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06.02.2004
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
CyberGuy files live video, audio reports from 35,000 feet

Last month, CyberGuy Kurt Knutsson of KTLA in Los Angeles assured his membership of ENG Mile High Club when he became the first journalist to file live video and audio reports from 35,000 feet overhead aboard a Lufthansa flight bound for Los Angeles.

Knutsson, whose CyberGuy news reports are syndicated by Tribune Broadcasting and appear on 141 stations throughout the country, was aboard the airline’s May 17 inaugural flight rolling out Boeing’s airborne Connexion broadband Internet service.

Using a $90 Logitech camera connected to one laptop for video, a second laptop running Skype – a free Internet telephony application - for audio and an 802.11 lb Wi-Fi wireless connection from both to the plane’s outbound 256k satellite Internet connection, Knutsson began filing live reports from the plane somewhere over Greenland.

“At about 8:20 a.m. Eastern time,” recalled Knutsson, “we made our first live shot to WPIX Channel 11 (in New York City) and the entire plane applauded.”

“Suddenly, there was a big sigh of relief from the Lufthansa workers who helped out.”

As the plane continued westward, Knutsson filed live stories with various Tribune stations.

Prior to the flight, Knutsson and a small team of engineers and MIS personnel from KTLA worked with Lufthansa to iron out potential problems. Knutsson tested several video applications, but settled on MSN Messenger’s video capabilities because it offered the easiest way to accommodate Firewall considerations, he said. An old weather system computer at KTLA was converted to take in Knutsson’s video stream and clean it up for air.

Video frame rates varied from one to five per second, primarily because the outbound 256k Internet stream was shared by all passengers who were online. However, the limited bandwidth didn’t diminish the significance of filing a story from 35,000 feet.

"One of the most important things, is that it was a first of its kind for broadcast," said Brad Luck, CyberGuy producer. The fact that we could do it and maintain a connection with a number of stations throughout the morning was amazing.”

Knutsson too sees the significance of the event, but he’s not sure of its future ramifications.

“Where does it take us? I don’t know,” he said. “But last week you couldn’t do it and this week you can.”

To stream a saved version of the CyberGuy’s report, please visit: http://ktlafeedroom.com. Click on the features setting, scroll to Kurt the CyberGuy and select the Tech Air story.

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