NEWSChannel 2 Engineering Boilermaker Coverage

By Tom McNicholl

The WKTV engineering staff has been busy for the past few months, preparing for our coverage of the 2009 Boilermaker. This has taken us away from the phones for awhile, so please be patient if you still have questions about the Digital Transition. Leave a message on Extension 251 and someone will answer your call during the week following Boilermaker.

WKTV will be present at 10 locations on the race course with 21 camera positions and 16 audio sources. As you can imagine, it is quite a challenge to get all of these sites to our control room so that we can bring them to your TV. Most of the sites are fed back to WKTV via microwave radio transmissions, which for the most part are line-of-site paths from the race course site to our studio on Smith Hill.

The sites that are not fed via microwave are the camera shots from the Starting Line, camera shots from the Finish Line and our voice from the lead Media Truck. We will have two cameras at the Starting Line that will be switched in our Satellite Truck and fed back to the studio via Satellite. There will be 6 cameras at the Finish Line which are switched in our Production Truck parked behind the brewery gift shop, then fed back to our studio via Time Warner fiber. The engineering crews at Time Warner spent many hours with us testing this feed and they loaned us some equipment to make this happen. We are very grateful for their support. The voice in the Media Truck is fed back to the studio via cell phone.

Here are the other sites on the course (paths to the studio are shown on the map)
•Albany St. & Culver Ave. – WHEC is helping us out with the use of their microwave truck. A camera on the top of their mast and a ground camera will provide shots of the runners shortly after the start of the race.
•Valleyview Drive and the Parkway – WSYR will be at this site with their Live Truck with a camera on top of their mast and a ground camera. This site offers great shots of runners making the turn up Valleyview Drive towards the Golf Course.
•Golf Course – We have our own portable microwave gear at this site offering breathtaking views midway through the Golf Course, as the runners are on their first downhill.
•Burrstone Road and York Street – WSTM’s Live Truck will be at the site of the 5K Start. Not only will this camera shot provide coverage of the 5K Start, but also great shots of the 15K runners coming up the longest hill on the course.
•Whitesboro Street and Champlin Ave. – WHEC’s truck will move to this site once the runners have cleared the Albany St. & Culver Ave. site. Shots from overhead and on the ground will catch runners as they come down the long hill and around the corner onto Whitesboro Street.
•Court Street & York Street – WSYR’s truck will move to this site once runners have cleared the Valleyview Dr. & Parkway site. This offers views from overhead and on the ground as runners approach the downhill to the finish line.
•Post Race Party – The WKTV Live Truck will be at the party site to capture all of the post race events. With an overhead camera to catch the crowd, a ground camera on our reporters and a roving wireless camera to capture shots of the stage and groups in the crowd.

The Finish Line site will have six cameras:

•Main set on reporters
•Overhead shot from above reporters
•Mens Finish Lanes
•Womens Finish Lanes
•Court Street & York Street (capturing runners coming down the hill towards the finish line)
•A wireless roving camera capturing the action in the lanes and providing interviews of the winners and other finishers

There are a couple of major changes for us this year. First, our microwave paths will all be digital instead of analog. WKTV recently upgraded to digital microwave and so far, the results have been great. Where we couldn’t get shots before, we’re finding it easy to do with digital. Because digital uses error correction, a weak signal might still look good after correction. We’re excited to be using this new technology and we’re hopeful that our shots on the racecourse will look better than ever. The big challenge to digital transmission is dealing with the delay introduced to the signal. Where analog signals would get to us as they were happening, digital takes time to process, so we receive the shot about a second after it actually happens. The reporter at our remote shots has an earpiece to hear what is on-the-air and director cues. With analog, the reporter could also hear himself/herself as the feed to their ear was just a mix of what we had going to air. With the delay in digital, we have to subtract out the reporter audio going to their ear or they will hear a delay of their voice in their ear, making it very difficult to speak. The reporters at each site have to hear the reporters at other sites, which means that each site has to receive a separate “mix-minus” feed, subtracting out just their own voice. So for the 2009 Boilermaker, we had to setup seven separate “mix-minus” feeds, each with a separate phone line for the sites to call in to. Our audio console only has four “mix-minus” sends, which leads us to the reason for our next change for this year.

The other change this year is in the way we’re switching the different feeds at the studio. In past years, we’ve done it the traditional way with someone at a video switcher taking care of all of the video sources, and someone at an audio console mixing all of the audio sources. This year we’re going to be sending all of the video and audio sources to our news automation system, where one director will switch everything on a computer screen. This is going to be a challenge for the director, but we have confidence that everything will work and come to you without a hitch. This system offers a total of eight mix-minus feeds, thus the reason for going with the automation system this year.

There’s plenty more to bringing each of these sites to you but this covered the basics. We’re also going to be at Masonic Home grounds on Friday for the Expo, with three cameras during the Noon, Five and Six PM newscasts, and our All Access show from 7:30 to 8:00PM. Then back to the Masonic Home grounds again on Saturday morning for coverage of the Kids Walk. So our staff is very busy, setting up sites, testing, then resting up for early call on Sunday morning. We hope you enjoy the results of our efforts.

A huge thank you to Time Warner, WSTM and WSYR in Syracuse and WHEC in Rochester. We couldn’t make this happen without your hard work and support.

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