of videotape, which from 1956 eventually superseded the use of kinescopes for all of these purposes. Kinescopes were the only practical way to preserve live television broadcasts prior to videotape.


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Professional video camera High-end camera for creating electronic moving images

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Electronic field production

Electronic field production (EFP) is a television industry term referring to a video production which takes place in the field, outside of a formal television studio, in a practical location or special venue. Zettl defines EFP as using "both ENG and studio techniques. From ENG it borrows its mobility and flexiblity; from the studio it borrows its production care and quality control. EFP takes place on location and has to adapt to the location conditions... Good lighting and audio are always difficult to achieve in EFP, regardless of whether you are outdoors or indoors. Compared to ENG, in which you simply respond to a situation, EFP needs careful planning."

Broadcast journalism Field of news and journals which are broadcast

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Documentary television is a genre of television programming that broadcasts documentaries.

Outside broadcasting Remote production of television or radio programmes

Outside broadcasting (OB) is the electronic field production (EFP) of television or radio programmes from a mobile remote broadcast television studio. Professional video camera and microphone signals come into the production truck for processing, recording and possibly transmission.


A Portapak is a battery-powered, self-contained video tape analog recording system. Introduced to the market in 1967, it could be carried and operated by one person.

Microwave transmission technology of transmitting information or energy by the use of microwaves

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Video journalism or videojournalism is a form of journalism, where the journalist shoots, edits and often presents his or her own video material.

Electronicam was a television recording system that shot an image on film and television at the same time through a common lens. It was developed by James L. Caddigan for the DuMont Television Network in the 1950s, before electronic recording on videotape was available. Since the film directly captured the live scene, its quality was much higher than the commonly used kinescope films, which were shot from a TV screen.

Satellite truck

A satellite truck is a mobile communications satellite earth station, typically mounted on a truck chassis as a platform. Employed in remote television broadcasts, satellite trucks transmit video signals back to studios or production facilities for editing and broadcast. Satellite trucks usually travel with a production truck, which contains video cameras, sound equipment and a crew. A satellite truck has a large satellite dish antenna which is pointed at a communications satellite, which then relays the signal back down to the studio. Satellite communication allows transmission from any location that the production truck can reach, provided a line of sight to the desired satellite is available.

EIAJ-1 Standard for video tape recorders

EIAJ-1 was a standard for video tape recorders (VTRs) developed by the Electronic Industries Association of Japan with the cooperation and assistance of several Japanese electronics manufacturers in 1969. It was the first standardized format for industrial/non-broadcast VTRs using a helical scan system employing open reel tape. Previously, each manufacturer of machines in this market used a different proprietary format, with differing tape speeds, scanner drum diameters, bias frequencies, tracking head placement, and so on, although most used 1/2" wide tape. As a result, video tapes recorded on one make and/or model of VTR could only be interchanged with other machines using that specific format, hampering compatibility. For example, a reel of tape recorded on a Panasonic machine would not play on a Sony machine, and vice versa. The EIAJ-1 standard ended this incompatibility, giving those manufacturers a standardized format, interchangeable with almost all VTRs subsequently brought to market around that time. The format offered black-and-white video recording and playback on 1/2″ magnetic tape on a 7″ diameter open reel, with portable units using smaller 5″ diameter reels.

Production truck Mobile production control room

A television production truck or OB van is a small mobile production control room to allow filming of events and video production at locations outside a regular television studio. They are used for remote broadcasts, outside broadcasting (OB), and electronic field production (EFP). Some require a crew of as many as 30 people, with additional trucks for additional equipment as well as a satellite truck, which transmits video back to the studio by sending it up through a communications satellite using a satellite dish, which then transmits it back down to the studio. Alternatively, some production trucks include a satellite transmitter and satellite dish for this purpose in a single truck body to save space, time and cost.

Interruptible foldback (IFB), also known as interrupted foldback, interruptible feedback, or interrupt for broadcast is a monitoring and cueing system used in television, filmmaking, video production, and radio broadcast for one-way communication from the director or assistant director to on-air talent or a remote location. The names are backronyms for the Telex IFB-XXX model line. Less common names for the system include program cue interrupt (PCI) and switched talkback. IFB is often facilitated using an earpiece that on-air persons wear to get cues, feedback or direction from their control rooms. The earpiece itself may also be referred to as an IFB. Sometimes IFB is accomplished by the director talking to off-camera personnel who visually cue the on-camera talent.


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