Wednesday, January 31, 2007

From the Mailbag: Changes to the Set

From Chris in Cleveland:

Q: I have been a follower of Cleveland television for sometime. I think that compared to all of the news sets currently in use at 3, 5, 8, and 19/43, channel 3's is the most visually pleasing. Are there any plans to change the set?

A: Not currently. The set was retooled for our HD launch back in May 2006. It's a fairly new set, part of it which came from our Jacksonville sister station when we first moved into our Digital Broadcast Center in January 2001.

Spotlight Article: My Farewell To Del - A Few of My Fondest Memories

As you know, we are saying farewell to Del Donahoo this week. His long career has made all of our lives richer and fuller. From his "Del's Folks Feasts" to "Travel Ohio" to "Today in Cleveland," Del has always made everyone he's around feel like they are part of his extended family.

As a teenager growing up on a farm in Garrettsville, I remember waking up every morning to "Today in Cleveland" with Del & Tom on Channel 3 at 6:30 AM. Everytime I saw the show, I would say "wow" - they always seemed to being having so much fun. In fact, it's the main reason I used to get up so easily right before the school bus would come racing down the hill at 7:05 and come to a screaching halt just a few feet away.

Years later, I wound up have the pleasure and honor of directing many of the "Today in Cleveland" shows with Del when I first began working at WKYC a few years before the show left the air in 1996. From Martha's coffee to Hank the rooster and the Haley Shuffle, Del has always been one of a kind (though I'm sure Tom Haley thinks otherwise.)

I partically remember one time I worked with Del on a "Travel Ohio" special where Del, Martha, photographer Eddie Bell and I took the Folkswagon to Columbus for an overnight stay to shoot a segment for the special. We all spent the night at this quaint bed and breakfast in German Village - and all found out together that Frank Sinatra had died. It was a sad moment that we all shared.

Later that day, we travelled to one of the many restaurants Del always made a regular feature of his pieces. This seemed so special, probably because it was one of the few times I was with Del and his wife for an extended period of time outside the station.

We were shooting at Schmidt's Restaurant, home of famous sausage delights and cream puffs the size of softballs. Heldga, the hostess, was one of the nicest people I ever meet...and She was one of Del's fans for many years. Seems like everyone knew Del all the way down in Columbus, too.

These were the kind of memories you always cherish from being around Del. He is always a professional, very loving and honest journalist who always knew how to write so gracefully.

Although Del is just stepping down from his daily duties at Channel 3, you'll still see him on the air on senior features.

Thank you Del for 40 years of terrific memories and the wonderful opportunity to know you as a colleague and friend.

Feel free to send Del your own good wishes:

Click here to send a farewell message to Del

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

From the Mailbag: Where Are Your Traffic Cams Located?

From Jim in Bay Village:

Q: Where are you traffic cams physically located?

A: We have multiple traffic cams...which we share exclusively with WTAM Radio.

I-77 & I-480 in Independence (On Top of Crowne Centre on Rockside Road)
I-90 Innerbelt in Downtown Cleveland (On Top of Hilton Garden Inn on E.9th)
I-71 Metro Curve (On Top of Metro Health Hospital)
I-90 East Shoreway (On Top of Cleveland Public Power Building)
Skycam (On Top of Rhodes Tower at Cleveland State University)

Check out live and 30 minute loops of the Trafficams at:

From the Mailbag: Station Tours

From Thomas in Elyria:

Q: Do you offer tours of Ch 3?

A: Yes, we generally welcome groups to the station on a regular basis for tours. However, individuals are also welcome to stop by and see our facilities. To arrange a tour, you can call Alina Martinet here at WKYC (216-344-3333).

Spotlight Article: Graphic Change at WKYC & What Goes Into It

Greetings from the WKYC Digital Broadcast Center.... You'll notice we launched a new "look" as of Monday, 1/29/07 at 6 PM to offer you graphics that are bigger and much easier to read. The other look we had was a transitional one until we installed new graphics equipment.

You may not realize it, but a lot of effort goes into changing the way we look. This week's blog will take a look at the process from a Director's point of view.

First the Art, News, Promotions and Production department get together for extensive meetings to discuss what everyone's needs are and what elements we'd all like to see in our new look. Things discussed include color schemes, new logo designs, font styles of text, new weather graphics, tv monitor graphics and how pictures will be incorporated into full screen graphics.

This planning phase starts 6 months or more in advance depending on how radical the change will be.

Next, the Art Department will go to work on making the new graphics a reality. They will start with mock-ups of ideas. We use Adobe Photoshop for much of our graphic design which gives us the ability to not only generate graphics in High Definition, but graphics that are constantly moving.

This time, we chose an Amber Look with a slight variation between the morning and evening newscasts. The Akron Canton News, which we produce for Time Warner Cable, has a blue look to match TWC's color scheme.

The Art Department has to make new versions of everything we use on the air: Over the Shoulder (OTS's), Full Screens, Videoboxes, Dualboxes, Chromakey graphics, weather graphics and lower thirds. The process is extemely tedious, but well worth the attention to detail in the end.

After the graphics are built and approved, the process moves to the Control Room where both the Directors and Technical Directors get together and begin building new video effects that work with the new graphics. This includes positioning video and talent in the right place on the screen. Also, we have to build transition wipes that will allow us to go from one piece of tape to the next. We spend a few weeks working out the bugs and getting things to work just right.

Now, we can put the graphics to use.

We use a system at WKYC called "Deko" which we just installed and brought on-line in the 4th quarter of 2006. It's a user friendly system that allows the producers and reporters to build graphics for the show directly on their desktop. In the past, graphics had to be ordered on forms, sent to the Art Department who would build them & send them to a Graphics Operator who would build a playlist according to the order the graphics appeared in the show. With Deko,that's all been automated.

Today, the graphics are linked directly to each story in the main Newsroom Computer we use called I-News. This saves numerous resources and provides greater efficiency in getting graphics to air, especially in a breaking news situation where time means being 1st or last in getting the story to air.

You'll notice our new graphics are more 3 dimensional in nature. They have an amber color scheme and will match the various opens and such you will be seeing as the days go along.

In general, the weather graphics are generally blue to match the "Weather Plus" look and Sports will have a red look to them.

As always, we'd like your feedback on our new look. Feel free to drop me a note:

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Director's Alert: Farewell to Del

All this week - we prepare to say goodbye to Channel 3's Del Donahoo who is moving into a new phase of broadcasting life.

I'll have some personal comments later in the week about the wonderful times I spent with Del (and Tom Haley) when I had the pleasure of directing some of the "Del & Tom" Shows that aired on Channel 3 for 16 years at 6:30 am.

Monday, January 22, 2007

From the Mailbag: Blurry Video

From Steve in Cleveland:

Q: Since you've gone HD, I've noticed your video is not as clear as before? Why is that?

A: This is a really good question. There are a couple of reasons. First, the studio cameras are now in HD and give a much clearer picture. So, anytime we go from the studio to video, you'll notice change in quality. For stories we shoot ourselves, the field cameras capture video in a standard definition (but 16X9 widescreen mode) which looks pretty good.

When we air video that is not shot by us (from the network or other 4X3 video sources like CNN), the video must be converted from the standard 4X3 aspect ratio to a 16x9 picture which fills the left and right side of the screen with "HD" panels without changing how the video looks.

If this process isn't done, you'd see 4X3 video that's stretched to 16X9 and isn't very flattering for people being interviewed. And unfortunately, this conversion process makes the video look very grainy.

Once the price of HD cameras drops, it'll be affordable for stations like ours to buy true HD cameras and shoot all our video in HD. This is probably a year or so away.

From the Mailbag: What Happens During the Commercial Breaks?

From Jeff in S. Euclid

Q: What do the anchors do during commercial breaks?

A: On a lot of shows, talent are in the process of moving around the studio, or reading their scripts for the next segment...or discussing stories. Some of the anchors are more laid back then others...and like to use the 2 minutes to joke with each other or tease each other about something they mispronounced or said on the air.

Spotlight Article: Blu-ray VS. HD DVDs

In a previous post, I mentioned 1080p (Progressive) is not being widely used by broadcasters for over the air content. So buying a 720p or 1080i HDTV will fit into most consumers needs and budgets, nicely - thank you.

However, the more expensive 1080p HD TV is perfect solution for true HD buffs who want to see the new High Definition DVD's in the truest form.

Two new HD formats have emerged and are competing to become the standard: Blu-ray DVD & HD DVD. Which one survives will be up to consumers much like the battle between VHS and BETA.

Both formats have their pros and cons.. Here are a few -

Experts say larger storage capacity and backing by the major film companies give Blu-ray the edge. Its contains technology that can be upgraded in the future, not requiring any new hardware purchases. Currently used by Playstation 3 from Sony. More expensive, but most feel this format will survive over HD DVD.

*Single-layer can hold 25GB
*Dual layer holds up to 50GB.
*More capacity for extra features & benefits possible in the future.
*Backed by most major film companies including Lionsgate, New Line Cinema, Warner Brother and 20th Century Fox.

Experts say the disc is more of the transitional technology which doesn't have the necessary room for future upgrades. The manufacturing process is similar to DVD, so that both DVD's and HD DVDs can be produced by the same production line which reduces costs. the HD DVD players are cheaper than the Blu-Ray player.

*Single-layer can hold 15GB.
*Dual layer holds up to 30GB.
*Backward-compatible with CD and DVD
*Limited backing by film companies including Universal, HBO and Paramount.


Frank's Pick: Blu-ray

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Spotlight Article: "Channel 3 News" Set Feedback

Your feedback is important to us!

I'd like to know what you like or dislike about the Channel 3 News set or anything about the actual production of our what the shows look like.

Do you like our opens, graphics, set, music... etc.

Send me your emails to:


Monday, January 15, 2007

From the Mailbag: Does Everyone Use Teleprompter?

From Tammy in Cleveland Heights:

Q: Do all the anchors use the teleprompter?

A: Mostly, all the anchors use the prompter to read from during a newscast. Some need it more than others, as there is way too many facts and details for the anchors to memorize. If they did, you wouldn't always get as concise or accurate a story.

The weather anchors always ad-libs (the cool tv term for it)...meaning they talk off the top of their head.

Most sports anchors also use prompter during their highlights to keep their reporting matched to the video they edited.

The one BIG exception at WKYC is Sports Anchor Jim Donovan who NEVER uses the prompter.. Every story he does is ad-lib'ed. And, it's very impressive to watch behind the scenes wondering how he keeps all the players names and stats in his head. He never misses a beat!

Spotlight Article: 720p vs. 1080i HDTV Resolution

I get asked a lot about what the difference is between 720p (Progressive) or 1080i (Interlaced) and which is better when you go to buy a new HDTV. As you can guess, the 1080i has 360 more lines of resolution that make pictures richer and deeper. This may sound like a better deal, but 1080i has some drawbacks too.

A 720p signal consists of 720 lines on your TV screen. Every frame is seen for 1/30th of a second. Visualize seeing 30 different "photographs" zip by every second in a fast paced slide show. This is referred to as "progressive scan" - thus the "p" in 720p.

A 1080i signal consists of 1080 lines. However, all the lines are not displayed on the screen at the same time. Instead they are interlaced (hence the 'i'). This means every other line is displayed for 1/60th of a second. Then the alternate lines are displayed for 1/60th of a second. So, the frame rate is still 30 frames per second, but each frame is split into two fields that your brain puts together subconsciously.

Most of the time interlacing offers better quality. But for fast moving images including sports events (baseball or hockey for example) and intense action movie scenes, the images can pixellate with the 1080i. So, if your a sports buff, I suggest that 720p is the way to go.

But for most consumers, the quality debate between 720p vs 1080i is marginal and should not be a huge deciding factor on which type of HDTV to purchase.

A sidenote: Both 720i and 1080p also exist. But, 720i is not used by broadcasters. The 1080p will likely become more widely used in future years as the technology evolves.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Spotlight Article: What Does a Director Do? Part III

It's 3 minutes to air and I just got word that the lead liveshot is having trouble feeding the reporter's package back from the field.

What do you do? You stay calm, cool, collected...and pray. But honestly, it's time to consult with the producer and come up with a backup plan.

In this case, we decide we'll skip past the reporter's package & liveshot. Mark Nolan will instead start the broadcast with a weather update on the approaching snow that was intended to air a bit lower in the first block.

The anchors are told in their earpieces of the situation and what we intend to do. The camera operator prepares to redirect the cameras and the TD & audio engineers adjust their setups. It's a very quick process with little time to react.

Fortunately with 15 seconds left before the show hits, I get word the liveshot has fed and is ready to go. All is good and we are back on track.

Somedays, things can go very wrong. TV has become a digital world based on computers and technology that gives a few people the ability to do a lot of things all at once. But since we are all human, mistakes do happen. A wrong button is pushed, the wrong tape is rolled...or a misspelled graphic gets on the air. When you're live, there are no second takes.

But the job of the director is to keep the show moving and to work around the issues that arise so that no one at home notices. That doesn't always happen...that's when you get to see something funny that wasn't quite planned: an anchor looking at the wrong camera, the wrong full screen graphic, a tape about elephants when the story is about a fire. It's funny at home, but feels awful in the control room.

Our first block of the show is usually quite busy with little room for error. We typically do about 15 - 20 stories in the 1st 10 minutes of the show. This includes several liveshots, lots of video effects including map wipes, tape to tape wipes, page turns and other elements to make the show visually appealing and to keep the viewer interested - and entertained. TV news has become as much about entertainment as information.

The 2nd block is a continuation of news and a weather segment.

The 3rd block is a fast paced sports segment that features lots of stories crammed into a short period of time.

And the final block of the show is usually a feel good story we call a "kicker." With the all the bad news and trouble in the world, we always like to leave our viewers with good thoughts and some laughter as we say goodnight.

Finally we fade to black and the process starts all over again with the next show.

Monday, January 08, 2007

From the Mailbag: How Do You Keep Track of Everything in a Show?

From Brett in Macdeonia:

Q: How do you keep track of everything during a show as the Director?

A: It's not an easy thing. In addition to keeping the show on track, the director has to worry about making sure the upcoming tapes are loaded for playback, reporters in the field are standing by at the appropriate time, the anchors are looking at the right cameras, the graphics are ready for the next story, how much time is left on a soundbite, etc.

It's a job that requires great attention to detail and great organizational skills. Plus, you have be able to ingest multiple people talking to you while you are calling the shots.

Soon, I'll be posting a video of me actually directing a newscast. This is coming during February.

News: We Made Broadcast History Again!

Congratulations Cleveland!

Our city has become the first television market in the nation to have 3 stations offering High Definition newscasts.

WJW was first in 2004

WKYC was second in 2006

WEWS was third in 2007

Most TV markets currently have 1 or 2 stations broadcasting HD News.

Cleveland continues to be a leader in HDTV broadcasting.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Spotlight Article: Why Pay for HD Programming? WKYC offers it FREE!

As I mentioned in an earlier article, you have to buy an High Definition TV in order to watch High Definition programming. But, you don't have to pay a dime to get HD programming when we offer it for FREE from NBC - over the air - just the way you used to watch TV in the days BEFORE cable and satellite.

So much has been written about the need to subscribe to expensive HD packages from services like Dish Network, Direct TV or Time Warner Cable, among others. But it's not necessary.

All new TVs manufactured after 2005 are required to have an ATSC tuner which allows you to pick up the new digital TV signals, including the HD ones, which all of the local TV stations in the Cleveland market are now broadcasting FREE OF CHARGE, over the air.

You new TV automatically locks onto these digital channels - including for us.. channel 3.1 (Channel 3 in HD) and channel 3.2 (Weather Plus).

Even if you bought a digital tv that's not an HD Set, you can still watch our new channels in the regular 4x3 mode.

Finally, if you have any trouble picking up any of these "over the air" signals, you can always buy an HD booster antenna, that works much like the the "rabbit ears" of yesteryear. Places like or Radio Shack can point you in the right direction.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

From the Mailbag: What is Weather Plus?

From Danna in Cleveland:

Q: What is Weather Plus that you guys always talk about on TV 3?

A: Weather Plus is a new, all digital weather channel that we launched in cooperation with NBC in 2005.

Like the regular Weather Channel, it's devoted to all things weather. But, what makes it unique is that local "L" bar that provides your local weather information at all times.

This includes current conditions & a 5 day forecast for all the major cities in Ohio.

Plus, our Ch 3 weather team also provide a 2 minute and a 1 minute local weather every 15 minutes, each hour of the day.

You also get to see our local weather radars in real time to track weather systems as they move across the area.

Weather Plus is available on WKYC.COM, Digital Channel 3.2 over the air, and on most of the local cable systems serving Northeast Ohio.

From the Mailbag: The Weather Radar

From Pam in Garrettsville:

Q: Is that a real radar on top of your building in that white dome?

A: The short answer is yes. The long answer is it's just one of several radars we have available at Channel 3.

The one on our building is a lower power system that we use to track storms over Lake Erie.

The Xband Doppler Radar is a real time radar system (seen on Channel 3 and Weather Plus more often). It's our own system and located at our transmitter site in Parma.

We also use the Nexrad Radar system that is provided by the National Weather Service Office to all TV outlets. This information is roughly 6 minutes old by the time we receive it. (That's why we have our own real time system to give you the most to update as possible).

Monday, January 01, 2007

Frank Macek Broadcasting Credits

Frank's Radio Credits:
Radio Stations Worked For: WLND/830 AM (Cortland), WRRO/1440 AM (Warren), WCSB/89.3 FM (Cleveland), WDOK/102.1 FM (Cleveland), WWWE/1100 AM (Cleveland), WRMR/850 AM (Cleveland), WOBL/1320 AM (Oberlin), WKNR/AM 1220 (Cleveland), WEOL/930 AM (Elyria), WNWV/107.3 FM (Cleveland)

*Marconi Smooth Jazz Station of the Year Award (On-Air Staff) – 1995, 2001
*Sunday Soundscapes (Host, Producer) – 1997 to 1999
*Showtime Memories (Producer, Writer) - 1998
*Return to the 40s (Host, Producer) - 1994
*Those Fabulous 50s (Host, Producer) - 1994
*When There’s Cancer in the Family, Kids Count Too! (Producer) - 1993
*Treasure Chest of Bargain Show (Host) - 1988

Frank's Television Credits:
(Note: Here is a list of shows I have worked on since beginning at WKYC in 1994. Obviously, I did not direct or do technical work on every single broadcast...but have directed many of each show listed)

*Channel 3 News @ 5 - 7 AM, 11 AM, Studio 3, Noon (Director) - 1995 to 1997
*Channel 3 News @ 6, 7 & 11 PM (Director) – 1995 to 2007
*Channel 23 News @ 6:30 PM & 10 PM (Director) – 2001 to 2005
*Akron Canton News @ 6:30 PM & 9 PM (Director) – 2005
*Akron Canton News @ 6:30 PM & 10 PM (Director) – 2006 to 2007
*Today in Cleveland @ 6:30 AM to 7:00 AM (Director ) – 1994 to 1997
*Great Lakes Auto Show (Control Director) – 1995
*’Tis the Season (Audio Engineer) – 1994 & 1995
*'Tis the Season Control Director) – 1996 & 1999
*Cleveland On Ice (Audio Engineer) – 1994 & 1995
*Cleveland Revco Marathon (Audio Engineer) – 1995
*Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Opening (Audio Engineer) – 1994
*Travel Ohio (co Producer/Director) – 1998
*Art, Arms & Armor (Control Director) – 1998
*Angels in the Allen (Control Director) – 1998
*Channel 3’s Golden Years (Researcher/Contributor) – 1998
*Golden Opportunities (Director) – 1998 to 2004
*Browns Playback with Chris Palmer (Studio Director) – 1999 & 2000
*Inside the Huddle with Butch Davis (Studio Director) – 2001 to 2004
*The Point After (Director) – 2005 to 2007
*Browns PreGame Huddle (Director) - 2007
*Friday Night Fever (Director) – 1998 to 2006
*Sports Tonight (Director) – 2000 to 2004
*Browns Tonight (Director) – 1999 to 2004
*WKYC’s Olympic Zone (Director) – February 2006
*Spring Fever: Indians 2006 Special (Director) – 2006
*Indians On Deck Pregame Show (Director) – 2006 to 2007
*Talkin’ Tribe (Director) - 2006 to 2007
*A Salute to Our Armed Forces Parade (Producer/Director) – 2001, 2002
*Key Bank American Legion Christmas Parade (Producer/Director) – 2002
*State of the City (Mayor Jane Campbell) – (On-Site Director) - 2004
*State of the City (Mayor Frank Jackson) – (Control Director) - 2007
*Tim Hagan & Tim McCormack City Hall Debate (Control Director) – 2004
*Parade of Sail Webcast – (Co-Director) – 2006
*Desert Showdown (OSU Special) (Director) - 2007

Frank's Television Awards:
*Emmy Nomination – Browns Tonight (Director) – 2003
*Best of Gannett Award – "Severe Spring Storm" (Director) – 2004
*Emmy Nomination – Channel 3 News at 11 PM (Director) - 2006
*WKYC’s Employee of the Month – November 2006