Designing Oklahoma's First HD Newscast

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The recent launch of Oklahoma’s first local HD newscast by the E.W. Scripps-owned NBC affiliate KJRH in Tulsa, Okla., illustrates how mid-sized markets are increasingly embracing HD product.

E.W. Scripps is moving towards launching HD productions at all of its stations and upgraded five stations in 2007 in its larger markets, said KJRH director of engineering Dale Vennes.

“Due to the large capital outlay for these projects in 2007 we were able to only receive a portion of the funds required to build a HD production facility,” Vennes said.

As a result, KJRH focused on preparing for the transition and the most difficult portions of the process last year, working on the design, training its staff and installing the wiring and the Thompson Grass Valley Kalypso switcher.

To further smooth the transition, Vennes team relocated their production control to a temporary room. “That allowed us to renovate the main production room without interfering with anyone,” Vennes said.

Once the switcher was installed and all the wiring checked, the rest of the process went very quickly. “When 2008 came, all of my vendors delivered within a week,” Vennes said. “It was basically plug-and-play after that with only a few un-anticipated problems. Probably around Jan. 20th I turned it over to production.”

Vennes added KJRH received a lot of help from other Scripps stations who had already upgraded their facilities and that the station group had deals with a number of vendors that helped with pricing. But the upgrade was designed and carried out in-house, using such vendors as Thompson Grass Valley, Miranda, TBC Consoles, Evertz, Chyron, JVC, Omneon, Mac Professionals and Sharp.

The station, which is now producing about 28 hours of newscasts in HD in late February, had considered moving to HD for a number of years, Vennes explained.

Four years ago, when it had to replace its studio cameras it purchased the Philips 6000 HD studio cameras. “They are now Thompson and everything we’ve purchased from that point on was HD,” Vennes said.

For the monitor wall they are using Miranda Kaleido-X with Sharp Aquos LCD monitors. The audio system uses a Calrec board and they turned to TBC Consoles for furniture. For all the up-conversions, cross conversions and down conversions and distribution KJRH is using the Evertz 7700 series.

The station is also the first in Oklahoma to have a HD Weather Center. Two years ago, it purchased an HD weather graphics system from Weather Central and this year added FasTrac HD and VIPIR HD by Baron Services.

“This an added benefit in that it really does give some very good detail in the mapping,” Vennes said. “That’s important to our viewers for severe weather coverage.”

But Vennes said KJRH didn’t have to make extensive changes to either their audio equipment or the news set, which was built in 2001. “We had some people come in [from another Scripps station] and decided that once we cleaned it up a little it would work very well,” he said.

In 2009, the station is planning to acquire JVC 250 cameras and move to HD field production. “We have a couple of them now and we can shoot some stories in HD,” Vennes said. “Those cameras will allow us to do live HD in the field relatively easily.”

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