WTVT Heats Up Weather With Baron

Tampa station is first to adopt Omni 3D system
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WTVT, the Fox O&O station in Tampa, Fla., is the first broadcaster to install Omni, the next-generation weather display system from Baron Services that renders 3D graphics of live radar data and delivers lifelike models of terrain and landmarks around the world.

WTVT did a “soft launch” of the Omni system during coverage of Tropical Storm Fay in August, and had it fully operational in time for Hurricane Ike last month, says Mike McClain, WTVT's news director.

The station is using Omni in conjunction with SkyTower, its million-watt Baron radar with a 22-foot dish that is mounted on a 200-foot concrete tower to extend its reach across Florida.

While WTVT was already using Baron's Vipir radar-display and FasTrac storm-tracking systems, when McClain saw Omni in a behind-the-curtain demonstration at the NAB show last spring, he was impressed enough to make a “significant investment” to upgrade to Omni.

Besides Omni's 3D display of local radar, he particularly liked the system's 3D terrain models, which can show locations across the U.S. and around the world, and its ability to instantly render 3D graphics of satellite data, such a hurricane forming off the coast of Africa that might make its way to Florida.

NO MORE BORING RADAR

“From an overall standpoint, most radar displays are two-dimensional and rather boring,” McClain says. “But Omni has dramatic visualizations of weather that help tell the weather story. You can tell it at home in central Florida, around the U.S, and around the world.”

For example, WTVT has used Omni's 3D modeling to add local landmarks such as Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Tropicana Field, home of baseball's Tampa Bay Rays, complete with on-site anemometer data to show the current winds. And it has also used Omni to incorporate radar data from Fox stations in Houston, New York and Chicago, which all use Baron million-watt radars, into its own weather report. WTVT pulled radar data from WFLD Chicago during the first round of playoffs between the Rays and the Chicago White Sox.

“We could fly to Chicago and show the Fox radar there, take a live sweep, and get the forecast for the Rays game,” McClain says.

BETTER WAY TO TRACK HURRICANES

Another strength of Omni, he adds, is its ability to handle multiple live radars at one time and instantly render 3D models of their data. While WTVT's previous system might get bogged down processing data from more than four radars, the station has used Omni to look at up to 20 live radars at one time. That is an important benefit during hurricane season in Florida.

“When you have a storm threatening the Gulf Coast like Ike, you can fly to Tampa, then fly past Dallas and into Houston, and all that data is live,” McClain explains. “And Fay, for example, dumped lots and lots of rain on Florida. To be able to fly there and show live radars there, and show landmarks with the aerial mapping, was something we couldn't do before.”

E-mail comments to glen.dickson@reedbusiness.com

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