Bot's news on wheels

Portable production unit links Tribune's newspaper bureau, KTLA(TV)
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Tribune has placed a portable camera system dubbed "Bot" in the Washington news bureau of the Los Angeles Times
so that reporters for the paper can do news cut-ins for KTLA(TV) Los Angeles newscasts.

Because on-air talent uses it to file TV stories out of the news department, says Dwight Crumb, vice president of engineering for DST, the systems-design company that built the Bot. "We had to come up with a system that had the flexibility to allow the reporters to file the story from wherever it was appropriate at the newspaper."

The main challenge was to create a system that is simple enough to be operated easily by a reporter who is a good writer but may not be technically competent. The reporter rolls the system into place in front of an appropriate backdrop, stands in front of the camera and communicates with the station via Rane IFB.

Crumb says this is the fourth Tribune location to have newsroom cameras put in a newspaper bureau. Los Angeles, Hanford, Calif., and New York City have fixed-location facilities that have more capabilities than the Bot. But Washington's Bot, about 30 inches wide and 30 inches deep, can move throughout the news bureau. All the cameras can be controlled over Tribune's wide-area network (WAN).

The system includes a Hitachi HV-D15 three-CCD color camera with a Hitachi Eagle robotic pan/tilt system and an Ikegami TM14 monitor. Audio is handled via an Intelx AMX 4X1 audio mixer and two Telex headphones on board to monitor up to three Sony ECM-77B microphones. A Miranda Pico link converts the component analog signal into SDI. Kino Flo lights are located on swing arms on either side of the cart.

"The person flips up the arms and turns on the lights, and then the operator at the station site can frame up the shot," says Crumb. "The talent puts on the mic, and they're ready to go to air."

The signal leaves the Bot on baseband SDI video and analog audio and passes through an MPEG-2 encoder, where it is compressed and sent to the station. An onboard computer controls the audio mixer and converts the commands from the WAN into RS232 commands to control the camera.