Canare's Cable Checker at New Century Productions

David W. Chase, New Century Productions’ field shop/maintenance supervisor, uses Canare’s Cable Checker to assess HFO camera cable integrity.

It's an all too common occurrence: You're on location, preparing to broadcast, and you have a camera go down. Is there a problem with the camera system? Is the cable failing? Accurate trouble-shooting is an essential skill for remote broadcasting and is even more critical for live shows. Choosing the wrong path will cost you valuable time, and the on-site team may have only moments to trace the trouble and correct it. New Century Productions (NCP) faces these challenges daily.

As a full-service remote video production company, NCP employs many hybrid fiber-optic cameras and cable assemblies for our high-definition systems. In our many travels from job to job, equipment is frequently set up, taken down, moved, jostled and otherwise stressed. Although hybrid-fiber-optic (HFO) technology is excellent for even long-distance transmission under ideal circumstances, the downside is that small amounts of dust in a connector can deteriorate a signal. Errors also can be caused by cable kinking or pinching. Our greatest challenge has been identifying when failures are due to camera equipment or cables.

Lacking the time to use the complicated SMPTE fiber test equipment historically available, we often found ourselves employing several different camera and cable configurations until we found the right combination. We also were frequently repairing or replacing fiber cables that may or may not have been faulty. We needed an easy-to-use cable tester that any crew member could implement without special training. That's when we found Canare's Cable Checker.

When I got my first look at the specifications, I knew the FCT-FCKIT was our answer. It is well laid-out and usable by anyone. The tester consists of a hand-held unit that transmits and receives an optical signal and a loop-back unit. The main unit is connected to one end of a cable and the loop-back to the other. Both use Canare's SMPTE 304M-compatible HFO connectors for fast, easy connection. The technician need only to press the measure button and, in seconds, the checker displays optic loss and electrical line continuity information. Almost instantly, the crew knows if a cable needs cleaning, is functioning within specifications or should be swapped out for another cable.

Additionally, the construction of the checker is exceptionally functional. The large, backlit LCD read-out makes the test results easy to see in any lighting. The durable metal body and included carrying cases (when purchased as a kit) are essential for field use, and the auto-off feature saves batteries. It's obvious that the designers had mobile broadcasters in mind during every step of development.

Using this tool, our staff can easily test a cable and quickly get on with the business of television. The unit is small and portable, taking up virtually no space. We also keep one at our field shop to test incoming cables after each assignment. The shop staff then knows if a cable needs cleaning or other maintenance so that it will be ready for immediate deployment the next time it is required.

The Cable Checker saves so much time and effort that ENG and mobile broadcasters will find it to be a must-have tool. Nothing else available offers HFO assembly integrity information so quickly and easily. In addition, the incredibly low price makes the unit affordable to broadcasters of any size. The savings in time and unnecessary repairs more than covers the cost of the unit.

David W. Chase is the field shop/maintenance supervisor for New Century Productions.