Call-letter stations across the United States rely on mobile trucks equipped with microwave links to bring live local news and sports events to their viewers and, on occasion, to national audiences via network news. While a microwave truck might be suitable for coverage within the city, its dependence on geographic proximity and line of sight limits broadcasters' flexibility in producing comprehensive coverage of important regional events.
For many facilities, the solution is to invest in a digital satellite newsgathering (DSNG) truck. The increased mobility of a DSNG unit allows for coverage of a broader geographic area, which in turn translates into potential for richer and more in-depth reporting throughout a designated market area. Whether it's coverage of sports events taking place in smaller surrounding towns, a storm or similar natural disaster occurring in outlying areas, or any other unusual event outside of microwave range, a well-equipped DSNG truck can help broadcasters enhance local programming significantly.
A high-quality encoding solution is a critical part of DSNG, and most broadcast stations are interested in gaining satellite transmission capability without added expenditures of training, equipment and staff. The CODICO E-1720 MPEG-2 DVB DSNG encoder from Scopus Video Networks is designed to address this demand.
A compact platform intended primarily for installation in uplink vans, SUVs and flyaway packages, this encoder combines encoding, modulation and upconversion in a 1RU unit. It maximizes available space in the smaller vehicles typically selected for their economy and fuel efficiency, as well as their ability to maneuver into tight spaces and set up quickly. Steady- and low-power consumption and a lightweight construction help to keep fuel costs down.
Broadcast-quality 70/140 IF and 950MHz to 2150MHz L-band outputs are embedded as well as a separate L-band monitoring output. With the L-band output and MPEG-2 codec, the encoder enables transmission of audio and video converted for 4:2:0 or 4:2:2 satellite transmission, thereby taking advantage of the small amount of available space in mobile vans.
Live video and audio acquired by the camera operation can be combined with prerecorded data directly into the MPEG-2 encoder. The system encodes a baseband video signal to a compressed signal and then allows the compressed signal to be QPSK-modulated and QPSK-converted to an L-band output delivered directly to the mobile unit's power amplifier with an integral block upconverter (BUC). This can be powered by on-stream DC power supply or through external connectors.
Strict adherence to DVB-S and DVB-DSNG standards and support for QPSK, 8PSK and 16QAM satellite modulation schemes ensures transmission of high-quality images ready for professional editing, while an ultra-low-latency mode helps to minimize delay. The encoder provides for a variable GOP structure, which allows its users to create efficient coding for low-delay mode — a requirement in interview situations.
Basic Interoperable Scrambling System — Conditional Access (BISS-CA) and built-in DVB scrambling capability cut down on the number of external components required and protect the video stream from unauthorized viewing. Integrated multiplexing capabilities and integrated telemetry simplifies operation so that a TV station's journalists can manage operation without the assistance of an SNG operator on location.
Advanced multiplexing capabilities enable users to daisy-chain up to 15 encoders while equipping only the top encoder with satellite interface and scrambling capabilities, thus saving on multiplexing costs.
In addition to standard analog and digital inputs, the DSNG encoder features intuitive, menu-driven controls complete with preprogrammed set-ups that reduce the time required to get the cameras rolling and shots delivered to the broadcast facility. As encoder technology, formats and standards continue to evolve, the encoder software can be upgraded accordingly via CompactFlash card.
In the field
The compact size of the E-1720 encoder and the wide range of functions it performs are two of its primary benefits, and its ease of use makes for a fast transition into satellite broadcasting. The speed with which this solution can be adopted was demonstrated by FOX affiliate KTBC-TV in Austin, TX. The station ordered a CODICO E-1720 MPEG-2 DVB DSNG encoder and uplink truck from Shook Mobile Technologies, a 29-year-old San Antonio-based manufacturer of high-tech mobile vehicles, and got it on the road in August 2005. The journalists operating the new truck were able to provide local and national FOX viewers with footage as hurricanes Katrina and Rita moved through Texas shortly thereafter.
The design criteria for KTBC's DSNG truck were reliability, cost-effectiveness and user-friendliness. The easy-to-operate, earth-to-satellite transmission system has allowed KTBC to extend its range in gathering live local news footage. While the E-1720 encoder provides advanced encoding capabilities, it serves as a reliable and cost-effective platform for mobile broadcasting applications. For stations like KTBC, this technology makes for a smooth transition into the world of satellite newsgathering and the new possibilities it presents.
Mario Rainville is associate vice president of product marketing for Scopus Video Networks.