TORONTO—In mobile sports video production, cables live a rough life. They get tossed around, thrown in piles, pulled, stretched and walked on week in and week out. Despite their lowly status on the video production pecking order, cables are fundamental to success—and when problems crop up, tracking down the root cause can be a time-consuming endeavor.
|Dome Production engineers use the WFM2300 to check video quality and audio delays.
For us engineers and technicians at Dome Productions, keeping tabs on cable health recently became much easier with the addition of nearly a dozen Tektronix WFM2300 portable waveform monitors. These compact battery-powered scopes mirror most of the functionality found in Tektronix rackmount waveform monitors, which we use extensively across our fleet of 18 multiformat production mobiles, including our three 4K/HDR trucks.
Setting up for live events is always a time-critical proposition, and having to learn or relearn how to use test and quality control equipment can slow you down. Since the WFM2300 uses the same interface as our other Tektronix waveform monitors, we essentially have the same QC tool to check signal quality outside as well as inside the truck.
The most typical use case is troubleshooting problems where signals aren’t getting from point A to point B as cleanly as they should. In such cases, I can put the scope at the end of a 10-line video mult, for example, and see the precise amount of dB loss. This makes it much easier to say, ‘yes, this cable is the problem,’ or the problem lies elsewhere. While most of the time we’re checking for video quality, the WFM2300 also lets us check for problems like audio delay.
With Dome’s HD and 4K capable trucks, it’s helpful that the WFM2300 has support for a wide variety of interfaces so we can use it across our entire fleet. The WFM2300 supports SD/HD-SDI, 3G-SDI, ASI, AES/EBU digital audio, composite black burst or tri-level sync reference signals as well as optical SDI and HDMI.
We often do a cable stress/margin loop test to count CRC errors, if present. This test can take some time to complete to ensure the signal is error free so battery life can become an issue. However, in our experience, the WFM2300 has given us more than enough time to run the necessary tests—the rechargeable battery can be swapped out if needed, but so far, we’ve had no issues.
Just as the battery’s longevity says quality, so does the rest of the instrument. Although I haven’t dropped one (and let’s hope I don’t), the overall design of the instrument is solid with a quality feel to the controls and case. Despite its relatively small size, the screen quality is excellent and I can work through the various displays such as eye pattern or picture and audio displays nearly as efficiently as I would on a full-size scope.
For video production environments that already use Tektronix waveform monitors, the WFM2300 is the ideal tool for performing QC checks outside the studio or mobile since it’s a natural extension to what you’re already doing. And, given the quality of the unit, its versatility and long battery life, it’s worth considering even if you’re not currently using Tektronix equipment.
Craig Moorman is a mobile broadcast engineering technician for Dome Productions. He can be contacted at [email protected].
For more information, please visit www.tek.com or call 1-800-833-9200.