The process of converting from SD to HD for local news apprehension. In the case of WFMJ, in Youngstown, Ohio, the decision was made to use the twin opportunities of the November Sweeps and the national elections as a chance to make a splash in the market and maintain its local lead in news ratings. Long before the national Presidential campaign starting dropping money in Ohio, a plan was developed to cut over barely three weeks before one of the most important news events of the year.
The transition included not only a new control room layout and hardware, but also a complete overhaul of field acquisition, and news editing and playout to HD at the same time. The transition was accomplished on schedule, and without losing a single newscast. The space was in use, however, so a “leap frog” strategy had to be developed that allowed first the old CRT monitor wall to be demolished, and the wall between the existing audio control room and production control to be removed to make room for both a new flat-panel monitor wall and new production control desk to be dropped into the space that was opened up. Wiring in the new rack room area began a month before the first milestone, and in early October, the first pieces — including the new monitor wall and consoles — were put in place. Then an orderly transition began by moving the producers to a temporary location at the old front bench, followed by a new Wheatstone D-8 audio console and the removal of the old analog audio console. This left all of the major pieces in place for training prior to cutover.
Two weeks later, over a long weekend, the rest of the transition was accomplished, and the first HD newscasts were produced with little fanfare and remarkably few problems. The new graphics signaled a major change in the look of the programs, and an improved intercom, stunning HD pictures and heavier use of graphics completed the makeover.
WFMJ chose to implement Ross Video switching and Expression graphics hardware in anticipation of converting to Ross Overdrive news automation after one of the ratings books in 2013. Cameras were changed in 2011 (Sony HXC100 on Vinten Radamec robotic pedestals), and were ready to be switched to HD. The field cameras chosen were Sony PMW350s, with Fujinon lenses. The editing and playout choice was Grass Valley’s latest Stratus/Edius/Aurora playout, tightly integrated to the ENPS newsroom computer system. On cutover weekend, the Edius and Aurora systems were put in place at the same time the control room was completely changed out, two floors above.
The project manager for WFMJ, John Luff, helped WFMJ select a firm with experience with all aspects of the design and complicated transition. TI Broadcast Solutions Group was chosen to manage the technology and complete the entire installation. With all departments in the station participating throughout the project, the final equipment list was tailored to WFMJ’s unique needs. Training everyone on all the new technology occupied everyone’s attention in October, and it paid huge dividends.