News Corp. christened FOX Business Network (FBN) Oct. 15 in 720p HD after a 180-day marathon to integrate major new systems, including digital newsroom, storage, HD graphics and new studios, for the launch.
The new financial network, co-located with the FOX News Channel in Manhattan, combines a mix of studio and off-site programming, including “The Dave Ramsey Show” from Nashville, TN, and “Bulls & Bears” from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City — originated in HD. For typical ENG shots, FBN shoots 16:9 SD with Panasonic DV50 P2 camcorders, which is upconverted for the HD audience; however, remotes from the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ are shot in native HD and fed back to network headquarters over fiber lines FOX installed for the new network.
The new FOX Business Network, which feeds both SD and HD to a combined estimated 30 million subscribers, relies on a combination of new technology, including Ikegami studio cameras, Sony production switchers, Evertz signal conversion equipment, Omneon ingest and playout servers, Pebble Beach playout control, IBM storage solutions (including a tape robot), Ardendo digital asset management, Miranda Technologies master control and several Vizrt graphics engines, which give the network its distinctive HD look.
The centerpiece of that graphic look is the FOX HD Wing, a piece of HD screen real estate that combines the two HD side wings into a single unit on the right side of the screen while HD video is displayed in 4:3 to the left. The Fox HD Wing gives FBN room to provide expanded graphic support for certain topics.
Multiple Vizrt graphic engines are integrated to accomplish the graphics presentation. They’re responsible for composing the FOX HD Wing and lower thirds. To integrate commercials into the programming, FBN uses a DVE and its Miranda master control to reposition the video portion of the screen to center cut the 4:3 aspect ratio for non-HD commercials. For its SD audience, FBN presents a condensed version of information from the FOX HD Wing in more traditional on-screen graphics buckets.
While having a recently upgraded digital HD router, an existing audio and video infrastructure and general newsgathering procedures in place made the 180-day project somewhat easier, it wasn’t without its challenges, said Greg Ahlquist, senior network director and project manager of the digital newsroom integration for FNC and FBN.
The biggest challenge had to do with signal conversion and audio de-embedding and embedding issues, he said. “To have [FNC SD and FBN HD] co-exist for the transition, it seemed like there was always the challenge of forgetting that one little piece of the chain going toward fulfillment or a remote,” he said. “We’d think through the design as closely as we could, and there would be a gotcha here and there. I think when you are making the transition, those are a lot of the challenges that exist.”
With FBN up and running in HD, News Corp. has begun exploring doing HD at FOX News, he said. “We are full speed ahead. It’s tough living in both worlds. I don’t think it is an opportunity to pause,” Ahlquist said.