Applied Technology: ParkerVision's live production automation system

ParkerVision’s live production automation system

By Kurt Stoneburner

Throughout the world, broadcast television is constantly evolving. The current realities of broadcasting are forcing stations to cut expenses. CBS affiliate KBAK-TV in Bakersfield, CA, is turning to new technology to assist this process. The station took its first big step in early 2001 with the installation of a ParkerVision PVTV Digital Studio News 24 system, a Windows NT-based production system that integrates video, audio, machine, camera and teleprompter control functions. This allows one to two people to operate all the station’s live-production functions.

Installation at KBAK

KBAK’s system includes three Digital CameraMan 3CCD robotic pan/tilt cameras and a Digital SHOT Director multi-camera controller. The station uses the system for 18 hours of live news per week in addition to news cut-ins. As a result, the system has cut production costs and added a layer of consistency to the station’s program. The ability of one director to lay out the entire newscast prior to going on-air makes for cleaner shows. In addition, it is not uncommon for the shows to be error-free. The system will pay for itself in about two and a half years.

The live auction

Recently, the station decided to add a twist to its usage of the news system – it employed the system in a live auction to benefit the renovation of a local movie theater. The event would feature local businesses donating items that would be auctioned off live on-air. Because this was the first time the station used the system for a non-news shoot, the station had to break out of its news format. It was necessary to set up a new show macro involving different camera shots, effects, hot keys and other elements. The station created a specialized show package through a different set of Transition Macro Elements, or TMEs, which allow it to preprogram and graphically represent the individual elements for each show. In a sense, the station created an entire one-shot newscast for the auction, with a large portion of preparation time spent importing graphics and perfecting the desired look for the show. Final prep work on the day of the show involved perfecting the timing.

Like any first, using the system in this format was a valuable learning experience. Station personnel expected a few obstacles during the course of the program. And while most of the show ran smoothly, the highly structured setup for the auction was a mistake. After launching the show, the director and producer realized that they needed to be more flexible with the equipment. The director couldn’t simply step down the timeline as he would for a regular live newscast.

Future plans

KBAK has secured the rights to the live-auction broadcast for 2002, and it plans on using PVTV Studio News to produce the show again. Instead of laying out the entire show this year, the director plans on arranging the elements so he can easily drop in the individual auction sequences as the producer calls for them. The result will be a fluid show with less structure. KBAK looks forward to improving what was a very successful experiment.

Kurt Stoneburner is broadcast director at KBAK-TV, Bakersfield, CA.

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