[Tig] OT?: HD bottlenecks for ENG (Was what are we going to do (monitors)--Fox TV Station group in same boat)

Ted Langdell ted at tedlangdell.com
Tue Apr 1 02:44:49 BST 2008

On Mar 31, 2008, at 12:41 PM, Rob Lingelbach wrote:
> Hi Ted,
> I read the article you mentioned and found a few things surprising,  
> such as, Fox will be purchasing P2 cameras and doing upconversion  
> for HD transmission services.  But I guess that's a financial  
> decision.

The more likely part of the problem with not-really full-HD newscasts  
in the US is getting local news "live shots" and related packages  
back to the station in HD.

That's the short answer.

Since Rob's in Kiev and might not be up on what's been happening with  
HD ENG here... a little background might be appropriate.

Bear with me as I know this isn't exactly telecine related... but  
does have parallels in the "what are we going to do instead of CRT's"  

Some stations are fully HD in newscasts. They shoot, edit and  
transmit local news in HD unless there's no HD path from the scene to  
the studio or the material being aired came in from outside sources  
in SD.

With the SD material, stations can choose to edit or store in SD and  
upconvert at time of air, or upconvert on first reception and store/ 
edit bigger files, but have a potentially easier time when the stuff  
hits the switcher as a uniform format.

Rob "found a few things surprising, such as, Fox will be purchasing  
(HD capable) P2 cameras, but (shooting in SD and) doing upconversion  
for HD transmission services."

There are a lot of stations and station groups doing the "shoot in SD  
and upconvert when it airs on our HD newscast" bit. In my area,  
Hearst-Argyle's KCRA, Sacramento does just that.

Material shot and edited in wide-screen SD can be transmitted through  
existing microwave trucks and links and for now keeps the "look" of  
all field material the same.  As some folks on the list have noted,  
many people don't know/see the difference btw 16:9 SD and full HD.

Getting P2 cameras (or other HD/SD combo cams) allows going to full- 
HD in one swoop when all the elements needed for full in-the-field HD  
are in place. A promotable swoop.

Financially, it also puts off having to invest in storage for the  
added size and bandwidth HD files will need in editing, playout and  
archive servers.

Since most live shots are send from a microwave truck, HD requires  
the upgrading of microwave equipment, coupled with a way to compress  
an HD signal to fit into the transmission bandwith available for a  

Only KCRA's helicopter can do HD from the field, and I suspect  
there's only one receive point able to handle the HD traffic.

Many stations use the 2GHz remote pickup band (used by Broadcast  
Auxiliary Stations or BAS) to get live shots out of the truck and to  
a relay point... and from there to the studio.

In exchange for a slice of that band, cell phone service provider  
Nextel (now part of Sprint) agreed to provide new gear to  
broadcasters that cuts the per channel bandwidth from 17MHz to 12Mhz.  
It's Standard Def. MPEG-2 based equipment.

Unfortunately for Nextel (and the stations) this has proven to be  
trying to bite, chew and process a verrrry big sandwich with a  
digestive system that isn't able to do it all at once. The tract  
includes Nextel and vendors who make equipment for ENG transmission.

Also, for stations to get HD through the new microwave systems, they  
have to upgrade what Nextel provides to HD, which could mean an  
encoder per transmitter at perhaps $50K each and decoders at the  
studio. Suddenly, the cost of live, local HD is climbing worse than  
the US Dollar is slipping against the Euro.

So, in many markets, getting HD back to the studio is either four- 
wheelnet or developing IP based connections. A wi-fi connection at a  
coffee house is an example of a less-than-real-time connection that  
could allow an edited HD story file to be sent from a distance.

Other stations may use satellite trucks with HD uplink ability,  
fiberoptic connections they can access, or something else.
Here's an article with fairly fresh info:

Here's a link to the official website for the Nextel/BAS project, FYI:

In the "something else" category, some stations are testing spread- 
spectrum radio systems like used for wireless internet connections  
between an ISP and subscribers.

WHIZ-TV, Zanesville, Ohio (50 miles west of Columbus) CE Dan Slentz  
was telling me last August about the success they had using this  
method to backhaul from the 2007 county fair:

"Used a Trango Atlas Wi-Fi (10mbps bi-directional system) capable of  
up to 40 miles range in conjunction with Slingmedia’s Slingbox to  
turn the audio/video into a 5.5 mbps data stream and decode it on a  
computer.  Latency was four seconds, so it was “workable” by the  
director pre-maturely (intentionally) cueing the remote talent 4  
seconds prior to the anchor’s pitch.  Quality was very good (slightly  
below traditional microwave), but probably more reliable.  Total cost  
for this home-brew 5.8 ghz microwave system?   $2,400 list (our cost  
was $500 via used gear on ebay)."

The antenna was parked atop the mast of an ENG truck WHIZ acquired.   
Pictures showed what appeared to be similar systems used to get video  
from locations around the fairgrounds to the truck.

"Using this technology, we’re placing live cameras all over the place  
and “slinging” them back via Roadrunner service.  The high quality  
stuff requires broadband Wi-Fi which allows a much better upload  
speed (Roadrunner commercial service.. at it’s best.. is only 2 Mbps  
upload / home Roadrunner is 700 Kbps).  Trango Atlas has 10 Mbps,  
while the higher end Trango gear (listing for $3k for a pair of bi- 
directional) is up to 45 Mbps (which far exceeds current Slingbox).   
We’ve started working with Slingmedia on developing a “broadcaster’s  

Dan is in Market 202, but he's not the only one using this  
technique.  In #6 San Francisco, KPIX is deploying Slingboxes and  
cellular based technology from Sprint.

CBS 5 News Ops. Mgr. Don Sharp is using $200 Chinese cameras on the  
front of the package in order to get pictures back to the station.

A TV technology article that profiled both stations' approaches said  
KPIX has 30 wireless remote locations with fixed cams (each connected  
to its own Slingbox) which are proving suitable for capturing traffic/ 
weather content for on-air and online use, Sharp said he’s also had  
success with Slingbox-generated video coverage in moving vehicles.  
That included his bicycle and in cars going 65mph in the rain.


Meantime, the process of getting the 2Ghz microwave equipment  
upgraded is moving along slowly.  It HAS happened in Las Vegas, so  
that might be a good place to see end to end HD in action at NAB next  

If you have an HDTV receiver available, you can check out the CBS  
affiliate's HD from the field.

Hope this didn't bore too many people : )


Ted Langdell
Ted Langdell Creative Broadcast Services
Marysville, CA
Main:   (530) 741-1212

tedlangdell.com. Storytelling through Broadcast Coverage and Creative  
Services since 1974

With 3GHz 4-processor MacPro powering Final Cut Studio

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