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KWTV gets new HD ENG helicopter

KWTV, the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, has acquired a new Bell 407 helicopter equipped with a Sony HDC-F950 HD ENG camera and Fujinon HD zoom lens. Mounted on the nose of the new SKYNEWS9 HD chopper inside a customized Flir Ultra Media HD camera enclosure designed by Flir Systems, the Fujinon HA42x13.5BERD HDTV ENG-style zoom lens provides a wide view with pristine images.

The station plans to upgrade its station infrastructure to native 1080i HDTV, including its live newscasts, within the next two years. For now, only the helicopter is HD capable.

KWTV already had 17 Fujinon lenses, including 16 Fujinon A18X7.6BERM SD zoom lenses, which are used for daily electronic news gathering (ENG); and one Fujinon A13X4.5BERM SD zoom, which is used for electronic field production (EFP). The ENG-style Fujinon lens is compact and lightweight enough to fit within the Flir enclosure, but it still provides a wide focal length to cover the many tornados that pass through its “tornado alley” region.

The Flir Ultra Media HD enclosure is comprised of five gyrostabilizers that keep the HD camera and lens completely stable during flight. The size of the enclosure also affected the station’s lens choice. Greg Ward, news operations manager for KWTV, said the Fujinon lens was the best lens they could fit into the small 24in x18in enclosure

Designed for use with the 2/3in HD video camera format, the Fujinon HA42x13.5 lens offers a 42x zoom ratio with a 2X extender. It has a focal length of (1X) 13.5mm-570mm, and (2X) 27mm-1140mm. This compact lens weighs less than 12lbs, and performs extremely well in low and changing light conditions.

The Flir system onboard the SKYNEWS9 HD chopper includes an outboard controller that is tightly integrated with the camera and Fujinon lens in the gimble, which are operable by remote control. There are also several HDTV monitors on board for operators to review the footage. The live HD signals are relayed via microwave back to the station. The helicopter is also equipped with on-board GPS street mapping to pinpoint the exact location of storms, fires or crime scenes.

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