Smaller, lighter and less expensive portable systems, including ones that use iPads and iPhones as displays, have expanded the market greatly. Some recent innovations in teleprompter design from nonbroadcast uses are filtering back into TV through the newsrooms of smaller-market stations and a new-media industry creating content online — evidence that the teleprompter can now be used anywhere. However, for upmarket broadcasters that value reliability over all else, larger, conventional systems are still in demand.
The broadcaster is spending $8 million to convert the news operations at its WKEF-WRGT ABC-Fox duopoly as part of its push to upgrade all its news producing stations. Now there are only three left to go.
Just three weeks into his second tenure as the head of the broadcast equipment firm, Tim Thorsteinson says he’s overseeing a new direction for the company that will be reflected in a host of new switchers, cameras, storage and software. “We want to dramatically simplify the way live content is produced and delivered for multiple screens.” Details on the new products are embargoed until March 1 and the gear will be on display at April’s NAB Show.
For the big game, CBS will take advantage of recent developments in 4K high-speed and high-resolution videography to not only slow down action in replays without noticeable motion blur or pixilation, but also to zoom in closely to see if a player’s foot is out of bounds or if the football breaks the plane of the end zone. Other networks are also working to push the envelope with high-speed, high-res cameras and Sony is working on next-generation sports production technology.
The Gray Television CBS affiliate in Tallahassee has tested and now ordered Sony’s new VJ Backpack, which contains everything you need for field production except the pathway home for the video. News Director Stan Sanders says, “The homerun for us was when people were watching our on-air content internally and nobody could tell the difference between which camera was being used. The quality is definitely there.”
When the hurricane devastated the coastal areas of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in October, broadcasters turned to the cellphone-based technology to get live feeds back to the stations when microwave or satellite delivery systems wouldn’t work. “It continues to improve,” says CBS’s David Friend. “The delays are less, the signals are better, there’s less dropout. When we took the risk of using this technology very early on, it was hit and miss. Now we are more confident in its stability and its performance. We view it as an essential tool in our newsgathering efforts.”
The broadcaster is putting the finishing touches on a new 57,000-square-foot facility that will house its KOTV and KQCW. It’s equipped with geothermal heating and cooling, LED studio lighting and features a 5,400-square-foot studio with gear from Grass Valley, Samsung, Solid State Logic, Vizrt and Avid, among others.
Highlights of next week’s annual conference include file transfers, IP infrastructure, cloud computing, captioning and compression systems for broadcasters. And as Wendy Aylsworth (pictured) becomes the group’s first woman president, SMPTE is stepping up its focus on recruiting more women and attracting computer literate young people into traditional engineering technologies.
As reliability and security issues are improving, more broadcasters are seriously looking at the value of cloud-based services. The uses range from writing, editing and sharing stories in the field, to quickly creating graphics, as well as managing and editing online video. A recent study of video producers finds that only 23% are using a cloud infrastructure today, but that more than 75% are considering deploying it.
Putting together Dish Nation, Twentieth Television’s new syndicated show that features morning DJs in five cities, is an unusual process. Each day, a team of 72 records 71.5 hours of high-def footage from 13 Sony EX3 cameras set up in the radio studios that gets edited and enhanced into a seamless 21-minute episode. Says the show’s EP, Stu Weiss: “Our workflow is one of a kind. We have implemented existing technology in unique ways that may not have been done before. Using the Avid AirSpeed 5000 … we’re able to bypass other ingesting processes and equipment that are normally used.”
To implement its “complete solutions” approach, the newly reorganized Grass Valley is now looking to partner with other vendors with complementary technology or possibly buy them, says the company’s new CMO Graham Sharp. “You may see some acquisitions over the coming six months,” he says.
As designs and prices get smaller, robotic cameras are cropping up on more stations’ wish lists, especially for groups with centralcasting ambitions. The top three manufacturers, offering different features and designs, see their market expanding both in the U.S. and internationally.
When Media General’s Augusta, Ga., ABC affiliate WJBF took management control of Schurz’s NBC affillate WAGT in 2009, one of its goals was to maintain the distinct personality of WAGT. So, when Media General moved the duopoly into a renovated Barnes & Noble bookstore last fall, each station got its own newsroom and studio. Although the gear is the same, the on-air products are not.
As the power of IT grows and financial constraints drive station purchasing, what began as simple compliance monitoring is clearly evolving into new areas for TV stations. Over time, the features have grown dramatically to include monitoring of the entire broadcast chain. With their help, broadcasters can catch frozen video frames, closed-caption glitches, soundtrack mistakes, missing metadata and dozens of other errors. The latest wrinkle: audio loudness monitoring for compliance with the CALM Act (as pictured on Volicon’s Observer).
The two companies are stepping up a joint effort to persuade consumers to cut the cable TV cord and substitute a mix of OTA and OTT programming. Direct supplies the antennas, while TiVo supplies the box that not only records and stores off-air programming, but also interfaces with the broadband video world of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. In the works is a plan that would let stations share in the monthly fees that TiVo charges by promoting the Antennas Direct-TiVo solution. “Our goal is to create an on-going, sustainable and increasing revenue stream for stations,” says Antennas Direct’s Pete D’Acosta.
With growing needs to repurpose traditional news broadcasts for online and social media, TV stations are turning to tech companies like Grass Valley (left), Ross Video and Critical Media. They offer products to segment newscasts into clips, either as part of news production automation systems or as stand-alone products.
Its just-announced purchase of Miranda positions it to exploit the explosion in TV production and distribution, says CEO John Stroup. Miranda expects the deal will give it resources to expand through internal development and through acquisition. It has an “active acquisition list” that includes companies that have “different solutions that might mesh well with our playout and product solutions,” says Miranda’s Kevin Joyce.
Broadcasters say they are set to implement the government’s latest Emergency Alert System requirements. However, before that can happen, the FCC needs to finish its analysis of last year’s nationwide test that turned up glitches. And the entire process is suffering from a lack of a requirement that state and local agencies participate.
No longer just a supplier of top-line production switchers, Canadian-based Ross Video offers a range of tools for TV production, particularly live news. At this year’s NAB Show, the company announced over a dozen new or substantially-redesigned products and unveiled its entry into camera robotics with the purchase of Cambotics. Among the CEO’s strategies is putting his customers’ needs first. “The first question we ask when designing a product is how are you going to use this? What do you need? This gives us an entrepreneurial outlook that tells us early on whether something will work or not.”
Broadcasters across the country and around the world are wondering how Tuesday’s announcement that Harris Corp. wants to spin off its storied broadcasting business will play out. The division’s president, Harris Morris, says the company “is going to seek a buyer who is committed and focused on this business and on growing in the media space. At the same time, we will try to eliminate disruption in the short-term while we go through the sale process.”
The new state-of-the-art studio in Rockefeller Center that houses the NBC O&O’s newscasts features a wide rooftop view of Manhattan behind anchors Darlene Rodriguez and Michael Gargiulo looking through what appears to be floor-to-ceiling windows. But those “windows” are actually five, adjacent 103-inch Panasonic plasma displays set on end and fed by a roof-top camera.
The Future of Broadcast Television Initiative gathered representatives at the NAB Show this week to begin its formidable quest to develop a worldwide broadcast TV standard. “The challenges of a global specification may seem daunting, but the benefits of achieving such a goal are enormous,” said Switzerland’s Phil Laven. The new standard would replace a variety of incompatible digital standards now in use. The hope is the new specifications will let TV stations broadcast future services like ultra high-definition television and 3D as well as improve mobile recepton and integrate broadcasting fully with the Internet.
Many news organizations are finding that their journalists — both print and broadcast — are much more productive when equipped with the very versatile phone powered by an ever-growing number of apps. “Now everybody’s a newsgatherer,” says KPNX Phoenix News Director Mark Casey. “Our photojournalists use traditional pro video cameras, the point-and-shoot or the iPhone — and sometimes all three.”
The new FCC rules aimed at quieting loud commercials and promos take a light approach to compliance and enforcement, industry experts say. For finding trouble, the FCC will rely of complaints from viewers and will take action only if it finds “a pattern or trend.” The rules don’t require broadcasters to continuously monitor syndicated and network programming for compliance. However, “large” broadcasters will have to perform annual spot checks of imported programming if it hasn’t been certified to be in compliance.
Engineers are betting the new video metadata specification under development within the Advanced Media Workflow Association will result in seamless interoperability of software and devices from a variety of vendors. “Our goal is to have a single file that could move from camera to edit to playout to archive and back, really to be able to traverse the entire work flow,” says CNN’s Michael Koetter. Part of the vision is a certification program that would allow vendors to put an “AS-10 Inside” seal on their products.
The growth of customer relationship management solutions and data analytics means stations have a number of options to help them collect and manage information about their customers. Among those in the sales software hunt are Harris, WideOrbit, Decentrix, Matrix Solutions and SalesForce.
Over the past decade, the T&B sector has consolidated dramatically. Where once there were 15-20 players, there are now just a handful, fiercely competing to meet clients’ demands for trimming costs and managing ads on the proliferating platforms, including the Web, digital subchannels and various mobile offerings. WideOrbit and Harris OSi are the dominant companies in the U.S. commercial TV station sector, but a number of others, including Myers, BroadView, Pilat and Sintec, want a piece of the pie.
While the growing momentum behind so-called channel-in-a-box technology is intriguing and makes a lot of sense, some broadcast engineers say tech vendors have jumped the gun, racing to market with technology that is not mature enough for American TV station operations. “The single box units are now being utilized more for cable channels than anything else,” says Sinclair’s Del Parks. “At the end of the day, a TV station is probably a little more complex to the degree that it may need some specific pieces of equipment.”
IT-based playout, or channel-in-a-box, is the hottest TV technology around these days. Propelled by broadcasters’ insatiable need to cut costs, Grass Valley, Miranda, Florical, Snell and Evertz are now offering the virtual master control technology and Harris and Harmonics may be next.
Cloud-based services for broadcasters include graphics, asset management, email for user-generated video, back-office functions and warehousing of documents and video. The list of services and vendors grows almost daily. Although some broadcasters, attracted mostly by the cost savings and improved efficiency, have embraced the services, others still harbor a basic mistrust of them, principally because they rely on the public Internet that lies beyond their control.
They are the market’s final stations to convert their news operations to high def. Sinclair’s WZTV will feature an interactive set, while Young’s WKRN has HD capability from the field ready to go. And Nashville’s other news producers — WSMV and WTVF — aren’t resting on their laurels either, adding new sets, graphics, file-based editing systems and news automation to stay cutting edge.
The Chicago ABC O&O has just made a large investment in bonded cellular technology that lets crews send live video back to the station over public wireless broadband networks. The gear comes from Dejero Labs. Portable transmitters the size of small suitcases send signals using an online system manager to in-station receivers, which capture the incoming video and convert it to genlocked SDI video ready for ingest into the station’s workflow.
Cowles is putting the finishing touches on a three-station centralcasting system in Washington state that uses fiber links obtained from Charter Cable in a retransmission consent deal to connect the hub — KHQ Spokane — with KNDO Yakima and KNDU Richland. The centralcasting system is the culmination of more than three years of planning and upgrading on the KHQ facility that also puts the station on the verge on being fully HD.
CEO Jack Perry says in addition to developing the platform that stations will be able to use to deliver their programming via broadband to interconnected TV sets, tablets and smart phones in their markets, his company is also lining up national programming to supplement whatever programming the participating stations choose to put on the platform. Preliminary testing on stations is slotted for next month, with the goal of a commercial rollout by January’s CES.
The FCC has mandated that stations install new equipment by Sept. 30 to receive the next generation of Emergency Alert System transmissions — CAP or Common Alerting Protocol. But with the FCC still tinkering with the equipment reguirements and many states not on board with the plan, some broadcasters are wondering why the deadline can’t be pushed back.
With an “arsenal” of three camcorders with solid-state media, the company is ready to compete with Sony, Panasonic and JVC for stations upgrading to high-def news. Says Canon’s Larry Thorpe: “We have jumped in … because we certainly have seen over recent years a very definitive move of broadcasters looking for lower-cost equipment for newsgathering … and we play down there in that lower-cost end.”
An alternative to microwave, bonded cellular technology loaded in a backpack is allowing the CBS O&Os to broadcast HD images in near real time from virtually anywhere. “This technology has made us truly mobile, on foot as well as in the vehicles,” says news chief David Friend.
Dubbed Selenio, the multifunction, rack-mounted unit uses modules to perform a variety of tasks — frame synchronization, video conversion, encoding, decoding, multiplexing and demultiplexing. It also give users a pathway to IP networking, while saving space and power, Harris says.
The CBS O&O in Philadelphia got its new, custom CBS-3 Mobile Weather Lab just in time for this winter’s record snow storms. Part live mobile weather unit and part promotional vehicle, the Audi Q7 Quattro four-wheel drive SUV has real time National Weather Service radar, two dashboard mounted video cameras, GPS navigation, a 42-inch Sony monitor, two Apple iPads, Skype two-way video, wireless broadband Internet and digital microwave connectivity.
A test of a single-frequency repeater in Washington this summer and fall indicates that it may be what broadcasters need to fill in coverage gaps in their mobile DTV service when they roll it out next year. “I’m cautiously optimistic,” says OMVC’s Sterling Davis (left).