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Weather systems

Mark Twain once said that everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. My, how times have changed. Today’s viewers want to know about the weather and how it will affect them and their families. The greater the effect that the weather will have — whether it’s just a chance of rain or more severe weather such as a hurricane or torna- do — the greater the interest. Viewers want the most accurate and specifi c information possible, and they want it presented in a display that’s easy to understand and viewer-friendly.

Weather companies are responding to this need with new technology that will help keep viewers safe.

Storm alerts

AccuWeather recently introduced the CinemaLive HD weather display system, which offers realistic virtual sets and scenes, live performance on every layer, and meteorological tools and coaches. The system combines an advanced 3-D graphics engine with vir- tual sets, custom-built local landscapes and specially designed HD weather ele- ments to produce realistic local weather segments. Custom-designed 3-D mod- els of local landmarks are available. The system includes virtual sets ready for on-air use. To complement these graphics, it also imports virtual sets from designers such as Virtualsets .com and Full Mental Jacket.

CinemaLive HD makes old-fash- ioned rendering architectures obso- lete. It offers live performance on every graphics layer, which makes weather presentations fast to build. Likewise, it offers state-of-the-art mapping technology to automatically and con- tinuously integrate up-to-the-minute warnings and current conditions into ready-for-air graphics.

The company’s SelectWarn 2.0 is an advanced, on-air radar system that delivers on-screen weather graph- ics and video fast. It uses National Weather Service’s (NWS) new, of- fi cial storm-based warnings, which are 70 percent more precise than the traditional countywide warnings. The new release includes extensions of SelectWarn’s StormVision, which tracks storm movement and precise lightning forecasts up to 30 minutes into the future; AccuRain, which uses rain gauge data to show viewers how much rain was received in specifi c neighborhoods; and an enhanced graphics toolkit for the annotation of automatically generated, continu- ously updated on-air radar displays.

The system includes “ground-truth” reports that present severe weather in terms of precise locations that con- nect with viewers. NWS storm-based warnings and local storm reports are plotted in real time with no delay, al- lowing stations to air severe weather coverage quickly. To supplement these automated displays, SelectWarn can also present reports filed by news teams in the field via Storm Hawk — a handheld, GPS-based weather monitoring and forecasting device. It sends reports and images directly to SelectWarn 2.0 for immediate, on-air display of the exact GPS location of the report.

In addition, the system includes earth-shaking maps that portray neighborhood damage within 15 minutes after an earthquake, as well as SelectWarn street-level flood-inundation animations. The latest upgrades speed the on-air presentation of street-level flood-inundation animations that show viewers how and where rivers and waterways will be flooding. The technology illustrates the river flooding at each stage over street-level mapping to quickly alert viewers about which homes and businesses should be evacuated, as well as which roadways will be closed.

In addition to HD systems, AccuWeather offers a turnkey mobile Web platform. According to recent Pew Research surveys, more than 75 percent of U.S. households have one or more mobile handsets; this is more than 225 million in all. Most of these handsets are Web-capable. With AccuWeather’s Third-Screen Network, media outlets can get their content, including weather information, on mobile devices quickly and easily.

Going HD

Weather Central has taken note of the number of stations making the switch to HD. The company offers 3D:LIVE, an HD weather graphics system. Its real-time environment enables broadcasters to tell the weather story as it unfolds, without rendering. It provides detailed topography and city-level resolution images, offering imagery for any location on the globe.

For storm analysis and prediction, Weather Central offers its ESP:LIVE HD storm tracking system. The system gives weather presenters the ability to alert, forecast and report every kind of damaging weather.

The company has also introduced MetroVision. The system provides viewers with a visual forecast, allowing stations to incorporate local photographs with simulated weather phenomena to create powerful forecast imagery and to more effectively explain the forecast.

HD displays

Baron Services has created HD-compatible weather displays that deliver native 1920 x 1080 support, eliminating the need for upconversion, which can degrade an otherwise pristine image. Each HD system uses a dual-head solution, separating weather visuals from the user interface and delivering full HD weather graphics and radar display.

The company’s FasTrac HD system delivers the clarity of 1080i support in widescreen format, allowing meteorologists to deliver more comprehensive, high-resolution weather presentations. The system includes Automated Tropical Storm Tracking and other upgrades that are useful for the hurricane season. For example, with Automated Tropical Storm Tracking, meteorologists can instantly see the current position and forecasts for position, pressure, winds and movement during tropical events. ETA Scan rapidly scans across a manual or automatically created storm track, refreshing the ETA marquee box with a list of all the communities that are in harm’s way throughout the entire duration of the track.

Another upgrade is support for dual-polarization display and hydrometeor classification. Dual-polarization radars use horizontal and vertical pulses to derive accurate information on precipitation types and rainfall rates. A final enhancement allows users to view updated severe weather outlooks from the Storm Prediction Center at any time. Different viewing categories are accessible, including thunderstorms, winds, hail and tornadoes.

FasTrac can double as an interface with a live radar, allowing meteorologists to manage radar operation straight from their weather center. They can track storms and their effects on cities and towns down to the neighborhood level, while also pinpointing the exact arrival time at a certain location.

Likewise, the company’s VIPIR HD weather system integrates radar and forecast display, live weather graphics and sensor data into one presentation, in real time with no rendering. The system has the built-in capability to deliver an entire weather show, complete with storm tracking, current conditions and Baron Advanced Meteorological Systems (BAMS) forecasting. It automatically tracks dangerous storms at neighborhood-level and navigates 2ft resolution imagery for an entire DMA and 15m resolution imagery for multiple states.

Baron Services’ StormWarn alert crawl has recently been updated with HD capabilities and bilingual support for English and Spanish speaking viewers. The system delivers all the functionality of the SD system, adding 16:9 display and native 1080i or 720p performance.

It allows stations to internally and externally key. Internal key capabilities enable the meteorologists to control the graphics overlay at the StormWarn computer. With external keying, StormWarn sends the graphics needed for overlay to the master control operator.

With the system, National Weather Service watches, warnings and advisories can be configured to go on-air automatically. Customizable features allow meteorologists to list community names and display county maps, live radar or next-generation radar displays. Squeezebacks with customizable border graphics offer a way to unobtrusively show alert graphics at the same time as regular programming.

In addition, the company offers live radar and integrated Doppler systems, as well as Mobile Threat Net. The system uses a satellite signal from XM WX Satellite Weather to provide news trucks, storm vans and helicopters with real-time radar and other weather information.

Weather 24x7

Viewers want instant access to live weather information and local forecasting, and broadcasters can achieve this with Weather Metrics’ 24x7 Channel.Net. The fully automated weather and news content management system integrates information and data from multiple sources and displays it in a single screen for broadcast on a digital and local cable channel.

The system displays a variety of weather and information sources at one time, providing viewers with live data and weather information 24 hours a day. It ingests and displays live video, live data from neighborhood weather networks, Internet-delivered images, graphic files, animated files, live radar, looped NWS radar, recorded video and standard text. As data or files are updated in existing weather systems, an automated file transfer process accesses the newest information and adds it to the display.

Also, the company’s WxVision.Net combines live weather information with live streaming video via the all-digital WxVision camera. All video is sent over a standard DSL Internet connection, enabling users to view live weather conditions from remote locations.

Weather Metrics’ Severe Weather.Net is a fully automated, severe weather and news crawl system, available in both SDI and HD output. The Internet- based, NWS automated system includes 99 severe weather warning parameters. It supports RSS, XML and text feeds, downstream and upstream keying, DVE squeezeback, and custom messages with graphics.