KJRH-TV, the Scripps Broadcasting station in Tulsa, OK, became the latest TV station to join the ranks of local broadcasters converting their local newscasts to HD with the launch of its local news in HD Feb. 25.
While station director of engineering Dale Vennes began designing his HD plant and running wiring last year, the project shifted into high gear the first week of January when much of the equipment that would be used in the station’s new HD control room arrived.
This week, “HD Technology Update” talks with Vennes about the conversion to HD local news, the technology he used and where the station is headed to do live HD news remotes from the field.
HD Technology Update: When did you decide to take your local news and origination into HD?
Dale Vennes: E.W. Scripps owns us. Scripps decided more than a year ago that all of our stations would build out HD production in the very near future. The larger stations in our group went online last year, so the bulk of the company’s money went to those stations to get them operational.
Last year, I got about 50 percent of the HD funding needed to complete the project. Our approach was to look at what would be most difficult and time consuming from an engineering standpoint. This was primarily design documentation and wiring. We purchased a Kalypso HD, all card frames with rear connectors for the cards that would occupy them and single items of things like HD/SD conversion gear. This allowed us to become familiar with the gear and prove our wiring was correct. We were ready.
When 2008 came, all of my vendors delivered within a week. It was basically plug-and-play after that with only a few unanticipated problems. Probably around Jan. 20 I turned it over to production.
We had purchased two HyperX graphic systems for stills and animations. We also chose to design all of our graphics in house, so there was a lot of that going on.
Our weather systems are real important to us in Tulsa. We purchased an HD weather graphics system two years ago from Weather Central. When we built graphics for it two years ago, we chose to create them in HD and run them in a downconverted mode. It was just a flip of a switch to HD for this. This year, we added FasTrac HD and VIPIR HD by Baron Services. These are real important to our viewers. I think that this is an added benefit in that it really does give some very good detail in the mapping. That’s important to our viewers for severe weather coverage.
It took about a month of graphic finalization, training and rehearsals to get to the point where we said, “Yeah, we can do it.” We decided to make sure we were ready by doing a “Today Show” local break on Feb. 19. The first local newscast in Oklahoma happened on the Feb. 25.
HD Technology Update: Did you upgrade your existing control room to HD while you continued to use it to produce your SD newscast, or did you set up a temporary control room?
Dale Vennes: We only had one control room, so we built a temporary control room. That was part of last year’s project in getting ready. This allowed us to refurbish the new room with new carpet, paint and a little better design. It just made it easier on everybody in not interfering with normal day-to-day production.
HD Technology Update: Could you walk through the technology you’re using in the control room?
Dale Vennes: In the center or our system is a (Thomson Grass Valley) Kalypso HD switcher. Our monitor wall is using the Miranda Kaleido-X. We drive three 52in displays. Currently, we are using consumer-grade Sharp Aquos LCD monitors with one standing by just in case. We also configured the Kaleido-X for quick reconfiguration to the remaining monitors no mater which one failed.
Our line and preset monitors are discrete 24in JVC, so if one of the larger ones fails, we can always see what we have on-air. For our graphics, we have a total of four channels of Chyron HyperX.
Our in-place audio was just fine. We didn’t change anything there. We are running a Calrec board. Most of our sources and destinations these days are AES sources, so we have very clean audio. In regards to lip-sync issues, we chose to purchase the audio option for all conversion products to compensate for possible video delay problems. We were pleasantly surprised that lip-sync issues are few.
We decided to go with TBC Consoles for our furniture, which we are extremely happy with. They are quite flexible and really look great. That gave us a lot of latitude as to where we can mount things, and they gave us a lot of rack space underneath.
For all of our upconversions, crossconversions and downconversions and distribution, we used the Evertz 7700 series. We choose to purchase the fill option on all upconverters for creating 16:9 curtains. A standard DVD player upconverted is used for the fill. In doing this, we have greatly reduced the workload on the TD.
HD Technology Update: Some stations have used the opportunity of transitioning to HD to also move from a linear tape-based news workflow to a file-based approach. What’s your experience?
Dale Vennes: We are file based. We currently shoot in the field with DVCPRO and edit on Panasonic NewsBytes. From that point on, it becomes file-based playing out of SGI servers. We did switch to widescreen SD in the field. When we purchased those cameras about eight years ago we thought about this, and decided to buy cameras that support widescreen. Really, it looks good upconverted.
All of the Scripps stations will be purchasing or have already purchased the JVC GY-250 camera; we will get ours next year. At that point, we will be doing HD in the field. We have a couple of them right now. The biggest advantage I see is in the transmission capability of being able to do live HD in the field with the ability to get it back over traditional microwave.
HD Technology Update: Where do you stand with the 2GHz BAS relocation project? And what approach are you taking?
Dale Vennes: We are going to go with what we found works well at our other stations. That’s using ASI transmission with Nucomm gear. The data stream is about 19Mb, and that we can transmit over the Nucomm microwave without an expensive encoder. We decode it on this end with HD-SDI out.
In Tulsa, we have a date of June 2008 to change everything over as part of the 2GHz BAS project. It’s coming up quick. Today, I don’t have much of the equipment in house.
HD Technology Update: What were the biggest surprises or challenges you ran into with the conversion to HD origination?
Dale Vennes: I don’t think there were any surprises. On the production side, we found that new equipment and workflow changes took time to get comfortable with. Manufacturer training was provided for all new systems.
Our largest hurdle was building new graphics. This started three months before our projected go-live date. The new 16:9 format and having to consider 4:3 safe for everything brought on new concerns. Keeping production graphics as well as the multiple down-stream devices lined up in both the SD and HD paths has been a challenge.
HD Technology Update: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dale Vennes: We really have been thinking about HD for a number of years. About four years ago we needed to replace our studio cameras, so at that time, we did purchase the Philips 6000 HD studio cameras, now they’re Thomson, and everything we’ve purchased from that point on was HD.
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