Media Visions Reports

Media trade news reports by Ken Judah Freed

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December 9th, 2008

Discs Still Drive Video Storage

Broadcasters increasingly are moving to lower-cost disc drives and shared storage while solid-state flash memory is slowly gaining ground.

by Ken Judah Freed

Broadcasters wanting the most cutting-edge solutions for digital video storage can consider solid state “flash” memory, yet spinning disk drives and digital tape remain the most cost-effective solutions for the majority of operations today.

“We keep a week’s worth of material online in a shared storage system,” said Victor Murphy, director of technology and operations at CBS affiliate WUSA-TV in Washington, DC, “but we’re still archiving on tape, and I’m not sure when we’ll migrate the archive to online or nearline. With budgets being what they are, we have to be very careful about what we choose as solutions.”

WUSA recently moved from Avid’s Unity system to an Avid Interplay shared storage solution, which stores one week of programming, interstitials and spots, Murphy said. “It’s very comforting to have such a resilient and redundant system in house, so I’m sleeping a lot better at night now.”

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December 9th, 2008

Weather Graphics in the Eye of the Storm

Improvements in weather graphics systems are enabling stations to meet the challenge of hurricanes and other severe events.

Hurricane Gustav

Hurricane Gustav

by Ken J. Freed

Bill Quinlan will never forget the 2004 hurricane season. As the chief meteorologist for ABC affiliate WCJB-TV20 in Gainesville, Fl, he reported three major hurricanes hitting the Florida peninsula in six weeks. Hurricane “Charley” arrived on August 13, “Frances” arrived on September 5, and “Jeanne” arrived on September 26.

WCJB did not yet have the advanced weather graphics system recently acquired from WSI, Quinlan said, “so to show the power of the 65 MPH wind speed, one of the anchors went outside with his necktie tied to stick. The tie flew out straight and was flapping so hard he could barely hold on.”

Nowadays, WCJB uses the WSI TrueView Titan with Vortex severe storm real-time weather graphics system. “TrueView was enhanced this year to better track hurricanes now and compare them to the storm tracks of past hurricanes,” said Bill Dow, VP of media product management for Weather Services International (WSI), based in Andover, Maine.

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November 5th, 2008

DirecTV Wins Emmy for MPEG-4 AVC Deployment

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded a 2008 Technical and Engineering Emmy to DirecTV and Tandberg for their development and deployment of an MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding (AVC) systems for HDTV.
To learn more about the technical breakthrough behind MPEG-4 AVC and its implications for the television industry, TV Technology‘s Ken Judah Freed spoke exclusively with Romulo Pontual, the chief technology officer and executive vice president for engineering at DirecTV, a News Corporation company.

by Ken Judah Freed

TVT: Please describe what led up to the development of MEPG-4 AVC.

Pontual: We first asked ourselves how we could rebirth our activities to be a national leader in HD while preserving our existing services.

We saw by 2004 that the challenge was how to transition our satellite broadcasts from normal standard television to high definition. There was no technical standard for transmitting HD by satellite, and the nascent compression technology for HD still needed more testing before it was ready for commercial use.

After much research, we finally realized that we needed more satellite spectrum capacity and we needed new equipment to transmit in HD.

TVT: How did you go about doing that?

Pontual: We started three major projects. The first project was to expand the satellite fleet to be able to handle our transition from SD to HD. The next project was to change our transmission system to make it compatible with the new satellites for HD. The last project was to introduce a new compression method suitable for HD.

TVT: Can you say more about the compression project? Isn’t that where Tanberg became involved?

Pontual: Yes, we worked hand-in-hand with Tandberg as our compression supplier to develop and prove the technology we felt had the capacity to provide the quality we wanted. Together we decided that only MPEG-4 AVC could give us the compression rates and quality we wanted to obtain. Tandbeg’s competence in HD enabled us to jump-start our efforts.

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October 5th, 2008

CBS News in HD ‘Like Driving a Responsive Sports Car’

The Avid Nitris NewsCutter system let CBS News transmit HD at 1080i from the Democratic National Convention

by Ken Judah Freed

CBS News arrived in Denver to cover the Democratic National Convention less than a month after the “Tiffany network” commenced broadcasting the news in HD on July 28.

“We immediately started getting rave reviews for the quality of our video and audio compared to the other networks,” said Walt Leiding, technical supervisor and editor for CBS News, who’s working from a multi-trailer compound in the Pepsi Center parking lot outside the DNC.

“I’m sure the reason is that CBS News is broadcasting in 1080i instead of 720p like ABC and the others,” he said, “so even when we were carrying the same pool feed as everyone else, our signal has been superior.”

Live and edited signals from CBS News at the DNC in Denver passed through Fujutsu MPEG-4 encoders for transmission by Level 3 over ten 100 Mb paths (300 milliseconds latency) directly to the CBS News control room in New York, where the DNC coverage was switched live.

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September 5th, 2008

Democrats Descend on Denver

When the Democratic National Convention converges on the Pepsi Center here, Aug. 25–28, greeting the 7,000 party delegates and 25,000 visitors will be more than 15,000 members of the press representing local, national and international print, Internet, radio, and TV media.

Denver Pepsi Center

Denver Pepsi Center and Invesco Field

The Denver Pepsi Center, which opened in 1999, is home to the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, and other teams. The 675,000-square-foot building seats 18,000 to 20,000 people, depending on configuration, and contains 95 luxury suites.

Responsibility for accommodating all the TV reporters and their support teams at the arena falls to just one man on the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC)—Walter Podrazik, senior advisor for convention media planning.

A communications and logistics consultant based in Chicago, “Wally” Podrazik has handled complex technical media logistics at the Democratic presidential nominating conventions in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco.

During each election cycle Podrazik works with the media from the U.S. House Radio-Television Correspondents Gallery in Washington to coordinate their interests with the interests of the networks and the independents along with the interests of the five network pool members. The five pool members of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox will shoot video inside the hall for all pool subscribers. The pool is all-HD.

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August 30th, 2008

Denver Supertower Now Broadcasting

After years of legal delays from community opposition, the consolidated tower facility on Lookout Mountain is finally constructed and broadcasting digital TV to metro Denver.

By Ken Freed
Correspondent, TV Technology

It took an act of congress, but the long-delayed consolidated DTV tower on Lookout Mountain at the western edge of metropolitan Denver is finally built and actively in use.

Overseeing the construction effort since December 2007 has been Don Perez, the retired chief engineer from KUSA.  Passage of Senate Bill 4092 in December 2006, Perez said, gave the Lake Cedar Group consortium of local TV stations “a blank page to construct whatever we needed to construct on Lookout Mountain to deliver DTV to Denver, but we decided it was best to follow the ODP [original design plan] approved by Jefferson County before the federal act was passed.”

Sticking to the ODP, he said, meant embedding 80 percent of the new transmission building in the mountainside and anchoring the new 734-foot dielectric antenna tower 100 feet lower on the mountain than the base of the building, both actions to reduce visibility of the facility.

“Anchoring the tower into the cliff of solid rock was quite a feat,” Perez said. “The tower can withstand sustained winds of 110 MPH, not just occasional gusts. It’s really an engineering marvel.”

The ODP also called for burying the transmission lines in a tunnel between the building and the tower, doing this to avoid any possible winter icefall in high winds.

The final ODP promise will be kept in the summer of 2009 after the DTV transition, Perez said, which is removing the analog towers for the three stations from the mountaintop and fully restoring the native landscape.

As part of the process, he said, all the stations decided together about what would be common equipment bought by Lake Cedar Group, and what would be up to the stations to buy themselves, such as equipment for their separate rack rooms. Read the rest of this entry »

August 29th, 2008

GOP Ready for 2008 Convention

The Republican Party is preparing the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for their 39th national convention.

By Ken Freed
Correspondent, TV Technology

When the Committee On Arrangements for the 2008 Republican National Convention took over the Xcel Energy Center in Minneapolis-Saint Paul on July 21, they kicked off six weeks of intense work preparing the facility for the 39th Republican convention on September 1-4, 2008. This is the first national political convention in Minnesota since 1892, when the Republicans nominated Benjamin Harrison.

The 20,000-seat Xcel arena with four seating levels, a state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2000, needs to accommodate 30,000 delegates, party officials, volunteers, and guests plus 15,000 members of the media. Fortunately, much of the media operations will occupy 475,000 square feet of workspace in the adjoining Saint Paul RiverCentre convention center and The Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium.

One of the first tasks for the works crews, said Gordon Pennoyer, deputy director of media operations for the Committee On Arrangements (COA), is removing about 3,000 seats for the main convention podium and assorted television networks anchor or camera positions.

The Xcel Center already contains the Al Shaver Press Box on the fifth level along with 62 suite on that level and another dozen on the concourse level, of which 23 are being converted for use as media studios. Another nine media suites are being fabricated on the concourse level.

Crews are taking out seats in front of all these media suites, Pennoyer said, so studios can extend out and down, allowing reporters to do interviews and stand-ups with the convention floor behind them. Read the rest of this entry »

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