George Hoover, chief technology officer for NEP Broadcasting, has overseen the upgrading of more than half the company's 60-truck fleet to HD. NEP's first HD unit was put into service in March 2003. But the man who's steeped in modern technology began his career in starry-eyed fashion, and with an enthusiasm for the power of events.
Hoover's first broadcast experience came in an entry-level job in graphics, audio and tape engineering at WTVJ Miami. The station owned remote trucks and covered, among other events, Dolphins football, the Orange Bowl parade and rocket launches from Cape Canaveral.
“There wasn't a lot of training in broadcast engineering,” he recalls. But that lack of formal training allowed him the freedom to experiment, and he benefited from a “great willingness, probably out of naivete, to try new stuff.”
He left the station to study theater design in college, but didn't stay away from broadcast engineering for long. Hoover worked as director of engineering for Florida Public Broadcasting, then co-founded Video East, a truck company that crewed events for a new cable sports network called ESPN. After a stint as general manager of New Jersey Network, Hoover headed to Pittsburgh in 1994 to work for international production company NEP as director of engineering before rising to his present post two years ago.
As CTO, Hoover was instrumental in the company's HD-truck conversion, and is responsible for selecting and maintaining the technology used in all of NEP's mobile units.
In the old days, the 59-year-old Hoover remembers “a videotape recorder that was the size of a refrigerator/freezer,” making mobile unit production a constant game of fix-it. Today, though basic electronic equipment is more easily replaceable, the software is more complex: “Engineers have to be more expert at running things than they were before.”
For Hoover, technology is about the enhancement of storytelling. Given the choice between a fancy new widget or an improved camera lens, Hoover invests in the lens. “We've always tried to encourage our clients and ourselves as a company to invest in technology that makes a difference to the consumer,” he says. “The technology must make it easier to tell a story.”