WBRZ Goes Live With New Set

WBRZ, the Manship Media-owned ABC affiliate in Baton Rouge, La., unveiled a new, high-tech studio Nov. 17 designed to improve how the station delivers news.

The station’s production services, engineer and news team under the leadership of general manager Rocky Daboval worked with Devlin Design Group on the new news set.

The set, which can be changed as required, features multiple video walls. “Graphics and maps will be projected to help viewers understand important stories,” said Chuck Bark, director of news.

Take a look at the new set here.

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2014 SMPTE Gathering Sets Attendance Record

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers is out with attendance numbers for the SMPTE 2014 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition showing that this year’s event set a record for paid admission.

The event attracted about 2,000 attendees from 31 countries, and paid registration was up 11% from the 2013 event, SMPTE said.

American Society of Cinematographers Names Award Nominees

P.J. Dillon, Jonathan Freeman and Anette Haellmigk are among the nominees for the American Society of Cinematographers’ 29th Annual Outstanding Achievement Awards.

ASC AwardsThe full list of nominees for an episode of a regular series, include:

  • P.J. Dillon for Vikings, “Blood Eagle” (History);
  • Jonathan Freeman, ASC for Boardwalk Empire, “Golden Days for Boys and Girls” (HBO);
  • Anette Haellmigk for Game of Thrones, “The Children” (HBO);
  • Christopher Norr for Gotham, “Spirit of the Goat” (Fox);
  • Richard Rutkowski for Manhattan, “Perestroika” (WGN America); and
  • Fabian Wagner for Game of Thrones, “Mockingbird” (HBO).

In the Television Movie, Miniseries or Pilot category, the nominees are:

  • David Greene, CSC for the TV movie The Trip to Bountiful (Lifetime);John Lindley, ASC for the Manhattan pilot (WGN America);
  • David Stockton, ASC for the Gotham pilot (Fox); and
  • Theo Van de Sande, ASC for the TV movie Deliverance Creek (Lifetime).

Winners will be announced on Feb. 15, 2015, at a gala held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

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Trebek, Pogue to Host Tech Emmy Awards

Jeopardy! game show host Alex Trebek and Yahoo Tech star David Pogue will host the 66th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards, Jan. 8. 2015, from the Bellagio Ballroom at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Alex Trebek

Game show host Alex Trebek, shown, and Yahoo Tech star David Pogue will host the Tech & Engineering Emmy Awards at CES in January 2015.

The presentation will be the ninth consecutive year the Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards will have been presented during CES.

Click here for more information.

Effort To Promote OTA TV Takes Shape

There may be a whole generation of people in the United States that’s not sure whether or not HDTV is available for free over the air, but a coalition representing antenna and set makers, broadcasters and even consumer groups has set out to  change.

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Research suggests more than half of young adults do not know TV is available for free over the air.

TVfreedom, Antenna Direct and LG Electronics today announced the kickoff of a nationwide effort to promote over-the-air TV. The campaign’s major kickoff begins with the giveaway of 1,000 C2-V DTV antennas on Nov. 23 in Washington, D.C. at the Eastern Market, a popular tourist destination. A smaller event is scheduled for Nov. 20 in Toledo, Ohio.

To give the public an even bigger incentive to attend the kickoff, LG Electronics is making a 42-inch HDTV available for a raffle giveaway. The company also is providing 12 HDTVs  for the event to display over-the-air signals from area broadcasters.

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Antenna Direct will give away 1,000 model C2-V antennas in Washington, D.C. this weekend.

Antenna Direct, LG Electronics and TVfreedom, which counts NAB, network affiliates, station groups like Dispatch Broadcast Group, as well as special interest groups, like the Hispanic Institute, among its members, will demonstrate to those in Washington, how it is possible to receive more than 30 stations broadcasting news, weather, sports and multicultural programming over the air.

Robert Kenny, a spokesman for TVfreedom, says promoting the availability of free OTA television is important because so many people –particularly, younger adults who may have grown up in cable or satellite TV homes- don’t know that TV can be received for free with an antenna.

“We have done some surveys recently and found that among the 20- to 34-year-old age group more than 50 percent don’t realize they can get free over-the-air TV in their homes,” he says. “There is now an opportunity for many in that age group to access OTA and never sign up for cable TV.”

The campaign to raise awareness of OTA television will last a year with events scheduled in 25 U.S. cities, including Indianapolis and Huntington, W.V.

According to Kenny, the campaign is timely despite coming years after the completion of the analog-to-digital television conversion.

“With ever-increasing pay TV bills and more families feeling the pinch on their monthly budgets, this is a good opportunity to remind them that free over-the-air television is available,” he says.

Vector Capital to Acquire ChyronHego

ChyronHego has entered into a definitive merger agreement with affiliates of private equity firm Vector Capital under which a Vector affiliate will acquire all outstanding shares of ChyronHego common stock for $2.82 per share in cash.

The ChyronHego board has unanimously approved the agreement and recommended ChyronHego stockholders approve the transaction. The purchase price represents a premium of about 18% over ChyronHego’s average closing share price for the six months ending Nov. 14, 2014.

To learn more, click here.

CCW+SATCON attendance tops 11,000

Preliminary registration figures for CCW+SATCON, which concluded today in New York City, reveal 11,076 people signed up to attend.

This year’s CCW+SATCON, which focuses on media, entertainment and satellite communications technology, was the first to be managed by the National Association of Broadcasters since NAB purchased the convention from its previous organizer, JD Events, in December 2013.

The preliminary figure includes the number of people who registered to attend prior to and at the convention. NAB said the number was subject to final reconciliation. Verified attendance reported last year was 6,898 people, NAB said.

This year’s event saw 324 companies exhibit, a record for the event, an increase of 64 companies from 2013. Total exhibit floor space occupied at the Javits Convention Center for the event grew 13% to more than 52,000 square feet.

ONE Media Demos Next-Generation Broadcast Platform

ONE Media, the Sinclair Broadcast Group-backed venture developing a next-generation television transmission system, last week completed a demonstration of its new system for broadcast of OTA digital TV, mobile TV and data in Austin, Texas.

ONE Media logoA ONE Media spokesman said last week’s demo was conducted from KEYE-TV, the Sinclair-owned station in Austin. No special temporary authority from the Federal Communications Commission was required for the Nov. 4-5 demo because the station used  leased over-the-air TV spectrum from Dish Network, the spokesman said.

ONE Media, which has dubbed the system the “Next Generation Broadcast Platform,” NGBP, said the transmission demonstration produced “outstanding results” for broadcast of fixed, mobile and data services. NGBP transmits Ultra-HD, HD, mobile TV and data over-the-air.

The ONE Media spokesman said the company will begin a 24-hour-per-day, seven-day-per week test of the NGBP from KEYE-TV on the leased Dish channel before the end of the year.

According to a press release issued yesterday afternoon by ONE Media, the demo “confirmed the unique capability to deliver flexible waveforms carrying video and other streams of IP data into a development platform and operate as a gateway to serve multiple mobile devices.”

The demo and subsequent test of NGBP will provide confirmation to the Advanced Television Standards Committee (ATSC) of the system’s performance. NGBP is among the systems under consideration by ATSC for its ATSC 3.0 next-generation television transmission system.

“Rather than designing a broadcast television specific standard, ONE Media’s approach is to deploy an IP service agnostic platform which supports full 4K UltraHD and mobile broadcast television and also supports new one to many data distribution services, essentially future proofing broadcasters flexibility to meet future market demands,” said Kevin Gage, ONE Media’s EVP and CTO.

For more information, click here.

Parting Observation From Peacock Productions

After posting today’s blog on Peacock Productions’ work last weekend in Chicago to cover Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk for the Discovery Channel, a spokesperson for Peacock passed along an observation from Marc Weinstock, who was the subject of my interview.

Weinstock’s comment, in part, was: “NBC News brought its own 35- foot equipment truck with more than 300 pieces of equipment that were used during both shows, digital and main.

“In partnering with BSI, NBC News provided all of the wireless IFBs and some PLs for the event.  For the digital show and preshow, NBC News and Comcast provided all facilities giving Discovery Channel a greater ability to get more bang for their buck.”

‘Tried-and-True’ Technology With a Twist Delivers Wallenda Spectacle For Discovery, says Weinstock

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When Nik Wallenda traversed the tightrope high above Chicago last weekend, he carried a miniature HD cam and microwave transmitter to give viewers a look from his vantage to the ground below. (Photo: Courtesy Discovery.)

Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda may have pulled off the most spectacular thing happening last Sunday evening (Nov. 2) in Chicago with his breathtaking walk high above the Windy City, but running a close second had to be the ensemble of people and broadcast technology needed to produce television coverage of the spectacle for the Discovery Channel.

Peacock Productions, a production unit of NBC News specializing in live, long-form event coverage, produced Skyscraper Live with Nik Wallenda for Discovery Channel with the help of OB truck provider Game Creek Video, additional mobile facilities from Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia and HD wireless camera specialist Broadcast Sports Inc., BSI.

Wallenda’s walk, a two-part effort with the first requiring an uphill climb at a 15-degree angle and the second a relatively level traverse –but blindfolded, thrilled TV audiences, Internet viewers and tens of thousands of onlookers in Chicago some 50 stories below.

Marc Weinstock, director of technical operations at Peacock Productions, spoke with me on the phone a few days after the event about what was required to produce the show and how it compared to the production of a previous Wallenda high-wire walk across the Grand Canyon, which Peacock Productions also did for the Discovery Channel.

Can you give me an overview of the live production resources deployed to cover the production of Skyscraper Live with Nik Wallenda for the Discovery Channel?
Sure. I would say it was a mix of some traditional broadcast, tried-and-true technology methods. For the main show, we used Game Creek Video’s Amazin truck with a fully functional B unit from them.

Then Comcast SportsNet, which is one of our partners in Philadelphia, provided the production truck for the digital backstage show.

That show had several cameras of its own, plus the backstage show took 10 of our ISO cameras and fed to the Web through some satellite technology. We used a six-channel MCPC [multiple channels per carrier] with Novelsat modulation and put up about 100Mbits on the satellite.

They took that down in Denver at Origin Digital and passed it on to Akamai so they could provide their six feeds to the Web.

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BISS encryption and the use of Noble Sat modulators as well as fiber optic transport made it difficult for any unauthorized recording of the live event,  says Marc Weinstock, director of technical operations at Peacock Productions (Photo: Courtesy Discovery.)

What about the production for television?
The main show had 27 cameras, including those that came from the digital show, which were mostly traditional broadcast cameras. We did have several RF cameras, which again is tried-and-true broadcast technology, but used in a different and new way.

For example, we put microwave transmitters in the backs of two elevators and had them run over 60-some-odd stories so you could see live pictures of Nik [Wallenda] when he was in either elevator at the different buildings.

Nik himself wore a transmitter and body-mounted camera, which provided those stunning pictures when he was up over the wire.

I would say [that was] newer technology with smaller cameras paired with tried-and-true, tested technology as well.

BSI, otherwise known as Broadcast Sports Inc., did all of the RF. We had a decent number of wireless cameras: the camera Nik wore, our Steadicam, which was pretty much everywhere, the helicopter, the two elevator cameras. We had a camera over at the Wyndham Hotel that was wireless. So they had their hands full. Plus all of this wireless communications –wireless microphones, IFBs, PLs and so on.

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A total of 27 HD cameras captured Nik Wallenda’s feat for the main Discovery Channel broadcast. (Photo: Courtesy Discovery.)

You must have worked closely with the local SBE frequency coordinator in Chicago.
Very early on we engaged the local SBE coordinator and determined there was limited availability for what we needed and wanted to do for the amount of communications we were looking to put up.

So BSI partnered with the FCC and filed the appropriate STA [Special Temporary Authority applications] to get an unused TV channel in the Chicago TV market opened up. That was a huge piece of what we did because that allowed for us to have a plentiful number of channels for clear communications.

So there was no use of IP wireless newsgathering systems?
No. Those discussions were held early on, and if it had been something we needed to do, we would have done that. But since we were in a condensed operating area, those tried-and-true methods were the better options for us because we were able to receive them.

We were in close enough proximity. Had we gone into a larger area where we couldn’t really centralize all of our communications and cameras, perhaps that would have been brought up. But in this case, that wasn’t needed.

Since you brought up mobile IP-based technologies, I wanted to say those are great technologies, and we use them quite a bit in the news world as you already know. But in this case -where we had more than 65,000 people in one area- the cellular networks become absolutely trashed.

Most people had sporadic cell service. They couldn’t get data feeds out; they couldn’t upload pictures. So certainly in a production of this size with the expectations that we all had for it, “We can’t connect” is totally unacceptable.

That’s another reason we decided to go with tried-and-true microwave technology for those feeds because it wouldn’t be acceptable to have, “Oh we can’t connect now. Maybe we’ll get back to Nik when he’s on the wire.”

That’s a big reason why we went with some of these methods.

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Simulations of the high-wire microwave link were used before the event to guarantee they would work once Nik Wallenda started his performance. (Photo: Courtesy Discovery.)

Can you tell me about how the program delay was set up to prevent live video from airing in the event of a catastrophe?
I am not exactly sure what items were used because that happened at the Discovery Channel in Sterling, Va. But what I can say is that from our site we either used direct point-to-point fiber optics circuits, or in the case of our uplinks –all were BISS [Basic Interoperable Scrambling System) encrypted.

So we used BISS encryption technology on the Ericsson encoders as well as using Novelsat modulators, which not a lot of people have either. We felt that approach provided multiple levels of encryption so people couldn’t accidentally end up recording the feed.

Has Peacock Productions been involved in producing any of Wallenda’s other recent high-profile, high-wire walks?
This is our second. We were the production team involved with Skywire Live, which was the one when he crossed the Grand Canyon, and that presented its own extreme challenges and difficulties that were entirely different. I think many of us left there thinking, “Wow, if we can accomplish this, we can accomplish anything." Which is true.

But I would say Chicago proved to be extremely, extremely different. I think many people, including me, might have thought it was going to be easier because now you are in a major metropolitan area and you can get the things you need. And that actually proved helpful.

However, it also brings along its own set of challenges. Out in the desert, you can do a lot of things that nobody cares about. But in the city of Chicago, you really can’t just put a truck somewhere and put a cone two extra feet out because you need the room. That’s not OK.

Whereas in the desert, if we have another truck, we’d just put it out there.

I would guess it was easier to get spectrum for your communications needs in the desert.
Yes, frequencies were easier to come by in the desert. But because of our filing of the STAs in Chicago, we really had a nice clean channel. Actually radio communications were better in Chicago than in the canyon.

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Marc Weinstock, director of technical operations at Peacock Productions, says lessons learned from the production of Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon, particularly about the ability of fiber optic cable to stand up to the wind and elements, helped to shape production decisions about the most recent show.

Were there any lessons from the Grand Canyon walk that you took back to Chicago for this event?

Absolutely there were things that were learned. In the Grand Canyon, Nik wore two cameras on his body –one looking forward and one looking down. I think after the director saw that he said, “We don’t need that camera looking forward; we have that angle, and it’s not necessary.”

And I think there were several other camera angles where we said, “This doesn’t really buy us anything, let’s cut this or cut that.”

And then we added in [camera angles in] other places for our Chicago coverage so people had plenty of views.

Another thing we did in the canyon was the starting line was very far away on an island, technically. And we ran fiber optic cable over there and microwave backup because we didn’t know. Maybe the fiber would break.

But the lessons we learned were the fiber was very durable and held up very well. It held up in the high winds and the rigging that we put on it was very strong. So when we went to Chicago, we put out over 10,000 feet of fiber as primary and backup. But we did not feel the need to put up extra microwave backups because we learned that fiber could withstand the high wind.

It was really put to the test on Friday in those 60 mph winds. Everything held, and when we pulled it out and examined it [after the event], other than some discoloration, everything looked the way it did when we put it in.

Where was the fiber?
We had 10,000 feet of fiber running from the bottom of Dearborn Street where our TV trucks were, up the side of Marina Tower, around the back and then across from Marina East to the Leo Burnett Building. And we had left a significant sag in it so it wouldn’t obstruct people’s view of the walk.

It had its own rope across and that’s how we kept everything connected. That was the lifeblood of the whole operation.

Were there any other unusual or unique components to this production?
Obviously, one of the things that is hard to do is test how things are going to work in the middle of a wire in the middle of a city because, I would imagine, none of us are going to get out there and test it. And even if we had someone brave enough to want to do it, they don’t put the wire up until a day or two before the walk.

So you kind of have to do your best guess, best calculations, simulations. Again, working with frequency coordinators to make sure everything is where it should be so that when he gets out there is no problem.