WMTV-TV's Chief Engineer Tweets

MADISON, WIS.: Traditional broadcast engineers have often taken a bum rap in the migration to IP technology. The old-school radio frequency contingent has been characterized as immutable, stodgy and resisting new technology. Ironically, few groups, as a whole, have dealt with as much new technology as broadcast engineers, which is probably what makes them raise one eyebrow when the latest, greatest solution is thrust upon them.

The chief engineer at WMTV-TV, the NBC affiliate in Madison, is a far cry from the stereotype. Tom Weeden has fully embraced the most metaphoric and pervasive manifestation of IP technology extant. Mr. Weeden tweets.

“We’ve installed a pile of new equipment and a mile and a half of new cable getting ready to throw the big HD switch. Hoping for no smoke,” he tweeted earlier this morning as WMTVtech.

Weeden started tweeting last August, allowing that WMTV’s new transmitter had just arrived from Reynolds Transfer. Between installing new gear and keeping the station on the air through all manner of incidents, Weeden manages to post two or three times most workdays, in addition to keeping a blog at the station’s Web site. His Twitter feed is a porthole into the daily life of a broadcast engineer:

“The FCC put WGN and WMTV on the same digital channel. When the weather’s right, they’re like neighbors that play their stereo too loudly.”

“Caller reports indoor antenna trouble on 15 and 47. He has an unused attic antenna, suggested he try that one. Higher almost always better.”

“The Big One Five (point 1) is at 107 percent power. (Scotty: ‘Captain, if we push it any harder, it’ll surely blow apart!’)”

“Having trouble with our weather server on 15.2, but our tenacious IT department is on it.”

“WKOW-27 is off the air, don’t know why. I wish ‘em well.”

“...temporarily switched to rabbit ear antenna in my office, reception drops as people walk past. Rabbit ears don’t cut it for DTV.”

“Some viewers report seeing WGN on “our” channel this AM. Charlie Shortino says we did have a big inversion in place upstairs (4000 feet).”

“Digital multiplexer hung up last night, HD encoder dropped to 8 Mb. In English: premiere of Trauma didn’t look so good with lots of motion.”

“Intermittent closed caption problem on Bonnie Hunt Show on 15.1--we’re looking into it.”

“Odd audio problem on ‘Wheel of Fortune’ last night, lip sync way off in the middle, but start and end of show OK? Tonight’s episode is fine.”

“WMTV will be signing off at 2:05 a.m. Thursday for some more electrical work on our new transmitter. Yawn!”

“Anyone can buy an HD camcorder and make HD videos. Doing live HD television? Not for amateurs. Not a picnic for us either.”

TVB has a call into Mr. Weeden, who is undoubtedly working on the station’s local HD upgrade. We’ll provide an update of his progress.
-- Deborah D. McAdams