IP Tech Tackles Workflow, Wireless Costs
The shape of ENG has changed a lot over the past decade with the introduction and broad acceptance of bonded cellular systems for TV newsgathering. At the 2017 NAB Show next month, sources say this category of technology will enter a maturing phase where emphasis will be placed on finer points, like maximizing efficiency, integrating more deeply with newsroom workflow and minding operating costs, while competitors look to leave their mark.
“The crack cocaine of the news director is the bonded cellular system that we have all enjoyed so much over the last several years,” says Jim Ocon, VP, business development at Persistent Systems, a wireless networking system provider offering IP transceivers that can complement or replace bonded cellular systems.
The yearly data charge for one ENG backpack equipped with two to three cellular modems and contributing 100 hours of news per month can range between $5,000 and $7,000, he says. “This is a huge pain point for our industry and it has everything to do with ever-rising data costs.”
At the NAB Show (April 22-27 in Las Vegas), Persistent Systems will show its MPU5 transceivers, which automatically find each other in an instant to form an IP Mesh Data Network using the company’s Mobile Ad hoc Networking (MANET) system.
While the Persistent System offering can be used to get a signal from inside a building out to a bonded cellular backpack or ENG truck for signal contribution to the station or in lieu of IP backpacks, Accelerated Media Technologies (AMT) offers an outright replacement for backpacks and satellite contribution with its ENGenesis wireless system that brings LTE technology to 2 GHz BAS channels.
“The idea is you build an infrastructure; you build the network” says Steve DeFala, AMT director of sales. “So, you are in network, and you are not paying per bit like the guys do with bonded cellular and satellite.”
AMT officially introduced ENGenesis at last year’s NAB Show. Since then it has completed the installation of the system at WJXT, the Graham Media Group-owned independent in Jacksonville, Fla.
At this year’s show, the company will unveil “very user-friendly interfaces” for use in the studio and the news vehicle to make ENGenesis contribution a “one-button-push” operation, he says. “We are trying to make it so you don’t have to use all of your master control time dialing in a shot. It’s as automated as it could be.”
JVCKenwood will tackles the operational costs of cellular network data plans for bonded systems a little differently. At the NAB Show New York in November 2016, it introduced the ProHD Bridge, a wireless base station that can receive 5 GHZ Wi-Fi transmissions from multiple, untethered JVC cameras up to 2,000 feet away and turn those incoming IP camera streams for contribution to the station via bonded cellular connections.
However, the difference with the ProHD Bridge is that it can achieve robust connectivity to the station with two active bonded modems and two in reserve, says Dave Walton, JVCKenwood assistant VP.
“We don’t need to have eight modems [with eight data plans] in the unit,” he says. “It’s not necessary … because much better antenna arrays are positioned on the vehicle as part of the system.”
In April, the company will offer additional new products making use of this concept, says Walton, who declined to give additional details about the introductions.
Many major ENG camera vendors, including Sony, Panasonic and Canon, are building wireless and wired LAN connectivity into some of their models. For example, the compact Canon XF-205, which will be featured at the company’s NAB Show booth, is equipped with support for streaming via 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi connections or a LAN cable.
Relying on Wi-Fi connectivity rather than wireless modems allows broadcasters to sidestep the data charges associated with cellular plans, says Larry Thorpe, Canon senior fellow. “Some companies are putting more and more into the powerful engines in their smaller cameras, essentially giving them a central interface to Wi-Fi networks,” he says.
Suppliers of bonded cellular backpacks and camera backs are fully aware of the data charges their customers face, and at the NAB Show there will be a special emphasis on efficiency, says Paul Shen, founder and CEO of TVUNetworks.
“We’ve seen usage [of IP newsgathering contribution] increase. Daily live news [at some stations] has grown from six or seven hours to nine-and-a-half hours,” he says.
Not surprisingly, growing dependency on mobile ENG equipment has accompanied this expansion, Shen says.
“As stations increase their usage, they want to be able to continue managing costs. In fact, they don’t want to see a significant increase in cost,” he says.
(Note: Click here to access TVNewsCheck’s NAB 2017 Resource Guide listing of ENG/IP newsgathering vendors and products.)
TVUNetworks will show several new steps it is taking to increase efficiency and manage costs at the NAB Show, including the use of H.265 High Efficiency Video Coding, which will dramatically reduce the number of bits needed to contribute video at today’s quality level.