Wednesday, December 20, 2006

From the Mailbag: How Many Directors Do You Have at Channel 3

From Aaron in Bay Village:

Q: Are you the only director or are there others?

A: Because of the huge amount of newscasts and other local production we do 7 days a week, we have a staff of 4 Directors plus our Production Manager, Al who also helps us direct.

Mark directs the morning news & Good Company; Al does the 11 AM, many of the 6 PM News and a lot of our sports productions; I cover the rest of the 6 PM, plus 7 & 11 PM news on Channel 3 & the 10 PM Akron Canton News; & Eric and Matt direct the weekend morning and evenings shows on Channel 3 and most of 6:30 PM Akron Newscasts during the week.

Spotlight Article: What Does A Director Do? Part 2

It's 5:50 PM, about 8 minutes to air. This is when the fun really begins.

To my immediate left sits the technical director, Jim - he's the guy that switches all the video elements you see on TV. To the right is Leigh, my producer who has worked tirelessly all day putting the show together. On her right side (in a separate booth) is Bruce, our audio man who is responsible for everything you hear on the air. Behind me on the 2nd level is where the graphics operators used to be until new techology recently allowed the Director to also run the graphics system during the show using computer screens placed strategically in front of me.

In the studio with Tim, Romona, Mark and Jimmy is Brian, my Floor Director. He's the guy you often see on wideshots standing next to the cameras, listening to me on a headset and guiding the anchors to the proper camera for each story. He's the one I can yell at if Tim is looking at Camera 12 when he should be looking over at Camera 11. Brian will get Tim's attention and guide him to the right camera hopefully before it's too late.

Also in the studio is Greg, our teleprompter operator. Greg is responsible for making sure the scripts are in the right place on the monitor from which the anchors read. The prompter is a neat device that mirrors an upside down TV monitor in front of the camera so the anchors can see the words as they look directly into the camera lens giving the illusion that are doing every story from memory.

On many of our shows, the floor director is also the teleprompter operator and must do both jobs at once. It's not easy. But Brian, Greg and the other production assistants do a great job of making it work flawlessly.

The camera operator is also in the studio and is responsible for running 3 robotic High Definition cameras from a touch screen in front of him. Each of the shots is pre-programmed and indicated on the format for each story by the Director. Also, we use a Hi Def jib camera with its own operator who provides all the dramatic, swooping shots you see on the air. We are the only TV station in the market to use a jib regularly during our newscasts.

Many other people are involved in the show including the Master Control Room Operator, the video playback person who rolls tapes, a video person who makes sure the cameras aren't too bright or too dark, a signal acquisition operator who tunes in all the liveshots we might have from reporters broadcasting in the field....and of course, all the people in the newsroom including graphic artists, reporters and producers who write the stories and the editors who actually create the video you see on the air. It's a large team effort.

And it's a controlled chaos until things start to go wrong... That's when being calm and cool can either make or break a show.

Three minutes to air now and there's word of a problem with a liveshot trying to feed a package to us. Did it affect the show, I'll let you know next time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Spotlight Article: Types of HD TV's

With High Definition, there are number of different types of televisions you can buy depending on what quality you expect and the price you are willing to pay. Prices vary greatly by store and continue to fall as consumer demand increases.

CRT (Cathode Ray Tube)

These are the direct-view TVs whos technology has been around for years consisting of one large CRT tube coated on the front with phosphors. In addition, the rear-projection model of the CRT TV use three tubes - one each for red, blue & green.

The CRT offers the best black level and contrast of all video technologies. It's got a clean look and no frills approach. And the rear-projection CRT TV's are a real bargain right now.

In general, the rear-projection CRT TVs are not very bright, so you need to place the TV in a darker environment to get the best picture quality. If are you aren't looking "head on" to the TV, the picture becomes quality gets bad. Plus the three tubes need to be converged (or realigned) occasionally.

PDP (Plasma Display Panel)
These TVs are for viewers who appreciate a larger screen size from 32 to 80 inches. The TVs are ultra slim and take up minimal room.

You get a nice, bright picture when viewing the TV off angle from the center. Some plasmas offer much better contract than LCD TVs, though they are not usually as good at the CRT.

Unfortunatley, these sets can suffer from burn-in when a static image is left on the screen for an long period of time. However, manufacturers are aware of this and most newer plasma models include features to make the risk of this happening minimal.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)
Just like the plasma, the LCD TV is also rather thin. Plus, it's light enough to be wall-mounted with the right equipment. The most common sizes of LCDs range from 13 to 50 inches, but are getting larger as the technology is refined.

LCD TVs have the advantage of not suffering from burn in, like their plasma counterparts. Plus, more of these types of TVs are available in 1,080p resolution than plasma TVs to take the best advantage of the high definition signal.

Unfortunatley, some LCDs have poor off-axis viewing if you find yourself off centered from the middle of the TV. Currently, LCDs tend to cost more than the equivalent-sized plasma and don't have as good contrast as plasma and CRT.

DLP (Digital Light Processing)
The DLP rear-projection TVs are quickly replacing CRT as the best thing for big screens. Plus, they becoming quite common for front projection systems as well. In DLP projectors, the image is created by microscopically small mirrors laid out in a matrix on a semiconductor chip.

The DLP technology allows for a very slim and lightweight design. New chip designs since it's introduction in 1987 allow for good contrast and brightness. And we have found that DLP TVs and projectors aren't suspectible to screen burn.

After a few years, the lamp in the DLP TV will need to be replaced which can cost a few bucks, plus a service call. And some folks have reported seeing rainbow color artifacts. This visual artifact is best described as brief flashes of perceived red, blue, and green "shadows" observed most often when the projected content features bright/white objects on a mostly dark/black background (the scrolling end credits of many movies being a common example).

LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicone)
The LCoS or LCOS is a "micro-projection" or "micro-display" TV that is a reflective technology similar to DLP projectors; however, it uses liquid crystals instead of individual mirrors. Like DLP, LCoS TVs are available in rear-projection and front-projection formats.

Just like DLP, the LCoS rear-projection units are much slimmer than the traditonal CRTs. They don't use a color wheel, so there's no risk of rainbow artifacts. And, they can be rather bright with a high contrast level.

The downside is that the lamp will likely have to be replaced after a few years, like the DLP which can be a bit pricey if your own a limited budget.

From the Mailbag: Weather Chromakey

From: Darlene in Brunswick

Q: Does the weathercaster really have the weather maps behind them?

A: No, the Weather maps are electronically placed behind the weather talent through a process we call a chromakey. It's basically a green wall that talents stands in front of. The production switcher in the control room replaces everything in the picture that is green with the weather maps. The talent only see their maps by looking at the TV monitors off to their side and in front on them on the camera. If Mark, Betsy, Hollie or AJ were to wear green clothing, you'd see the maps over top them.

Spotlight Article: What Does A Director Do? Part I

I've often been asked by my friends outside of the broadcast world what a Director does - and I simply say I "direct." That always seems to conjure up the image of the guy on the bandstand with his baton. It's kinda like that.

The Director is the pilot of the broadcasting ship during any production, whether it is a newscast or one of the many other local shows we do from our building. The Director is responsible for taking the ideas of the show's Producer and turning them into a visual presentation which you see on the air.

For me, this process begins at 3 pm each weekday when I arrive at the station. The first item of the day is usually to get some sugar into my system. This keeps me pumped up and ready to tackle the day after a quick stop by the snack machine to grab some chocolate. Thank goodness for Kit Kats.

Afterwards, I head into the newsroom, sit down at my desk, log in to my computer and take a quick look at the show rundown to begin formulating ideas in my head how to bring the show to life. Most days, I'm responsible for a number of shows. For me, this is usually the 6 or 7 and the 11 PM News. So good time management skills are crucial because deadlines can't be extended. When it's 6 pm, we are on the air whether we are ready or not.

I'll tackle the newsroom computer system at another time, but this system really is the heart of the operation. I can control everything from the scripts and graphics to the video elements all from my desktop. It's amazing.

For every story, I have to determine which camera will shoot the anchor and how. We have a variety of predetermined shots we use as a starting point. An anchor or in-studio reporter can be at the anchor desk, at the chromakey wall, in the weather center, the tech center, the web center, in the newsroom or on a remote. This all has to be pre-determined during this planning stage and worked into the show rundown.

At around 4:30, the Producer will tell the Director that the rundown is good to go. We'll then print a hard copy of it, turn it over to our Production Assistants who copy and distribute it to all the crew members working on that show. This is their blueprint of how the show will look and what I expect to see or hear from each of them during the show.

The next hour or two (depending on which show I'm directing) will be spent marking scripts which the Producer prints for both the talent and the Director. I make shorthand notations on each script to remind me which camera shot I've chosen and when to roll the video elements. You want to make sure you are always in synch with the talent. You don't want to be rolling the video too early or too late or it looks wrong on the air.

And the anchors always get scripts to keep with them in the event the teleprompter fails during the show or if they want to read through a script during a commercial break. Yes, the anchors read off a teleprompter which I'll also get into at another time.

Finally, it's time to head to the control room. It's show time... the subject of part II.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Spotlight Article: Analog Vs. Digital Vs. High Definition: The Basics

Let's take a quick look at the main differences between analog, digital and high definition.


An analog signal or SDTV (Standard Definition TV) is what you have been receiving since TV first went on the air. These types of television sets decode their pictures by using a signal received from a TV transmitter with varying signal voltage and radio frequencies. This format, known as NTSC (National Television System Committee) became the color TV standard in 1953 after the transition from black and white.

SDTV has 525 lines of information for every single frame of video. In one second, almost 30 frames of video are broadcast to give your eyes the perception of a continuously moving picture.


Digital television (DTV) is fast replacing analog TV which enables us to offer viewers a movie-quality picture and sound using digital modulation data. These are digitally compressed bits of information that require decoding by a specially designed television set or a standard receiver with a set-top box. This is known as ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) and made its first appearance in the US during the early 1990s. Japan & other countries have already been using this system for many years.

DTV has many advantages over traditional TV. The most significant is DTV uses a smaller channel bandwidth. This frees up space for more digital channels, other non-television services such as pay or multimedia services and the generation of revenue from the sales of frequency spectrum taken by analog TV. There are also special services such as multicasting (more than one program on the same channel), electronic program guides and interactive programming.

All Digital TV is NOT High Definition - and that's important to know! Digital TV is simply the way the signal is broadcast and received by a TV set. HD is a by product of Digital TV.


High-definition television (HDTV) is a television broadcast that offers a significantly higher resolution than the traditional SDTV format.

HDTV has higher resolution: The image on a digital television is made up of small elements called pixels. The pixels in HDTV are closely packed together to provide high-resolution detail. HDTV can have 1,280 or 1,920 active horizontal pixels by 720 or 1,080 active scanning lines respectively. The total number of pixels in a high-definition image can exceed two million.

HDTV has a widescreen format: In addition to providing improved picture quality with more visible detail, HDTV is transmitted in a widescreen display commonly referred to as a 16:9 format, meaning that the picture is 16 units wide by 9 units high. A conventional analog TV display is 4 units wide by 3 units high, or 4:3 (see diagram below). Thus, the 16:9 display provides a wider image area that more closely matches the relative dimensions, or aspect ratio, of cinema.

HDTV has better sound: Many HDTV programs also contain multi-channel (5.1) Dolby® Digital surround sound to complete the realism of the viewing experience within a home theater system. Digital Television Sets & Monitors

From the Mailbag: Channel 3 News HD Offerings

From: Brian in Medina

Q: Which newscasts are broadcast in High Definition on Channel 3?

A: All of our newscasts are in HD including:

  • Channel 3 News Today from 5 - 7 AM
  • Channel 3 News Midday from 11 - 11:30 AM
  • Channel 3 News from 6 - 6:30 PM
  • Channel 3 News from 7 - 7:30 PM
  • Channel 3 News from 11 - 11:35 PM