Boston's WCVB Switches to HD
Hearst-Argyle station is 48th to upgrade newscast
By Glen Dickson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/20/2007 8:00:00 PM
Boston got its first taste of high-definition local news May 14 when Hearst-Argyle's WCVB broadcast its 5 p.m. news in 720-line progressive (720p) HD. The ABC affiliate is now providing the No. 7 market with 4.5 hours of news each day from a brand-new set featuring 360-degree views, a large weather center and muted backgrounds designed to look sharp yet not overwhelm the talent at the anchor desk.
|A Wider Picture|
|Four dozen stations now produce and broadcast local news and non-sports programming in high-definition.|
|Source: B&C research
|KLAS||Las Vegas||CBS||Landmark Communications|
|WRAL||Raleigh-Durham, N.C.||CBS||Capitol Broadcasting|
|KAZR||Reno||Azteca America||Pappas Telecasting|
|KFMB||San Diego||CBS||Midwest Television|
|WLEX||Lexington, Ky.||NBC||Cordillera Communications|
|KVOA||Tucson, Ariz.||NBC||Cordillera Communications|
|WKYT||Lexington, Ky.||CBS||Gray Television|
WCVB is the second Hearst-Argyle station to launch HD news, after KCRA Sacramento, and is the 48th station nationwide to offer high-definition pictures from its news studio. It is one of several big-market stations to launch this quarter, after CBS O&Os in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York went HD last month. While the Hearst station won't disclose what it has spent on the move, a big-market HD launch can easily cost $10 million.
WCVB had the luxury of remodeling a large (60- x 90-foot) studio on the second floor of its headquarters. The new set, designed by FX Group of Ocoee, Fla., supports the station's morning, noon, early-evening and late-evening news, as well as its half-hour signature newsmagazine show, Chronicle, which created its first HD show in 1999 and began broadcasting full-time in HD last October.
Like other stations airing HD news, WCVB is still producing field footage in standard-definition, whether live remote or edited package, and upconverting it for broadcast. The station is generating 4:3 standard-definition pictures from its seven-year-old Sony DVCAM cameras, although it will soon begin shooting in widescreen.
New HD camcorders are in the budget for next year, by which time the station hopes to have received new digital microwave gear as part of a federally mandated spectrum-relocation process being managed by Sprint Nextel. Once both pieces are in place, WCVB should be able to provide live HD feeds from the field, says station President/General Manager Bill Fine.
Nonetheless, the new HD studio is a “quantum leap” from where WCVB was before, he adds, particularly with the station's investment in hi-def weather graphics from WSI and a hi-def Doppler radar system from Baron Services. WCVB branded its weather coverage as “Storm Team 5” coincident with the HD launch.
Other new gear includes a Grass Valley Trinix routing switcher and a new control room with a Grass Valley Kalypso production switcher, a Wheatstone digital audio console, an Evertz multi-view monitoring system, and a Pinnacle HD DekoCast downstream graphics device for inserting news tickers, emergency alerts and the like.
New Lights, Cameras, Action!
WCVB is still using a standard-definition Pinnacle Deko graphics system for primary graphics but is creating files at about five times the size of what it used to produce for standard-definition in order to boost the relative picture quality, says Director of Engineering Dave Kaylor.
“It's not really HD,” he says, “but we're making it such a massive file size, you can't tell the difference.”
While WCVB is still relying on standard-def tape-to-tape editing to go with its DVCAM cameras, it has installed Avid Adrenaline hi-def nonlinear editing systems, used primarily for Chronicle, and has an Avid Airspeed high-definition server to handle playback for the newsmagazine. It has also purchased an additional Airspeed HD server to play back HD commercials and promos.
Chronicle has used Sony XDCAM HD optical-disc camcorders for its HD production, along with a few handheld Sony HDV-format cameras for versatility. While XDCAM has shown compatibility problems with the Avid editors, Naylor says it has held up well in the field. However, he is undecided about what acquisition format WCVB will choose for hard-news production. At the NAB show last month, he was investigating Panasonic's solid-state P2 HD among other options.
Looking Good Never Looked Better
WCVB news staffers rehearsed for two weeks before the May 14 launch, says News Director Coleen Marren. The station fine-tuned variables like lighting, camera angles, makeup, even what color clothing looked best (bold colors and accent colors work best with HD's high contrast). WCVB also brought in a Hollywood makeup artist, who applied a mineral-based makeup that looks very natural on its anchors.
Marren believes the industry's fear that HD will make talent look worse by magnifying imperfections is a “great urban myth.”
She says, “Everybody looks better.”
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