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As TV news downsizes, JVC finds success with small sensor camcorders

A few years ago — in what now seems a bygone era — 1/3in ENG cameras were not considered good enough for broadcast. Chief engineers would scoff and call them “toys.” Much has changed since then, and due to smaller news departments and lower budgets, JVC has found considerable success with its ProHD line of lower cost ENG equipment.

In the past few months, the company has announced a flurry of new deals. Allbritton Communications purchased 25 studio cameras and 127 ENG cameras for six of its ABC affiliates. Drewry Communications purchased JVC gear for all five of its stations.

KSHB, the NBC affiliate in Kansas City has purchased 21 JVC camcorders, mostly to be used for news. KSL, the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, purchased 19 JVC camcorders with ASI modules, which replaced its Betacam SX camcorders. And, in Syracuse, NY, WSYR, an ABC affiliate, launched new HD newscasts using JVC cameras both in the studio and the field.

The increased sales for JVC come as television stations are downsizing news operations. Not only does JVC focus on smaller sensors, but on lower overall costs. Broadcast stations have responded with orders.

Jim Church, director of technology at Allbritton, said his group spent almost five months researching and testing cameras before buying. “At the end of it all, we only found one vendor. It was JVC,” Church said.

The stations wanted to maintain an MPEG-2 file format, and the Allbritton stations were already built around a 35Mb/s workflow. Church said JVC’s ProHD format provided 19Mb/s and 35Mb/s workflow options that worked with the existing IT infrastructures.

JVC’s use of nonproprietary SDHC cards was also a key advantage of the cameras, because the cards offer almost universal access. The new JVC cameras also offered native file recording for Adobe Premiere Pro, which was already in use throughout the station group.

The new JVC camcorders were designed for the downsizing now occurring at television stations all over the nation. “Most of our stations already had one-man crews with multimedia journalists. JVC’s workflow embraced it,” Church said. “They gave us the ability to have a lightweight camera that anyone can handle — and SD cards that we could use in any laptop, which allowed the multimedia journalists to edit in the field on a laptop and feed the material back via FTP.”

Mike Lee, vice president and general manager of KXXV, the Drewry-owned ABC affiliate serving Waco-Temple-Bryan, TX, said the group’s choice of JVC camcorders, particularly the GY-HM790U, was a result of several factors. “First and foremost, the camera makes a great picture,” he said. “Plus, it looks and feels like conventional ENG cameras that we used for years.”

Lee did not want to commit to an expensive, proprietary recording media when the stations transitioned to HD production. JVC’s cameras use inexpensive SDHC media cards, which fit the bill perfectly. Lee also said the JVC cameras were a cost-effective solution that helped the station group maximize its budget.

Jay Nix, chief engineer at KSHB in Kansas City, said his station initially began its migration to JVC by replacing its aging DVCPRO cameras with JVC GY-HD250U tape-based models, then later moved to solid-state recording.

Nix said the new GY-HM790U cameras with Fujinon lenses have been solid performers in the field. “Our shooters like the size and the weight,” he said. “We give them two batteries and three SDHC cards, and they can go out and shoot hours of video with no issues. I’m very impressed with the image quality, and we have not had any durability issues at all.”

In post, Nix said the GY-HM790U can record native Final Cut Pro files for immediate editing on the station’s existing equipment, requiring no conversion or transcoding in the workflow.

Brent Robinson, chief engineer at KSL in Salt Lake City, said his station bought 13 GY-HM100U compact handheld camcorders, which will be used for one-man-band operations within the converged newsroom of the television station, KSL NewsRadio, and the Deseret News newspaper, all of which are owned by Deseret Media Companies in Salt Lake City.

KSL-TV, the local CBS affiliate, is the third station in the Salt Lake City market to adopt JVC camcorders for ENG use. The station began using GY-HM700U camcorders in January, while ABC affiliate KTVX has had GY-HM700U camcorders in the field as well as GY-HD250U cameras in its news studio since 2010.