In his long television career, Scripps Television VP of Engineering Mike Doback has worked through several technology “game changers,” including the move from film-based news acquisition to videotape and the launch of digital TV. Lately, he and Scripps have been leaders in adopting file-based workflows and low-cost production tools such as Apple Final Cut editors and JVC's small-format ProHD camcorders.
“It keeps you young and it keeps you thinking,” says Doback of his TV engineering career. “I wouldn't trade a day of it. To be lucky enough to be surrounded by really bright people is really delightful.”
Doback got an early start in broadcasting, getting his first radio credit in a program his fifth-grade class produced for a local station. By sixth grade, he was building his own ham radio transmitter.
He took that technical bent to the Center for Instructional Technology at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he worked in the educational studios producing training videos as well as shows for local PBS station WTVS. After graduating, he got a job in 1971 as a staff engineer for local ABC station WXYZ. He would go on to fill various roles at the station, eventually being promoted to director of engineering.
He was named to his present corporate post in 2000, where he oversees strategic technology and capital planning for Scripps' 10 stations and represents the company in industry associations such as the Advanced Television Systems Committee and the Association for Maximum Service Television.
Besides overseeing the DTV transition, Doback's biggest ongoing project has been designing and deploying a fully file-based news production workflow. He began experimenting with early server-based editing systems from Panasonic and SGI some 10 years ago at WXYZ. Doback then moved on to using DVCAM camcorders that recorded video to hard-disk drives from Focus Enhancements, and editing on laptops running Final Cut Pro. He found his hi-def camcorder of the future two years ago, when Scripps became the first major group to commit to JVC's ProHD format for everyday newsgathering.
Scripps has since committed to buy new ProHD camcorders that record on solid-state memory cards, another sign of what Doback calls the “inevitable merger of broadcast television engineering with the IP world.”