HD Universe Is Expanding

Lower-cost solutions lead to more high-def news reports from the field

Why This Matters

One Size Doesn't Fit All

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While much of the attention in lower-cost HD upgrades has been on inexpensive professional camcorders, a number of stations are buying mid-priced models because of the quality they offer.

As part of its HD newsroom upgrade, ABC affiliate KTBS in Shreveport, La., purchased both Sony PWM-EX3 camcorders, which list for around $9,900, and some larger PMW-350K cameras ($22,000). “We had an opportunity to go with all lower-end cameras, but we chose not to because we want to make sure the quality was there,” says George Sirven, station manager for KTBS and KPXJ.

Bob Ott, VP at Sony Electronics’ Professional Solutions of America group, has seen similar decisions at other stations. The lower-cost cameras are generally “not replacing what I could call the standard run-and-gun type of news camcorders,” he says. “For covering speeches during the political season and other important news stories, they are still using” more expensive models.

Ott also stresses that stations are looking closely at how cameras fit into their overall

workflow and the efficiency of their news operations. “We are not just selling camcorders,” he notes. “Now, sales people go to the station and ask what they are going to be editing on and how they are going to store and use the material.”

While many stations

have yet to offer high-def local
news, an even smaller number are
sending back remote HD reports. Bob
Hildeman, CEO and cofounder of Streambox,
which provides technologies to transmit
content for more than 150 U.S. stations, estimates
the percentage of stations doing HD from the field
is "in the very low single digits for either
file or live HD acquisition."

But this is changing.
Streambox is already allowing stations to send
back HD material over 3G networks, and
Hildeman believes 4G wireless networks will
make wireless delivery even more appealing. "4G
means that the stations will have a very
robust network that can accommodate high-quality
video," he says.

Clearwire, backed by
Sprint and a group of cable MSOs, has deployed
a 4G network in 62 markets with a total of
82 million residents, and Verizon plans to roll out
its 4G network to 38 markets with 110 million
people by year-end.

As part of the recently
completed Broadcast Auxiliary Service
relocation of spectrum, stations also acquired digital
microwave equipment that some are now using to
transmit HD. "Broadcasters like Scripps and
Newport are actually using 16 QAM [Quadrature
Amplitude Modulated signals] at 19 Mbps
[megabytes per second] to send live microwave
stand-up remotes from the field in 720p every
night, taking encoded output from JVC cameras," notes
Larry Librach, VP for JVC's professional
products group.

Meanwhile, the
proliferation of lower-cost camcorders with price
points below $12,000 has also been fueling a move
to do more HD from the field. JVC got an
early lead in the sector with the launch of its
GY-HD250U and GY-HM790U HD camcorders, and Sony,
Panasonic and Canon are all selling units
priced at under $12,000 that are being widely
deployed in the field.

Those prices have
encouraged many stations to buy HD cameras, even
if they are still shooting standard-def footage.
"In general we are selling HD cameras for less
than what we sold SD cameras for a few years
ago," says Steve Cooperman, product manager at
Panasonic Solutions Co. "Everything is
getting smaller, faster and less expensive out of economic

An even bigger factor
than cost may be the impact of these low-cost
HD camcorders on workflow. The cameras
rely on solid-state storage, which has encouraged
stations to move to file-based workflows
and more efficient production techniques.
"Workflow has been the most important
overall issue in getting our product out in the
marketplace for ENG," adds JVC's Librach. "They can
now shoot, take the [SD/SDHC storage] chip
out of the camera, put it in the laptop, edit it
and then play it out to the station or save it.
It is all incredibly fast."