Planning, practice, dash to finish line make WFTS-TV HD newscast transition successful
When WFTS-TV in Tampa, FL, launched its local “ABC Action News” newscast HD July 28, the transition hinged on a lot of planning and a bit of a beat-the-clock attitude.
To make it a success, the E.W. Scripps-owned station prepared a temporary control room completed 11 days before the switch for dry runs of the HD newscast, according to WFTS-TV director of engineering Jack Winter.
While station personnel were being trained on the new equipment to produce the HD newscast, Winter and his engineering team prepared for the dash to the HD finish line that would start following the completion of local newscasts July 27 and needed to be completed before the station went on air with its 6 p.m. newscast the next day.
“I would say we just did our homework very well,” Winter said. Part of those preparations included having the entire HD control room infrastructure ready to go in 10 days and designing the temporary setup for easy disassembly and reassembly in the station’s real control room.
“On Friday, we tore down the temporary setup and went into the control room,” Winter said. “We took out the old switcher and racks of equipment and reinstalled our new [Thomson] Grass Valley Kalypso and monitor wall. When we did our QC check at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, everything checked out.”
Adding to the smooth flow of the switchover were the Thomson LDK-4000 cameras, equipped with Canon lenses, in the news studio. Until the HD switchover, the station used the SDI output of the cameras. With the transition, the station began using the 720p output of the cameras.
For playout, WFTS-TV is using an Omneon server under control of Crispin automation. Evertz HD upconverters have been added to meet the station’s new HD requirements. Currently, the station shoots news footage in the field with its existing Sony Beta SX camcorders. Scripps has announced a deal with JVC, however, to equip its stations with JVC ProHD camcorders for HD acquisition. Winter said he expected to have those camcorders in place before the end of the year.
WFTS-TV has a signed frequency relocation agreement with Sprint Nextel for its 2GHz BAS relocation. As new 2GHz digital microwave equipment is rolled out, the station plans the concurrent addition of HD encoding equipment to give it live HD ENG capability, Winter said.
Since going live with its HD newscast, WFTS-TV has installed a WSI HD weather graphics system and is upgrading its Baron Services weather radar to HD.
Winter credited the station’s preparations with making its hasty HD transition a success and limiting the number of surprises it encountered to pleasant ones. “We were a little surprised by the versatility of the Kalypso on the output,” he said. “It’s quite a bit different from the [Grass Valley] DD35. That was a fine switcher, but with the versatility of the Kalypso, it made sense to make some changes at the last minute.”