WFTV in Orlando launches local HD news

WFTV, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, FL, launched HD news operations July 1 after more than a year of preparation, becoming the first local station in the state to telecast news in high definition.

The Cox-owned station is receiving accolades from Orlando viewers for its HD newscasts. According to station vice president and general manager Shawn Bartelt, about 8 percent of Orlando-area viewers can watch in HD — heavier than other areas of the country. Orlando cable provider Bright House has 200,000 high-definition subscribers, and many of them have taken the time to send e-mails to the station of approving the new HD newscasts to the station, according to Bartelt.

Preparations for the HD newscast began more than a year ago, but the heavy lifting began in earnest about four months ago, she said. Preparations included conversion to HD studio cameras, new HD background graphics from Clearwater, FL-based Giant Octopus, a new set and camera tests for all talent.

Field acquisition is being done in 16:9 SD and upconverted for integration into the station’s newscasts.

The station also has added a new Baron Services VHDD-350C radar along with high-definition VIPIR and FasTrac. The Baron 350C radar, branded Doppler 9000 by WFTV, offers an additional 100,000W of power compared with the station's previous system, allowing meteorologists to see farther with higher resolution. The new radar has allowed the weather team to watch thunderstorms on the South Carolina coast, 371 miles away from their radar site in central Florida. WFTV also is using a beta of WSI high-definition weather graphics, Bartelt said.

HD news and public affairs coverage highlights so far have included the blastoff of the Space Shuttle Discovery and production of a July 4th fireworks display from Lake Eola in downtown Orlando

Sister station WRDQ will begin 10 p.m. HD newscasts later this year, according to Bartelt.