Wintry SNG shots require planning, preparation and clean sweep

For SNG crews, getting to a shot and keeping a satellite uplink truck running properly under harsh conditions such as last week's snowstorm in the Midwest can be a challenge.

Last week’s snow storm that gripped the Midwest before coating portions of the East Coast with a mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain, put the wintry conditions near the top of news queue nationwide.

In Chicago, where O’Hare International Airport had about 10in of snow, Satellite Technology Systems (STS) provided CBS, ABC and NBC with Ku-band satellite uplink services from remote locations, such as Buckingham Fountain in downtown Chicago, Highland Park and O’Hare.

According to STS president Charles Spoto, getting to a shot and keeping a satellite uplink truck running properly under such harsh conditions can be a challenge. Besides facing the same hazardous driving conditions local commuters must deal with, other factors like de-icing and snow removal from the satellite feed dish and using grease with the proper viscosity for the weather were essential, said Spoto.

STS, which operates a fleet of Ku and C-band uplinking trucks typically used for news and sports coverage throughout the Midwest, makes it a rule of getting to a location four hours before the shot goes live, he said. To protect that time buffer on site requires STS drivers to allow four hours to travel up to 50mi on snow-packed and ice-covered roads.

While heavy freezing rain and sleet may present rain-fade issues, satellite transmission during snow storms aren’t a problem in that regard, he said. The fundamental problem with snow is accumulation in the satellite antenna.

De-icing, which is intended to prevent the snow from sticking to the antenna, only goes so far, however. Then it’s time to take matters into their own hands, literally. “De-icing helps,” Spato explained, “but sometimes we have to turn to manual labor and remove snow from the dish with a broom.”

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