At NAB, It's About Bringing It All Back HomeStation engineers eye a mix of new technologies and traditional broadcast gear for next week’s show in Vegas 4/01/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern
While a lot of the buzz for the NAB
Show in Las Vegas between April 6 and 11
will revolve around new technologies for
mobile, streaming video, apps and social media, more
traditional broadcast gear will also be high on the shopping
lists of many TV station groups.
That’s particularly the case for groups such as Sinclair
and Nexstar, which are digesting some major acquisitions.
But it can also be found at groups such as NBC
Owned Television Stations that are building new facilities.
Meanwhile, a number of other station groups are
still in the midst of significant HD upgrades.
Here’s a breakdown of how top engineers at eight station
groups size up their plans for a busy week.
CBS: Keep on Truckin’
“Acquisition will be the preeminent focus at NAB,” says
Jeff Birch, VP of engineering at CBS Television Stations.
For Birch, that focus zeroes in on ENG trucks. Ford is
stopping production on E-Series vans that have long been
used as the chassis for ENG trucks, and Birch will be
looking at what manufacturers can offer as a replacement.
CBS has widely deployed backpack technologies,
and Birch calls them “a great tool, but not the only
tool. I still believe there is a need for ENG trucks for
major news stories.”
During NAB, he will also be looking at smaller,
lighter cameras that have IP connectivity to send back
video directly to the station. “Why spend $30,000 or
$40,000 on a camera when you can buy one for less
than $10,000 with great picture quality and buy a lot
of equipment to complement it?” Birch asks.
Beyond acquisition tools, Birch and his engineers will
explore the latest developments in weather systems,
robots for archives and antenna and transmission technologies.
“With spectrum repacking coming up, I want
to see what is available in more efficient transmitters
and antenna,” he says.
NBC: Thinking Beyond What’s Possible
In the run-up to NAB, station engineers at NBC
Owned Television Stations meet with general managers,
news directors and sales executives to discuss
where they are headed now, along with their plans for
the future, explains Jeff Morris, VP of technology and
operations at the group.
“We encourage them to
think beyond what’s possible,
and what they would
like to see that would enable
new tools or workflows,”
Morris says. “It
might not be even something
that exists today. But
it gives us a chance to talk
to vendors about [issues]
at NAB that might influence
what they create.”
In addition, Morris and his engineers always arrive in
Las Vegas with some major technological areas they want
to explore. This year, those involve newsgathering, archives,
digital media integration, production-related tools
and traditional broadcast equipment, Morris says.
One traditional broadcast technology he is particularly
interested in is monitoring. “Our TV stations have
become incredibly complex, and we really need monitoring
tools that can create greater visibility into our
operations,” Morris says.
In addition to building major new facilities in Dallas
and Los Angeles, the NBC group also is looking for tools
to streamline multiplatform distribution and to better
integrate that into their broadcast workflows. “We want
to make sure our people have the best tools possible for
all the platforms they are publishing to,” Morris notes.
Sinclair: Cost-Effective HD Upgrades
With Sinclair Broadcasting on the acquisition trail,
equipment for upgrades to the news operations and
HD infrastructures at the groups ever-growing portfolio
will be a major focus,
says Harvey Arnold,
corporate director of
engineering for Sinclair
“In the past year, we
have more than doubled
the news stations we have
with all these purchases,”
Because many of these
upgrades are occurring in
smaller markets, Sinclair will be particularly interested
in technologies that can help the group and its stations
“do more with less,” he says.
“You can’t spend millions of dollars on these smalland
medium-size market stations,” Arnold says. “You
have to think out of the box for smaller markets for
ways to do things that give them more bang for the
buck and allow them to be more efficient.”
As part of that effort, Sinclair is looking at alternative editing systems, a wide variety of equipment for HD
upgrades, less expensive HD cameras and new ways to
bring content back from the field.
Hearst: Getting a Better Grip
With six hi-def upgrades left to do at its stations and
two scheduled to occur this year, Hearst will be looking
at equipment for HD conversions as well as technologies
for better compression, live news trucks and IP
technologies, says Marty Faubell, VP, engineering for
For stations that have
already launched HD
newscasts, Hearst is now
looking to upgrade their
trucks to HD. But the
group wants to get a better
grasp on developments
in compression, including
the emerging high efficiency
(HEVC) technologies, before
spending any money.
“I’m a little hesitant knowing that we are entering
another round of new compression,” Faubell says. “We
have been doing some tests and will be doing a lot of
due diligence around compression.”
With Hearst stations now streaming a tremendous
amount of content to the Web and mobile devices, the
group will continue to look at new IP technologies. “It
is interesting to see how traditional broadcast vendors
have struggled to move beyond broadcast and expand
into the Web,” Faubell says. “Now we are seeing players
from Web video moving back into TV technologies. So
there is a little bit of a tussle in developing a tool set
that does it all—TV, Web, and mobile.”
Nexstar: HD, New Builds and Upgrades,
And Building Better Weather
Live trucks, new weather systems, equipment for
HD upgrades and tools for better sharing of content
are among items on the NAB shopping list for the Nexstar
Broadcasting Group, reports senior VP of station
operations Blake Russell.
Nexstar has acquired a number of stations over the last
year and is currently involved in several major projects
that will require new equipment. “We have several new
builds or market consolidation projects that are going on
now or will be starting in the future,” Russell says.
In addition, seven HD upgrades are planned for Nexstar
stations this year. “We continue to talk to vendors
to find unique ways to get the most out of the dollar for
those projects,” he says.
Much of the company’s focus is on strengthening local
news operations with unique content.
As part of that effort, Russell and his team will be
exploring new weather systems that can stand out from
their competition. “I don’t want to just adapt a package
of weather graphics into a weather system,” he says.
“I want to take it to another level and present the best
possible weather in the market.”
They will also be eyeing new cameras like JVC’s
new 130 GY-HM650 ProHD mobile news cameras
“that have built-in connectivity, so you can send video
straight from the cameras to the newsroom,” he says.
As part of the push to strengthen local content, the
group wants to continue to expand its ability to share
content. “We’re interested in any technology that will
allow us to share content better, move it faster from the field,” Russell says.
Gray Television: Steps Toward
After spending the last few years creating a new approach
for news production inside its station, Gray
Television will concentrate much of its energies at NAB
on new technologies to
change the way it acquires
and distributes news from
the field, reports Jim
Ocon, VP of technology
for the station group.
“As the saying goes,
news does not happen
in the newsroom,” says
Ocon. “I want to virtualize
our newsroom and
provide our folks with all
the tools they need to send back content without necessarily
having to come back to the newsroom.”
To accomplish that, at NAB he will be looking at new
acquisition technologies to “eliminate live vans”; smaller,
less expensive cameras; cloud production tools; and
technologies for backpack journalism. “We want to move
electronic newsgathering straight into the cloud,” he says.
Inside the stations, Ocon is also looking for ways to better
utilize social media, technologies for app development
and processes that can streamline multiplatform distribution.
“And I want open video standards, open codecs,” he
adds. “I think I’m done with proprietary codecs.”
Media General: Transcoding,
Workflows and Archives
Media General will be looking at a variety of products
at NAB, says Mark Turner, VP of broadcast technology.
These include transcoding tools that could improve company
workflows for processing commercials; affordable
virtual sets; archive systems that can better handle HD
content; Wi-Fi enabled cameras; graphic systems; loudness
monitoring products; and mobile DTV.
As more Media General stations adopt HD from the field, Turner notes it is “creating some complexities for
our archives. So we’ll be looking at archives.”
For newsgathering, Turner says they are interested in
some of the newer cameras from both Panasonic and JVC
that have built-in Wi-Fi,
particularly the JVC GYHM650
news camera. They are also
looking to streamline work-flows with some new tools
to transcode and handle
spot ads and are interested
in ways to improve their
While the Media General
stations have been upgraded
to comply with the Commercial Advertisement
Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, Turner is eyeing technologies
for better addressing the issue. “We would much
prefer that the correction for loudness be as far upstream
as possible, so we don’t have unintended quality problems
when the compressor kicks in,” he says.
Fisher: Mobile DTV and
Weather Are Tops on a Full Plate
During NAB, engineers at Fisher Communications will
be taking a close look at virtual sets for smaller-market
stations, weather systems, cloud technologies, news
trucks and tools for better content sharing and multiplatform
delivery, notes VP of technology, Brian McHale.
“We usually spend some time looking at next-generation
weather systems,” he notes. “Weather is a big driver for
our Portland, Ore. and Seattle stations.”
For smaller Fisher markets, channel-in-a-box technologies
and virtual sets are on the shopping list. “As the costs
continue to come down, we will be looking at virtual sets
for some of the stations in 100-plus markets,” McHale says.
Fisher has been standardizing on TVU backpacks. They
deployed four in Portland and Seattle and are now thinking
of adding some to the smaller markets and expanding
their use for live feeds. “We will be meeting with TVU
about the potential of taking a story from Portland and using
them to go live to air in other markets,” McHale says.
While Fisher has been extremely happy with these
cellular bonding technologies, McHale will also be talking
to vendors about a new ENG truck.
And mobile DTV will be a hot topic for Fisher and
other stations during a meeting of the Mobile 500 consortium
at NAB. The Mobile 500’s mobile DTV product
has been soft launched by Fisher in Seattle and Hubbard
Broadcasting in Minneapolis, and Fisher will be sharing
some of the results with other members.
“We have been very happy with what we’ve seen,”
McHale says, adding that 61% of users are watching
one to five hours of mobile broadcasts each week.