PBS looks to move forward

With the modulation debate over, Caleca hopes NAB will be less confusing

For PBS, NAB is about finding the right solutions for running a network of 171 stations and helping each of those stations discover solutions to best suit their own production needs.

"We have two roles at PBS: interconnection for all member stations and [serving as] an adviser consulting group for the stations," says Ed Caleca, PBS' senior vice president of technology and operations.

In that vein, the network is planning its own conference in Las Vegas prior to NAB, where more than 250 public broadcasting engineers will converge to discuss the industry's hottest topics.

For two and a half days, suppliers will present tutorials and show new products, and the engineers will discuss how issues, such as how the support of 8-VSB, will affect them.

Other topics Caleca plans to cover in the sessions include combining master controls for efficiency across the network, asset management and cable issues, such as advances in set-top boxes.

"Then they go off to the show and burn their shoe leather like everyone else," Caleca says.

Caleca will be burning some shoe leather of his own. His first order of business will be finding equipment for a small operation studio that PBS uses for video conferencing among its stations.

He says he'll be looking at standard-definition cameras, switchers and lighting controls. "It's a way for us to communicate with our stations across the country," Caleca explains.

Caleca says he'll also be looking for production switchers for stations and editing equipment for HDTV or SDTV.

"Whether HD becomes a reality or not, we still need to be prepared to have the editing capability we need to do in house," he says.

PBS currently uses Digital Betacam and HDCAM D5. "We have all of that in place," Caleca says. "We may be looking at 480p in terms of tape format."

Asset management and archiving is a "huge issue" for public broadcasting because it distributes so much programming to its stations.

PBS' production and distribution method is to "create once, play everywhere," Caleca says. And that means more that just delivering programming to its stations.

It also encompasses issues like streaming video, repurposing material for content on its Web site and creating interactive material.

As such, PBS is looking for an efficient way to store its assets, modify and edit the material and track all the changes from the "time you shoot to the time you deliver it," Caleca notes. He says he'll be looking at the big names in storage, including IBM and EMC.

"There's been a lot of work done in the news and sports world... [It's time to] move into all kinds of genres."

PBS has been putting a lot of effort into developing a future-proof infrastructure. Its Alexandria, Va., plant is already component-digital and fully upgradable to 1.5 GB for high definition.

With major infrastructure equipment in place, PBS' mission this year is to find equipment for monitoring, logging and online editing.

He says he plans to start by looking at the major players, including Sony, Panasonic and Philips/Thomson.

"There are some smaller players, but we'll be looking at the big guys first to see what kind of overall integrated solutions they offer. They're already strategic suppliers to us today."

Now that the debate between the COFDM and 8-VSB modulation schemes has concluded and there is industry support for 8-VSB, Caleca hopes to see new advances from chip and receiver manufacturers.

"It really sets a clear path for the chip manufactures and receiver manufacturers," Caleca says.

"I hope the trend is one of less confusion than what we heard last year... This year's show hopefully will be marching forward. I'm looking for a much more positive show from that perspective."