Build a workflow to edit quality news stories every weeknight
Work on editing and post production simultaneously
Meet tight deadlines with high-quality video and audio content
Output video to multiple social media channels
Launched documentary-style nightly news show for HBO in 60 days
Saved hundreds of hours each week with an integrated audio post-finishing workflow
Reduced the time it takes to mix audio for a 30-minute television show by 80%
Earned a Peabody Award, and four News and Documentary Emmy awards for “Charlottesville: Race & Terror”
Uncovering essential news daily
From its beginnings as a provocative magazine, VICE Media has long found success by shining the light on subjects not normally covered by mainstream media. VICE News continues this tradition by using in-depth investigative reporting to uncover serious news stories that fall between the cracks.
In 2016, VICE News turned its eye to daily news programming with the announcement of VICE News Tonight, a 30-minute nightly news show that airs on HBO. While most daily news shows rely on live news anchors who read the fast-changing stories of the day, VICE News Tonight decided to stick to its roots with pre-recorded, documentary-style news segments.
Mark Leombruni, Head of News Audio for VICE Media, was one of the first to join the VICE News Tonight post-production team, working with Vice President of Post-Production Ben Baker to create the new show. “It was an interesting challenge,” says Leombruni. “The format of the show was meant to be investigative journalism, which is quite different from the normal nightly news TV broadcast. We knew we’d be facing very serious time-crunches to produce shows nightly, but we still wanted to deliver high-quality programming that could stand up to any other show on HBO.”
Faced with extremely tight daily deadlines, the VICE News Tonight team knew that they would need to streamline workflows as much as possible. Editors would likely need to keep working until the last minute, leaving no time to export files for post-finishing processes. The team decided to create a workflow where all editing and post-finishing processes took place at the same time using Adobe Premiere Pro.
“Because of the rate at which we need to edit and finish our new show every day—8 segments a day, 40 segments a week—we have no time to turn over into any other package,” says Baker. “We developed our own Adobe Premiere Pro template that’s distributed to all of the editors and covers everything from the correct frame rate to use to their graphic elements, lower thirds, identifiers, end slates, and intro cards.”
“We’re saving ourselves hundreds of hours by working off the same timeline in Adobe Premiere Pro rather than round tripping to other programs,” adds Leombruni. “Thanks to Adobe Premiere Pro, we’re delivering award-winning news documentaries four days a week, in record time.”
“Typically, it takes about 30 hours to mix a half-hour TV show, but by post finishing audio entirely in Adobe Premiere Pro, we reduced that time by 80%.”
Head of News Audio, VICE Media
Reducing mixing time by 80%
When Leombruni joined the VICE News Tonight team, they only had 60 days to solidify the workflow before the show started. The team created a workflow where they start by duplicating the project on the server. Colorists and audio mixers work on the duplicates of the project within Premiere Pro. Since all the work is done in Premiere Pro, editors can easily combine the color-treated visuals and audio mixes from the duplicate projects back into their master edit Premiere Pro timelines.
Some shows feature segments that dig into long-term problems or issues. For a segment on the Flint water crisis, a journalism team shot in Michigan for four days. The footage was handed over to editors who took three days to edit the final piece together with the post-finishing team adjusting audio and color at the end of each day.
But many episodes of VICE News Tonight feature multiple segments covering different daily news topics. Editors might start working on footage as soon as it arrives at the studio via card or streaming from a live feed, and they may continue editing right up to air as news changes throughout the day. For these stories, editing and post-finishing teams need to be working on the project simultaneously to finish in time for the broadcast.
To maximize collaboration, both with editors and other members of the post-finishing team, VICE News decided to adjust audio entirely using standard Premiere Pro features and stock plug-ins.
“The entire audio mix stays within Adobe Premiere Pro using the Essential Sound panel,” says Leombruni. “It saves a tremendous amount of time because we don’t have to translate our audio work into another program. The most important thing for me is that the Essential Sound panel is simply fantastic. It saves us the time from having to manually gain audio clips to the right volume. In terms of plug-ins the stock EQ is our go to. It’s so clean and transparent. There is no problem that we can’t fix.”
Leombruni also created a series of templates for the group processing of audio that further streamline the edit. Anyone can easily apply the temples to adjust audio to legal broadcast standards or process sources with a preset tone, which helps keep audio consistent not only across one segment but across all segments within an episode.
“Typically, it takes about 30 hours to mix a half-hour TV show, but by post finishing audio entirely in Adobe Premiere Pro, we reduced that time by 80%,” says Leombruni. “We can get audio mixing done for a half-hour program in about 90 minutes from start to finish.”
Documenting terror in Charlottesville
VICE News Tonight journalist Elle Reeve had been following the activities of alt-right communities for months leading up to the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Two VICE News teams were on the ground with an initial goal of interviewing organizers and filming the rally, but the story grew much bigger. VICE News Tonight quickly decided to air the violent and deadly clashes as a special 22-minute documentary the following Monday night.
By Monday morning, the VICE News Tonight team had already edited the three days of footage into a 40-minute draft cut. Editing continued throughout the day, incorporating press conferences and reactions released throughout the day on Monday. With help from the flexible Premiere Pro workflow, the team kept working on the edit until minutes before the episode aired on Monday night.
Because the editing team could use the Essential Sound panel templates to automatically adjust and organize audio at each stage of the edit, basic audio settings such as volume and gain were already very consistent by the time audio mixing team started working on the sound. The mix team could focus their limited time on adjustments that really affected sound quality, such as equalizing clips, restoring audio, removing background noise, cleaning up distorted audio, or arranging sounds on b-roll footage.
The episode “Charlottesville: Race and Terror” went viral, attracting 60 million viewers across broadcast and social media channels. The story won four News and Documentary Emmy Awards, an ACE Eddie Award for editing, and a Peabody Award for achievement in news programming.
“The weekend of Charlottesville, events were happening very quickly and the story was changing every minute,” says Leombruni. “Adobe Premiere Pro gives us a seamless workflow so that our world-class editing and production team can focus on presenting compelling, high-quality, award-winning content.”
“Working entirely within Adobe Premiere Pro allows us to achieve rapid turnaround times while supporting flexibility between editorial and post-finishing teams. We’re showing the world that we can deliver top-quality audio and video every day.”
Head of News Audio, VICE Media
Using graphics to help tell stories
VICE News also takes advantage of the graphics capabilities in Adobe Creative Cloud to help tell stories and streamline workflows. Graphic designers create Motion Graphics templates in Adobe After Effects that editors can easily access through the Essential Graphics panel in Premiere Pro to incorporate graphics that help drive each segment. Motion Graphics templates free the graphics team to focus on creating high-end content to enhance storytelling.
“Having our motion designers and art directors create Motion Graphics templates in Adobe After Effects for editors to easily take advantage of has enabled us to focus more attention on the graphics that we really want to do,” says Baker. “We can use graphics and animations to illuminate audio interviews, oral histories, or places where we couldn’t get a camera, taking our audience places that they don’t get to go with other news outlets.”
Delivering news on any channel
Although the primary focus for VICE News Tonight is the nightly broadcast, VICE News also needs to output footage across multiple channels. Episodes are uploaded to YouTube one week after broadcast, and clips are published across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to promote each episode.
VICE News also created a series of templates that output footage with the correct specifications for each channel with just one click. This allows the production team to achieve same-day delivery for multiple channels instead of handing the work off to overnight staff for next-day delivery. The change is particularly noticeable for social media, as clips can be created and uploaded throughout the day before the show goes to air.
Other divisions in VICE Media are starting to take note of the flexible Premiere Pro workflow used for VICE News Tonight. For example, VICE Media uses the workflow for VICE LIVE on VICELAND and also used it to deliver a 90-minute special report, “The World in Disarray”, for HBO.
“Working entirely within Adobe Premiere Pro allows us to achieve rapid turnaround times while supporting flexibility between editorial and post-finishing teams,” says Leombruni. “We’re showing the world that we can deliver top-quality audio and video every day.”