New studio technology — HD
Ross Video Design Team
Jan Jaros, VP, broadcast ops. and eng. Technology at work
Calrec audio equipment
HD XT servers
Miranda Kaleido monitors
Ross Video OverDrive production control system
Vinten robotics system
WMAQ improves its local news product with a new HD control room
In April 2007, WMAQ, the NBC O&O in Chicago, announced plans to broadcast in HD as part of an NBC initiative. The HD launch would require a new control room to be designed that would not only meet and exceed current production capabilities, but also improve production efficiency and enhance the local news product. As part of this initiative, NBC selected a team drawn from its O&O group that would evaluate and present recommendations to the NBC Local Media Division. The Local Media Division consists of 10 NBC and 16 Telemundo stations in top U.S. markets. Each participating NBC facility had input into the control room design for its respective station.
One of the key technologies being evaluated was automated production control (APC). Automating a live news production offers many advantages over a traditional legacy environment. With a smaller crew, each member has more responsibility for accurate entry of production data during show preparation. The net effect is a cleaner, more consistent product with significant efficiency improvements to the workflow.
The team chose Ross Video’s OverDrive APC system for its ease of use, flexibility to manage scripted and unscripted productions, and ability to enable additional workflow efficiencies in live and news productions.
Next, physical design of the new control room began. After detailed discussions involving Ross Video and NBC, and the mock-up of several control room designs, the room was built into an area previously used by the graphics department. The result is a functional workspace that takes full advantage of the APC workflow and fulfills the unique requirements of the station. The APC operator, director and producer are all located along one upper console with individual cockpit areas specifically designed for each function, including ease of use for both right- and left-handed operators. To ensure clear communications, all APC staff wear headsets.
The new APC workflow, including management of production devices and newsroom rundowns, requires fewer than half the crew members of a traditional legacy WMAQ news production. During the process in moving to APC, WMAQ staff actively participated in the process. As a result, most of the non-APC staff have been repurposed within the broadcast operations and engineering department. In parallel to the transition to APC, the entire WMAQ plant was converted from a 4:3 to 16:9 infrastructure, including the construction of a new HD news set.
WMAQ has been broadcasting its news in HD since mid-January 2008. The new local news product is superior, with higher efficiency and fewer errors, so much so that even the competition has admitted to taking notice.