Nadia Natasha, a Studio Production Manager behind her work desk
Nadia Natasha, a Studio Production Manager behind her work desk

Dressed in a black blazer, matching work pants and a striped top, Nadia Natasha Azmi walks in with a radiant smile; it belies the fact that she had just completed a morning shift that began at 7am.

Nadia is a Studio Production Manager at Mediacorp. She leads a team of automation directors and technical coordinators to manage news production for CNA and Suria, in addition to directing news programmes.

According to Nadia, the news studio environment is a dynamic and adrenaline-charged environment like no other. She explains that:

“Usually, I will have a run-down of the daily events. However, when there is breaking news such as earthquakes, we will end up doing things on the fly. This is exciting because you don’t know where you are heading but have to put everything together calmly.”

As the Studio Production Manager, Nadia is responsible for reviewing and updating daily work processes. When she’s not doing that, her time is spent researching solutions to improve operations. That ensures the studio has the right technology to control issues from manpower, to automated scheduling for a 24-hour news cycle.

Besides that, Nadia also double-hats as the Mosart Lead. Mosart, short for Vizrt Mosart, is a studio automation system that controls almost all the devices in the news studio.

The Mosart system allows Nadia to preset and control various elements of a news bulletin such as the music, graphics and transition effects, with just a click of the button.

Sharing more about her job, Nadia says: “I direct both Mosart automated and non-automated news bulletins. For non-automated news bulletins, I will sit in the control room and direct the different roles in the control room on what needs to go on air, etc.”

For automated news bulletins, Nadia takes a hands-on approach by operating the system and working closely with the editorial and technical teams to understand their requirements for the news bulletin.”

Systems like Mosart have become critical to ensuring that news bulletins play out in an error-free and synchronised manner, instead of having someone to control each element individually. This is especially so in today’s environment, as news are reported on a 24/7 basis.

“To stay relevant and competitive, CNA went 24 hours several years ago. This was one of the biggest changes for us. We had to figure out how to sustain the 24 hours in terms of producing the content (for the editorial team), keeping it current and airing it without a glitch (for the studio team).”

For instance, Nadia had to manage the 24/7 news reporting when news broke about the MH17 plane crash during her overnight shift.

Trump-Kim Summit: Virtual Reality Set – DayTrump-Kim Summit: Virtual Reality Set – Night
Trump-Kim Summit: Virtual Reality Set – Day and Night

Job transformation with automation

As Nadia recalls, “Back in Caldecott, we had five or six people working in the studio. All of them had to work long hours.”

The introduction of the Mosart system has improved operations.

“Our hourly news broadcast on a day-to-day basis is fully automated,” Nadia says, “For special shows like our Budget or elections, we can have it on semi-automation, where someone controls elements such as taking live feeds and adding transitions manually.”

“With Mosart, we can convert some of the old roles into ones that require manual yet specialised skills. For example, we can have nicer and more flexible shots compared to a traditional camera, so that adds value to the presentation of the show. Automation also means that I do not have to stretch my team for long hours. Instead, I can use more people on my primetime belt and my morning shows.”

Television news requires a growing degree of technical aptitude

Of course, automation doesn’t pay off immediately. Nadia and her team needed to undergo a good amount of training first; but they had an excellent teacher:

“We had formal training on how to use Mosart as well as studio visits to BBC”, she says, “BBC was one of the first few broadcasters to adopt Mosart automation so we went there to see how their set-up is like and how it worked in their environment so that we can customise something for ourselves.”

The need to be excited, rather than put off by new technology, is essential to anyone working as a television crew:

“You need to constantly keep yourself updated and be open to changes as the industry is constantly changing. My role also has a technical aspect as well. While I may not need to know how to operate the equipment, I need to understand how it functions. For instance, with Mosart, I need to understand how it works so that I know its limitations.”

The technical aspect isn’t just confined to automation. Nadia and her team also get to be creative on the job, and the adoption of new digital technology empowers that:

“One memorable moment would be the Trump-Kim summit because it was one of the biggest news events,” Nadia says, “For the Trump-Kim summit, instead of using a 2D picture, we had Virtual Reality (VR) sets where we had a green screen as the background and an AR graphics over it.”

“With this technology, we can show the audience what Trump’s vehicle looks like and how it drives in. It was also the first time we were using a VR set, so we had to work on weekends and very long hours, but we were ultimately happy with the outcome.”

Trump-Kim Summit: Virtual Reality (VR) set with AR graphics over it
Trump-Kim Summit: Virtual Reality (VR) set with AR graphics over it

In fact, AR use might be the next big thing on the agenda: “We have to constantly use AR because viewers want a more experiential news consumption experience,” Nadia says.

“For example, for the Thailand cave rescue story, viewers want to see where the boys are trapped because it is a long cave and what are the challenges the rescuers have so we have to present it in AR so the viewers can visualise the story better.”

It takes more than book learning to join the television news studio

Nadia has a say in hiring decisions for her team. When asked about what it takes to join the industry, she spills the beans on the key considerations involved in the selection process.

“We do not expect people to have knowledge of Mosart because the system is not widely available. But I am looking for people who are IT savvy, curious and open to learning. The candidate should also have the basic skills like how to direct the camera and how to shoot.”

One of the questions that Nadia usually asks interviewees is “I have this system and I give you a manual. Will you try the system or read the manual first?”

She shared that “This question gives us a sense of the person’s learning style. If the interviewee says that he or she will check Google, it shows that the person is curious and willing to learn things on their own without being spoon-fed. We want people who take the initiative.”

Beyond that, soft skills such as communication and the ability to handle stress are highly valued in the news studio too.

“Communication skills are important because directors need to communicate with everyone. Likewise, for the technical crew, they also need to talk to the editorial team to understand their requirements and assist the director.”

“You also need to be able to handle stress in a live news environment. If anyone screams in the control room, it causes everyone to become anxious.”

Staying competitive in the digital news industry

With the pace of technology today, it’s a big challenge to constantly improve one’s skills, and stay competitive. As Nadia shares:

“We are aware that some trends are coming, but the key issue is how to plan for them. For instance, a lot of research is involved when we plan for the budget for the next two years because we do not know how the industry will evolve in the future. Someone might come up with new technology for the industry but we try out and find that it may not work in our environment, so a lot of research and resources are needed to understand the industry.”

Besides planning ahead, Nadia also upskilled herself in the traditional way: with a solid, ongoing education. Although some would say she was past the need for school (Nadia had been working in Mediacorp for two years), she decided to go back to school for a degree.

She’s also thinking of taking coding classes, because “our industry is going digital”. Nadia feels that coding and programming are going to be essential on the job.

Nadia also keeps in touch with professionals in other news studios. “I try to understand how they are working and whether there is anything new that they are trying, which we may be able to adopt in our news studio.”

Looking into the future of the newsroom

When asked about future trends in the newsroom, Artificial Intelligence and virtual reality come to mind.

“One area I am curious about is how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to feature in our news stream system. Currently, we receive a lot of data so I would like to find out how AI is going to help filter those data, and also how it will make our devices smarter. That is where the industry is going,” Nadia says.

With the recent developments in these areas, it seems apparent that journalism is taking on a more technical slant. While the core skills of a news crew will remain the same (a nose for the news, and good camera work and directing), they may soon have to complement these.

While traditional skills are still key to news reporting and storytelling, digital tools have revolutionised journalism. Journalists, curious by nature, are embracing opportunities to learn new skills.

Why Singapore’s Infocomm industry is the next big career opportunity

Even in the early 2000s, the growth of ecommerce hinted at the coming digital revolution. But over the past decade, the growth in the infocomm industry – along with attendant demand for digital professionals – has grown exponentially.

On the private hire vehicle scene, Grab and latent competitor GoJek have emerged as major transport players, within the last five years. In finance sector, the growing demand for online banking, eWallets, and other secured transactions have fuelled a massive demand for cybersecurity experts. In addition, Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative has seen a push for SMEs to go digital, fuelling demand for infocomm professionals at multiple levels – from the smallest start-ups, to companies that are rapidly scaling up.

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This article is written by Elena Owyong and information is accurate as of 14 August 2019