HD upgradeability offers path for SD local production

Local origination of HD news and sports won’t be cheap, but according to Thomson’s Bruce Lane, upgradeability can deaden the financial sting
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According to Thomson’s Bruce Lane, SD-to-HD upgradeability as embodied in the Kalypso Duo, offers stations a way to meet today’s production needs while planning for an HD future. Pictured: The Kalypso at ESPN in Bristol, CT.

As the DTV transition progresses, how and when to begin the local origination of HD programming, such as news and sports is a thorny issue.

On the one hand, HDTV presentation of local content demonstrates market leadership and can elevate a station in the eyes of its viewers. On the other hand, doing so will require a tremendous capital investment.

In this edition of High Definition Technology Update, we asked Thomson Director of Strategic Accounts Bruce Lane for some insight on strategies for implementing HD on a local level that won’t bust the budget.

HDTU: What are some practical strategies for implementing HD at the station level from pass-through of network HD programming to ultimate local origination of programming – news, public affairs, and production of local special events?

Bruce Lane: HD pass-through preserves as much as possible the quality of the origination material. In a pass-through, you reduce up and downconversion. This approach minimizes the equipment required at local station level. However this compromises what you can do with that material at the local level.

As consumer HDTV viewing increases, we’ll see increased HD production capability at the local level. There are two ways this can proceed: one is by purchasing upgradeable equipment, minimizing the expense today while preserving the investment for future HD. The other is going directly to HD today and upconverting where necessary - starting in the studio in HD with fieldwork in SD and upconverting. We are beginning to see that in the design stages of new facilities.

HDTU: Will new, lower-cost formats like HDV play a role in field acquisition at a local station?

BL: It could be HDV or it could be some other format. I personally think we will see a large amount of HD acquisition products at NAB. Once acquisition moves to HD, news editing will be driven to move to HD too. The servers already exist, and the rest of the workflow is already there. It’s just a matter of supporting the higher bandwidth products.

HDTU: How best can IT workflows be structured to deal with and serve 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio files for simulcast of SD and HD programming?

BL: One option is to produce your newscast in 16:9 and downconvert, crop and chop or squeeze for 4:3 aspect ratio conversion which can be done in the production switcher. That’s a matter of designing your newscast to support 16:9.

HDTU: ATSC specifies 1080p as a production standard for HD. Is that practical at the local level for HD production?

BL: 1080p is double the bandwidth. At the local level it means twice the pipe. For the local broadcaster, it’s not realistic. I am seeing it show up in high-end post facilities, but not seeing it at local station.

HDTU: How can stations most affordably reach their HD goals and what role will IT-based video production, playback and control play in allowing them to do so?

BL: I see this as an affordability question. It comes back to when and how you make purchases. If you are looking to preserve your investment, you can buy something that is upgradeable. The Thomson/Grass Valley LDK5000 camera is SD today and is fully upgradeable to the LDK6000 HD camera that does both HD and SD.

Our Kalypso Duo is SD and can be upgradeable to SD/HD switchable - thus saving stations’ money today while purchasing a product that is upgradeable in the future when HD is required.

Routing switchers can support SD only or SD/HD operation and the price difference is closing quickly.

Each facility needs to make choices that provide the greatest ROI for that facility. Choices can be based on crucial needs (failing equipment) or desires for improvements such as workflow or quality.

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