Broadcast engineers in Alaska essentially do the same things as their southern engineering cousins. Working in the land of the midnight sun, however, does have its challenges. The environment doesn't tolerate poorly designed or temperamental equipment. In addition, Alaska's distance from the lower 48 states — and the weather — makes it difficult for stations to receive support.
The state gets 90 percent of its supplies via cargo ship twice a week through the port of Anchorage. So, when something fails, or a part is needed, time is not on our side. Due to the weather, airfreight isn't dependable either. The same goes for shipping with the well-known carriers. Shipping overnight often takes a week. These factors all contribute to how a broadcaster selects products.
I grew up in the television business, getting my feet wet in my father's production company. Now I work for KTUU-TV Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate in Anchorage.
The station serves Anchorage, as well as translators that serve all of south-central Alaska. In addition, much of our programming is also on Alaska Rural Communications Services (ARCS), a satellite service that provides our news programming to the entire state. Two-thirds of Alaska's viewing audience watched KTUU's morning show during the November sweeps. We have a footprint that many stations, not to mention networks, envy.
Capture and review
In August 2005, I was authorized to rebuild our news graphics room. Keeping future operations in mind, I wanted this new facility to have the capacity of receiving high definition in and out.
After reviewing several manufacturers' capture cards, I chose the Blackmagic Design equipment for its in and out capabilities, as well as its price. The DeckLink HD Plus card can connect to anything I need it to. Most importantly, it is fully interoperable with my software suite, which consists of Sony Vegas, and Adobe's After Effects and Photoshop. With the card installed, I can receive HD and SD in and out of my computer. My next step was to find a way to easily view the HD material.
We have limited HD monitoring capability with only SD throughout our station. To view video on an HD monitor, I had to walk across the building. My solution was to install Blackmagic's HDLink. It allows me to connect SDI video directly into my LCD monitor via its DVI-D output port. I get incredible HDTV resolution, and every individual pixel is mapped directly onto the pixels of the monitor, resulting in an ideal digital-to-screen pixel-for-pixel HDTV display. I now can view the conversion in my office on a 24in Dell LCD panel in full 1920 × 1080 resolution.
When working in NTSC, HDLink doubles the size of the displayed image, making viewing easier. Most computer displays are limited to a refresh rate of approximately 60Hz, so HDLink automatically applies pull-down to display video frame rates. It includes a built-in Power PC processor, allowing automatic adjustment of native display resolutions using VESA E-EDID1.3.
Help in a pinch
During the last Winter Olympics, we had just started broadcasting in digital with the ability to air HD. Some State of Alaska public safety spots were made in HD, but the only way to get them to tape and then on-air was to import the HD computer file into Sony Vegas and export them through the capture card as an HD SDI output. I had preplanned the hardware and functionality, and it went right to air with a paying client in just six months.
The HDLink could also be used in other ways at KTUU. For example, our sales team could attract clients by setting up examples of our NBC prime-time programming with locally produced HD spots inserted. And the presentation could be done in-house or at the client's place of business.
Another possibility is using it at tradeshows. Prime time is our moneymaker for commercial sales, so to show our programming at the HD level is a useful tool, and HDLink makes this easy.
All we need to do is to take our HDCAM tape machine and show it on an HD monitor instead of an ordinary SD monitor. This would allow us to show our potential sponsor the video in HD right on the spot. The HDLink doesn't require an engineer to set it up for the sales team. It is simple enough for the salespeople to set up themselves.
While we can't control the weather, dependable, high-quality products like those that we have recently integrated into our station make my life easier.
Steven Rychetnik is director of news and graphics technical operations atKTUU-TV Channel 2, the NBC affiliate in Anchorage, AK.