The hi-def Chronicle

WCVB-TV ramps up for HD production with Sony, Panasonic, Ikegami gear

WCVB-TV Boston is beginning the move to HD production, its first step toward leaving NTSC behind.

"We're trying to get out of the NTSC game. We have an SDI facility, except for the tape machines," says Director of Engineering Mike Keller. "Repair costs were ramping up, and repair parts were pushing $250,000 a year."

The backbone of the move is Sony's DVCAM 25-Mb/s tape decks, Panasonic DVCPRO100 tape decks and Ikegami cameras. The station has relied on analog Betacam since the mid 1980s, and the recent purchases, which total more than 150 pieces, were picked primarily because the engineering staff is comfortable with the quality of Sony's DVCAM format. The Hearst-Argyle station ponied up more than $1.4 million for its DVCAM gear, the largest DVCAM sale to date.

A number of VTRs will be used at the station: the DSR-2000, DSR-1600, DSR-50, DSR-25, DSR-70 and DSR-1500. Two years ago, Keller says, the DVCAM 25-Mb/s lineup wasn't wide enough to make it easy to upgrade across the facility. That is no longer the case.

"I don't have to teach people how to operate new types of VTRs; I can match them to the task," he adds. "And that's very attractive for a facility-wide upgrade."

The DVCAM commitment is complemented with 24 new Ikegami cameras, 21 ENG cameras and three HD units. Panasonic DVCPRO 100 decks will be used with the HD cameras.

For HD use, Panasonic's DVCPRO100 won the day. "We can attach 720p or 1080i cameras to the decks," he says, citing the importance of flexibility for the ABC affiliate.

But it was the low cost of the DVCPRO tape that weighed most heavily.

"We shot six Chronicle
episodes in HD with DVCPRO and were amazed at how it looked," he says. "And the tape costs were almost the same as the DVCAM tape."

The station looked at the Sony DVCAM cameras before selecting the Ikegami version. Keller says, while the Sony cameras yield beautiful pictures, he was concerned that they weren't rugged enough for the WCVB-TV news environment. The Ikegami cameras have the same controls for the HD version and the DVCAM version, making them much more user-friendly.