WHIZ-TV finds ENG role for Slingbox, wireless Ethernet bridge

WHIZ-TV in Zanesville, OH, put a homemade ENG system into service for news contribution Nov. 6 that cost the station less than $2500 to build, largely because it’s based upon consumer streaming and wireless broadband technology.

The system, which relies on the SlingMedia Slingbox and Trango LINK10 5.8 GHz point-to-point wireless Ethernet bridge, was used to deliver live reports from the Muskingum County (OH) Board of Elections for Tuesday’s election coverage during the station’s noon, 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts, said WHIZ-TV chief engineer Dan Slentz.

First put to use in August to deliver 40 live broadcasts from the Muskingum County fairgrounds, the core system relies upon the 5.4Mb/s Slingbox Cat. 5 output to feed the Trango LINK10 wireless bridge, said Slentz. During the fair, the Trango LINK10 transmitted the data stream about 4mi to the station’s tower where it was received and fed into a computer. Using an Extron scan converter and Henry Engineering Matchbox, the station converted the computer’s VGA output to composite video and balanced audio. Once timed to the station’s master control room, the composite video was converted to SDI and fed into its Ross Synergy2 digital production switcher. Balanced audio was sent to the station’s audio console.

Because the fairgrounds are located in a valley, the core system resided in an ENG van stationed at a higher elevation. A second van in the valley sent audio and video to the core system van via a Trango Falcon 2.4GHz wireless audio/video transmitter. A Telex wireless CamLink 2.4 GHz system provided a wireless link from a camera wandering the fairgrounds, which was turned around and relayed to the core system, said Slentz.

According to Slentz, the system created about three seconds of latency, which WHIZ-TV compensated for by having its studio director follow the prompter and cue talent in the field three seconds prior to the anchor’s pitch to the field.

While the system, cost the station less than $2500 to build, some of the components in the system were acquired used. With new components, the system would cost less than $5000 to build, said Slentz.

Since putting the system into operation, the station has continued to acquire new consumer equipment that may be used to improve the system. One new consumer stream encoder, which Slentz declined to identify, is H.264-based and supports bit rates as high as 16Mb/s, he said.