Monday, December 20, 1999

New HD truck hits the road

Stations may rent unit; goal is to make HDTV production more affordable.

by Ken Kerschbaumer

There's a new HD production truck on the road, and it's for rent. First stop was North Carolina for an HD production of a college basketball tournament. Next, it's off to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, Jan. 5-9.

The mobile truck is a joint venture of WRAL Digital, DTV Resources and HD VISION and is part of an effort to make HDTV production more affordable for HDTV Consortium member stations. Stations may book the truck for five-day periods, with the standard NATPE/HDTV Consortium configuration price including the truck, five Sony cameras and three Sony HDCAM VTRs. (Additional equipment is priced separately.).

"We're relying on volume, and I anticipate keeping the truck very busy," says Randall Paris Dark, president of HD VISION. "We're doing this for the consortium and are trying to have cost-effective programming. It's not like we built it so we could make lots of money. We just want to pay the bills."

The truck's first event, the Food Lion MVP Classic basketball tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Dec. 3-5, was produced and broadcast by WRAL-TV, Harris and Raycom Sports. It was carried on 10 DTV stations across the country (including WETA-TV Washington, which became the first PBS station ever to broadcast a college basketball game).

At press time, the truck was under contract for four events, and another dozen are in negotiation. While in Vegas, the truck will be used for the production of a daily newscast in high-definition, to be broadcast throughout the convention floor.

"We'll be doing the wraparounds with portable Sony HD cameras, and we're also putting together a studio," Dark says. "The biggest limitation to HD that everyone has been pointing to is having no programming. Having another HD truck creating cost-effective programming will add to the overall mix."

Dark says the cost to rent the truck is slightly higher than that for a 601 digital truck. "It's a great learning tool. Stations can rent a truck that has a post room and get their feet wet without paying too much extra. It's a great way to get your hands wet without purchasing anything."

The truck features an array of HD equipment including four Sony HDC-700 studio cameras and four Sony HDC-750 portable cameras, each outfitted with Canon lenses. It also has four Sony HDW-500 HDCAM VTRs, and can be outfitted with two additional HDCAM units and four Panasonic HD-D5 VTRs, if desired.

The production switcher is a Snell & Wilcox HD1024 1-1/2 ME version, with integrated still store, two DVEs, three keyers, three chromakeyers, three expanded border generators, seven color correctors and four positionable frame buffers. On-board graphics are handled by a Collage Clarity-HD graphics system and a Sony BVE-9 100 linear editing system can be used to create packages using the VTRs and Tascam DA98 recorders.

Audio signals are handled in a pair of Mackie Digital 8-Bus mixers providing 48 analog inputs, 48 digital inputs, and digital, analog, and eight-channel surround outputs. There also is on-board Dolby encoding and decoding equipment for both AC-3 and Dolby E.

In-band data broadcasting offered

SkyStream and General Instrument Corp. are working together on an integrated data broadcasting solution for digital cable applications to broadband cable operators worldwide. The system is designed to allow cable operators to deliver a variety of high-speed data programming and content, including ATVEF (Advanced Television Enhancement Forum) compliant, HTML-based. television content; large data file downloads; and cacheable Internet content to General Instrument's DVi-5000+ (DVB) and DCT-5000+ (ATSC/OpenCable) advanced interactive digital consumer set-top terminals.

In-band data broadcasting also enables cable operators to reserve the DOCSIS spectrum for increasingly bandwidth-hungry, point-to-point Internet data transactions. SkyStream's media routers will be integrated with General Instrument's digital cable headend system.

from Broadcasting & Cable