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Start building your HD news archive today, counsels HDNews GM

Local news directors can’t afford not to start thinking about archiving HD news footage today for use in the not-too-distant future when they begin full-fledged HDTV news operations, says HDNews general manager Will Wright.

According to Wright, who planned and oversaw the roll out of the Voom 24/7 high definition news channel, “All TV news operations should be interested in HD —period.” Whether it’s in six months or a few years, local news will go HD, and having a pool of HD archival footage to draw upon at that point will be critically important, he says.

Pointing to his own operation, Wright explains, HDNews would have benefited greatly from having shot HD footage of Pope John Paul II and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library prior to both men’s deaths. “I only wished we had the foresight to go to those key areas and get footage in HD,” he says.

Local news directors will find themselves in the same situation over the next few years, he says. For example, the flooding in areas of New York recently illustrates a recurring news story that should be shot in HD today. “When I was with WWOR, I would have wanted to shoot that in HD because we know we’ll be doing that story again three years from now.”

According to Wright, grabbing HD footage of important events doesn’t have to break the bank. Inexpensive HDV camcorders from Sony, Panasonic and JVC will make it possible to acquire that footage today. “They are inexpensive compared to full body, full chip camera and small enough to put in the truck and used at news events covered in SD,” he says. “That could be the legacy of any news manager — for $5000 or $10,000 build an archive of HD news today.”

Wright offers a couple words of caution, however. Because these HDV cameras use 1/3in CCDs for pickup, they aren’t as sensitive as more expensive HD cameras. “With these cameras, you have to realize that you have to light it. They love light. They hate low light,” he says.

Additionally, don’t tweak the camera. “You get techs who have been working for five to 25 years, and they operate a VariCam, and they feel compelled to work with the settings. But these cameras work best if you put them on auto focus, auto iris and the shutter tend to work best if you leave them alone.”

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