The sheer number of new and improved ENG products at the 2008 NAB Show makes covering every detail in this limited space impossible. However, the following highlights represent many of the big attention grabbers.
Zipping around the Broadcast Microwave System (BMS) booth on a modified Segway was a unique counterbalanced camera system sporting a BMS CT2020HD camera-mounted transmitter. The transmitter was attached to a Sony HDC-1500 HD camera, with full CCU control over the camera made possible via the transmitter's second return channel.
BMS also rolled out an ASI cellular switching technology that supports seamless switching among a number of ENG receive antennas configured in a cellular architecture to cover a geographic hotbed for news, such as a metro area. This allows news shooters to roam as required and frees stations from sending ENG vans whenever a remote is needed.
Nucomm focused on preparing broadcasters for HD reports from the field. The company introduced its 7 series of HD and HD-ready products, which includes the Channel Master TX7 portable transmitter, the Channel Master RX7 portable receiver, the Newscaster VT7 ENG/OB van transmitter and the Newscaster CR7 central receiver. All are field-upgradable to HD operation via a software key. The products support multiple modulation modes (VSB, COFDM, DVB-S, FM) and offer dual- or tri-band RF outputs.
RF Central unveiled a dual-band ENG transmitter supporting 2GHz and 7GHz COFDM transmission from the same unit. The new RFX-ENG-II transmitter provides 7W output for 2GHz operation and 1W output at 7GHz. With the ability to switch the transmitter to 7GHz operation, broadcasters can avoid and help to alleviate some of that congestion. The new RFX-ENG-II combines features of the company's RMT-II dual-band transmitter, RMTC-II dual-band transmitter control unit and MMPA-II mast-mounted antenna amplifier.
Microwave Radio Communications (MRC) introduced the AMG1000 mobile networked server, which simplifies the addition of IP transfer to a traditional ENG setup. It can be populated with a variety of receive options to complete the link, including EvDO 3G wireless cards, a Wi-Fi receiver or an 8-VSB modulation receiver. Besides satisfying the FTP forward error correction requirement, return channel AMG1000-enabled communications can be used for controlling an ENG digital transmitter, aiming the antenna and controlling pan-and-tilt functions, power levels, IP switches and video routing.
Troll Systems' XNG six-channel digital diversity ENG receive system garnered a lot of attention. The device combines the main strength of ENG diversity reception, namely immunity to multipath interference, with the desirable attributes of a 2ft high-gain receive antenna, specifically the ability to receive ENG transmissions from a news copter 60mi to 80mi away.
The XNG system consists of five mounted 12dBi-gain panel antennas that can be detached to accommodate obstructions, a 20dBi gain steerable antenna, receiver and control unit. The system is designed for easy installation and hands-off operation. For example, from the moment a news copter takes off, begins transmitting and one of the panel antennas picks up the signal, the control unit will automatically swing the high gain antenna into place and track the signal as the aircraft races to the news scene.
For ENG control, NSI introduced the One Touch, a closed-loop system that lets stations control both ends of the transmission link from the studio. Among the many chores One Touch handles are aligning both the transmit and receive antennas, turning the transmitter on and adjusting the LNA level to optimize the signal. Typically, EvDO wireless communications are used from the station to the vehicle. The extent of the remote control is sufficient to allow stations to send one-person crews into the field, potentially making more efficient use of personnel or reducing expense.
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Incremental advances in ENG hardware and software technology only tell part of the electronic newsgathering story from NAB. On a grander scale, the very concept of ENG is evolving. New file-based acquisition formats are being coupled with broadband Internet technology to make live remotes via wireless telecommunications networks a reality. For example, Bitcentral showed Air Now, a backpack-based digital newsgathering system that weighs less than 10lb and transmits live reports via EvDO wireless channels from the field.
As stations use such developments to augment their ability to electronically capture and transmit news from a remote location, the method for conducting ENG operations will continue to evolve on the NAB show floor and in the field.
Phil Kurz writes several Broadcast Engineering e-newsletters, including ENG Technology Update.