Tech Spotlight

Sinclair Delivers HD Upgrade To Dayton Duo

The broadcaster is spending $8 million to convert the news operations at its WKEF-WRGT ABC-Fox duopoly as part of its push to upgrade all its news producing stations. Now there are only three left to go.

Sinclair Broadcast Group last month consolidated its WKEF (ABC)-WRGT (Fox) duopoly in Dayton, Ohio (DMA 63), into a new facility in Miamisburg, a suburb south of the city, upgrading its news operation to HD with a variety of digital and automation technology.

The $8 million project is part of a six-year push by Sinclair to upgrade all of its legacy news-producing stations.

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That effort is now nearing its end. In fact, WTVC Chattanooga, Tenn., made the switch to HD news on Jan. 31, a few days after the Dayton duo. And just three more Sinclair operations are still laboring in standard definition: KOKH Oklahoma City, Okla.; WICD Champaign, Ill.; and KGAN-KFXA, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

WKEF-WRGT took the Sinclair cookie cutter approach to its upgrade. “It’s extremely uniformed,” says Mark Nadeau, Sinclair’s director of TV production. “We’ve done this numerous times and now have this HD footprint when we look at any of our HD news stations.”

Nadeau says the Dayton stations, ABC and Fox affiliates, essentially went from analog to digital.

Like the other Sinclair news stations, WKEF-WRGT now employ Ross OverDrive news production automation, Chyron graphics and Avid iNews newsroom systems, Nadeau says. “There was some technology shock.”

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“We were working on a 16-year-old Grass Valley switcher, absolutely no automation," says Chief Engineer Boban Marin. "It was a huge learning curve for some of our production folks."

The entire news team started training and rehearsing on the new equipment after Christmas, right up to the Sunday night news debut on Jan. 27.

The stations have six Panasonic AK-HC1500 HD cameras in the studio and six Panasonic P2 AG-HPX370 HD cameras in the field.

The stations will become the third operation in Dayton to shoot HD in the field, says Marin, adding that videographers and multimedia journalists will use LiveU bonded cellular to feed video back to the newsroom.

“It works out really well,” he says. “The 4G coverage seems to get better every day. There have been some sporadic issues here and there, but overall, we’ve been really impressed with how it has worked out.”

General Manager Lisa Barhorst says that because of the smaller cameras and mobile uplink technology, she’s been able to expand the staff. “We can have one person do more things, which lets us better serve our community and be in more places.”

The WKEF-WRGT news team needed to adjust to the new Telemetrics CPS-ST-S studio control system — a robotic camera system that’s integrated with the OverDrive software.

Wes Finely, WKEF-WRGT news director, says the stations' floor director is now busier than ever making sure that the right people are looking at the right camera at the right time.

“The attention to detail has heightened significantly,” says Finely. “Some of our rehearsals were pretty ugly. You can be doing everything right, then all of a sudden, there’s one little change in direction, and it looks real bad.”

While the robotic-controlled cameras wouldn’t have been a problem on WKEF’s old set, where there was one setup for news and one for weather, the new set allows for multiple configurations.

Designed by Colorado-based Devlin Design Group, the set puts a big emphasis on technology and storytelling, using a large monitor wall to display video feeds and graphics. It also includes a large rear-projection screen behind the movable anchor desk.

“This is a very interactive set, especially compared to what they had — a traditional anchor sitting behind a desk,” says Dan Devlin, creative director of the 27-year-old design firm. “Now they can get up, move around, move around the desks for different types of news shows. Everything about this set just feels more open and accessible — and technology plays a big part in that.”

The monitor wall comprises 10 50-inch monitors arranged two monitors tall and five wide. All content is programmed into the monitors using OverDrive. Devlin says the setup acts like a video matrix, giving the station the ability to display one image across all 10 monitors or different images on each monitor.

“And they can feed in anything they want,” he says, “like live video for interviews, with a graphic right next to that feed. The beauty of the cube wall is that nothing is physical on the set as far as visuals go. Everything can change at the touch of a button.”

The monitor wall
Including the lighting — depending on the mood or subject of a story. Lighting vendor Brightline installed a mix of fluorescent and LED fixtures throughout the set. The fluorescents are primarily used for key lighting — otherwise known as the primary light shown on the anchor —and fill lighting to help illuminate any shadows. The LEDs are used as wall panel lights for creating different moods.

Devlin says the station can use patriotic colors for election coverage, orange for Halloween or red and green around Christmas.


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