HD Pooled for 2004 Conventions

Intelsat and Globix complete the picture


The High Definition National News Consortium (HD-NNC) is offering HD broadcast pool coverage of the 2004 Democratic and Republican national conventions in conjunction with NHK-Japan Broadcasting Corp.

HD-NNC, established in January 2000, is an association of about 40 broadcasters, media producers and others to promote the use of digital, high-definition, and wide-screen formats for newsgathering and news programming in the United States.

One of the early pioneers of HDTV technology, NHK is a public broadcaster, supported almost entirely by viewers in Japan.

This is the second time that the group and NHK have offered the HD pool feed from the conventions for both TV and Internet distribution.

The biggest difference, said spokesperson Lisa Lane, is that HD-NNC contracted a distributor this year, namely Intelsat, which will be up-linking (KU-band) and providing fiber connectivity (DS-3 or SDI 270) for the live switched feeds. The Globix Corp. will provide technology and a network to stream the feeds to participating Web sites with Windows Media Player.

Feeds for both TV and the Web will use a 1080i format and 16:9 aspect ratio, and have embedded audio.

That's definitely a step up from the group's first HD pool feed in 2000, when, said Lane, an engineer from WRC-TV organized the downlinks from a satellite truck. Akamai did the streaming.

Producer Michael Castro said he was still in negotiations with All Mobile Video about the equipment that he and his 20- to 25-person team will use. He expects to use 10-12 HD cameras, including a robotic camera and possibly an RF camera on the floor. He believed that the audio mix was going to be taken from the standard convention pool feed-at least for the Democratic Convention on July 26.

"The subscribers to the pool are responsible for hooking up to us," said Castro, noting two options: direct hookup at the demarcation point banks close to the mobile truck, or via an Intelsat uplink.

"Intelsat will be down-linking the feed to a number of different hubs across the country," Castro said.

"The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" will take the direct option, though it will take it in the HD-downconverted-to-SD format provided by the HDNNC/NHK. "Taking it in HD means we have to produce the entire production in HD," said David Sit, vice president of MacNeil-Lehrer Productions. "That would have been quite cost-prohibitive at this point."

The advantage of going with the down-converted pool feed, said Sit, is the "long collaborative relationship" that he's had with NHK.

ABC, CBS, and NBC had not completed their coverage plans at press time. Both CBS and Fox have ruled out HD.

Fox spokesman Paul Schur indicated that "Fox News Channel" would provide extensive coverage of the conventions.

In addition to live reports throughout the day from a number of FNC correspondents, Schur said the Fox network intends to air the several programs from the convention site. "FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace," for example, will be live from the Democratic Convention in Boston on July 25, and from the Republican Convention in New York on August 29, the day before the RNC begins.