A photographer at KWCH-TV uses the Panasonic AJ-SPX800 DVCPRO P2 camcorder. KWCH-TV in Wichita, KS, is one of 10 Media General stations that have already begun using the camcorders. The station also tested the AJ-PCS060 portable hard drive, which Media General plans to now use in all of its ENG operations.
In spring 2004, Richmond, VA-based broadcast group Media General committed to convert newsgathering operations at its 20 television stations that produce news to Panasonic's DVCPRO P2 series solid-state memory format. (The core products in the series are the AJ-SPX800 camcorder, the new AJ-SPC700 camcorder and the AJ-SPD850 studio recorder.) Since that time, 10 Media General stations have been equipped with the P2 series, and next year we will transition six more stations.
The elimination of moving parts and the ability to transition to a completely file-based content management system were the paramount reasons we are making the transition. Our engineering philosophy is to move towards moving content seamlessly across multiple platforms. The system allows users instant access to file-based video content, which facilitates multiple levels of news production happening simultaneously. It also provides also provides the marketing and production departments at the stations with instant access.
Out in the field
We now have more than 90 AJ-SPX800 2/3in DVCPRO50/DVCPRO P2 camcorders in the field for daily newsgathering. The image quality is remarkable. Living up to its durability promise, the camera performed well for our stations covering hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
And every day, crews in the field discover new ways to do their jobs based on the feature set of the camcorders. For example, the B-roll function — the ability to switch instantaneously from a live to a recorded segment in the camera — was an instant hit with all of our users.
The flexibility of the camera system, with its ability to display thumbnail clips and accept electronic In and Out markers, means that our reporters spend less time dealing with the mechanics of video acquisition. This gives them and their photojournalists more time to consider what they're shooting, what they've shot, and how the footage can be constructed into a more coherent, more compelling story.
Each station using the system produces more than 20 hours of news programming a week. All of the group stations have moved to a nonlinear editing environment. Material is edited on Vibrint NewsEdit NLE systems.
The next tapeless step
KWCH-TV in Wichita, KS, tested Panasonic's AJ-PCS060, a portable, 2.5in 60GB hard drive, over the summer. The 1.4lb drive addresses the issue of “Now that I've shot the material, I need to get it off the camera and into a holding device independent of the camera.” The drive holds up to 15 of DVCPRO P2's 4GB cards, replacing the need for a multitude of media. The entire contents of one of those cards can be transferred to the internal hard disk drive in about four minutes (in verify off mode).
The P2 store provides quick-to-access transfers, making efficient use of the media cards. And it allows us to better manage media in the field. The hard drive completes the workflow we were looking for when we added the P2 camcorders. We're currently integrating 125 of the drives into our ENG operations.
In terms of ultimate HD production, anything we do in HD will be done in the DVCPRO format. We're just beginning to find opportunities to do localized HD programming and event coverage.
Now, with P2, we continue to realize new benefits in terms of managing video content as files in the new tapeless environment.
Making the change
Media General stations using the Panasonic DVCPRO P2
Ardell Hill is senior vice president of broadcast operations for Media General.
Media General stations transitioning to the Panasonic DVCPRO P2
WFLA-TV in Tampa, FL
WKRG-TV in Mobile, AL
WNCT-TV in Greenville, NC
WTVQ-TV in Lexington, KY
WJBF-TV in Augusta, GA
KWCH-TV in Wichita, KS
KALB-TV in Alexandria, VA
WDEF-TV in Chattanooga, TN
WSPA-TV in Greenville, SC
WSLS-TV in Roanoke, VA
WIAT-TV in Birmingham, AL
WRBL-TV in Columbus, GA
WJTV-TV in Jackson, MS
WJHL-TV in Johnson City, TN
WBTW-TV in Florence/Myrtle Beach, SC
WMBB-TV in Panama City, FL