Play It Forward

Sinclair taps Avid, P2 to enhance content flow


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Sinclair's Del Parks is happy to split the NAB workload with his five regional engineering managers. But the vice president of engineering and operations has staked out the new camera technology for himself.

Sinclair, which broadcasts news in 32 markets, recently made a large investment in Avid news-production gear, including the iNews automation system, Unity server, and NewsCutter nonlinear editor. The company has started up seven news operations in the past 18 months: Flint, Mich.; Greensboro, N.C.; Tampa, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; Milwaukee; Las Vegas; and Cincinnati. Sinclair has also converted stations in Raleigh, N.C.; Pittsburgh; Rochester, N.Y.; and Baltimore from tape-based editing to the Avid nonlinear system.

Editing isn't the only operation ditching tape. Sinclair is a longtime Panasonic customer and currently uses DVCPRO for news acquisition. But Parks is interested to see how Panasonic's new solid-state P2 camera interfaces with the Avid technology.

He is also eager to see the camera work with new battery technology from Jadoo Power Systems, a Folsom, Calif.-based maker of fuel-cell power systems partly owned by Sinclair. The Jadoo battery lasts 2.5 times longer than a normal camera battery, says Parks, and should be even more efficient when paired with the P2, which doesn't have the load of a tape transport.

"I'm anxious to see them at the show and see how well they do," he says. "We think they're a breakthrough technology."

Content-management systems from such vendors as Pathfire and Masstech Group are also a priority. "Pathfire is becoming the satellite delivery of choice for people," says Parks. "We want to look at the content management that sits on top of that."

He'll also check out developments in traffic and automation systems. "In the old days, you would have different islands of information, with program information in one database, the traffic system running by itself, and the automation system running by itself. We would do a very crude, low-tech handoff from automation to traffic. That's the way 90% of the systems operate today."

Sinclair also has installed HDTV pass-through capability at most of its stations. It has created a prototype high-definition master-control facility at KOVR Stockton, Calif., that houses a small HD server, Miranda Imagestore logo inserter, upconverter, and the ability to switch baseband HD to insert local commercials.

"We're trying to come up with a cost-effective way for stations to air HD commercials," he says.

While Parks is interested to see the latest models and pricing for high-def production gear, he isn't ready to build HD studios yet, though Sinclair might buy some portable equipment to shoot local commercials.

Parks also wants to hear more about Fox's HD plans at NAB and will attend the network's presentation on its splicing solution.

"MPEG splicing is a new technology, while crosspoints baseband switching is not," says Parks. "Even though the Fox solution on the surface appears simple, there is a level of complexity in the MPEG splicer. It remains to be seen how robust and effective that will be. With the cost of HD equipment coming down dramatically, from my perspective, it would be easier to switch in baseband. I would rather they give us a robust feed we decode back to baseband, and let us pass it through our HD master-control island to add commercials."