Maintaining workflow efficiency is key to HD news production future, says Carpenter

Sinclair Broadcast Group has joined the swelling ranks of broadcasters offering local HD newscasts with the launch of high-definition news at its Baltimore and Columbus, OH, stations this month.

This week, HD Technology Update speaks with Dan Carpenter, chief engineer at WSYX-TV and WTTE-TV, the Sinclair stations in Columbus, about the transition. While overall things went smoothly, the transition to high-def news has left the station searching for a way to maintain the efficiency it’s realized in the SD production of news in the new world of HD news.

Editor’s note: Del Parks, VP of engineering and operations at Sinclair Broadcast, also discussed the issue of storage and bandwidth required for HD news production during an interview with Broadcast Engineering at NAB2008. To listen to that interview, click here.

HD Technology Update: WSYX-TV (Channel 6) and WTTE-TV (Channel 28) have begun doing eight hours a day of live HD news. Did the switchover cause a major disruption, or did you work from temporary facilities while you did the work needed to transform your control room and news set for the HD launch?

Dan Carpenter: We’re very lucky. We have two production control rooms and two studios. About six weeks ago, we moved our existing set into our small studio overnight after the 11 p.m. show, and we put our smaller control room on the air. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to gut the main studio and control room and start over. As part of the switch to HD, we installed a whole new set, designed by the Devlin Design Group.

HD Technology Update: Tell me about the new technology in your control room and your news studio.

Dan Carpenter: We have a three-M/E (Snell & Wilcox) Kahuna. Wow, who ever thought there'd be up/down/crossconversion, 16 channels of DVE and five clip players in a production switcher? We'll be hard-pressed to use everything it's got in a show, but you never know.

We have Panasonic HD studio cameras; they’re the Panasonic 931Bs. They’re beautiful looking cameras. Many models of HD cameras are beautiful. It’s a very hard decision to make. It’s not like the old days when one camera was clearly better than the others. New Avid Deko3000HD and ThunderHD units provide the graphics.

HD Technology Update: What are you using in your control room for monitoring?

Dan Carpenter: Well, there really isn’t any other way to go than a large multiviewer approach for a modern all-HD/SDI plant like ours. Our master control systems for all five channels operated from here are all native HD/SDI with embedded audio, and now our news control room is, too. The Miranda KaleidoX is the perfect fit for our applications.

We’ve got several outputs on the KX; the monitor wall in the front of the control room is driven by four monitor outputs of the KX. We use other outputs for applications such as the audio booth, producer and director monitoring. There’s nothing that can be on a show that they can’t see on a monitor. They’ve got total flexibility over monitoring, and the video and audio quality rivals discrete displays.

HD Technology Update: Speaking of audio, what are you doing as relates to 5.1 surround for your newscasts?

Dan Carpenter: We haven’t addressed surround sound in the control room yet, other than upmixing the shows using a Linear Acoustic AEROMAX. Our emphasis on audio has been on lip sync. Our design incorporates handles for lip sync at many points. The various incoming and outgoing signals and the new delays inherent in video monitoring have all been considered in the design.

TI Broadcast Systems Group, our systems integrator, worked hard to get audio synchronization right, and they did.

HD Technology Update: What have you been doing for field acquisition?

Dan Carpenter: We have Panasonic AG-HPX500 HD cameras in the field. We use them switched to standard-def 16:9. The live shots are all standard-def 16:9 from the trucks. We’ve got digital ENG already, and now it’s all 16:9 native. The pictures are actually pretty good. When we replace our truck systems later this year, HD will be a software upgrade.

We edit with Avid NewsCutters connected to a Unity system with ISIS storage and play to air with AirSpeeds in 16 x 9 SD. It's a great system, but for the time being, it's SD. The challenges we face with switching to HD are with transcoding speeds, file sizes, storage bandwidth and the need for a digital archive system. Hopefully, we'll have solutions soon, so we can fully complete our HD news rollout.

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