The phone began to ring and when I, Ryan, looked the caller ID read WJFW-TV in Rhinelander Wisconsin. I assumed it would be a scam call but answered anyway. On the other end, Marty and Walt from WJFW-TV were calling to discuss a previous article we wrote on an early PTZ camera design. The system they owned was a similar version to what we wrote about many years ago. When they saw how much we liked the system, they wanted to ask how we got it to work so well. I laughed, “We didn’t!"
During the demo, Marty and Walt got a better feel for what was possible for the studio and how Lambda could help them accomplish that! After a few months of back-and-forth conversation, WJFW selected Panasonic PTZ cameras and teleprompters from Prompter People. With this selection, you might think that a TV station, with experienced operators, could order the gear and move on. They certainly could have, but the real value behind working with an integrator like Lambda is also letting them do the integration and installation. WJFW recognized this benefit, so we set out to do what we do best!
New PTZ cameras today have so many amazing functions! These Panasonic cameras come equipped with the ability to control it via ethernet, transmit video over NDI, and power via POE. With those features we were within reach of using just a single cable to each camera. To do this we integrated a Netgear M4250 network switch with Ultra90 POE capability and an NDI profile. Each Camera had a single cable that ran back to the switch and then a cable from the switch to the TV station’s BroadcastPix video switcher. On the switcher inputs were configured for NDI and a PTZ camera control module was added. This made for a completely integrated approach to the cameras for easy switching. A video director can set all camera positions in advance and then recall them with input switches on the switcher. This means far less work spent fiddling with a camera joystick to get the exact position you want. In addition to the cameras. the prompters each use two monitors, one for text to be read and one for a confidence view of what is happening on screen, all fed via SDI.
With upfront planning, the onsite installation went quickly and most systems were up and running the first day. Normally, news stations run around the clock 7 days a week, but WJFW had scheduled to have most of their operations remote for three days. This meant we had two days of install and a final day to practice and finalize settings. This is not a normal amount time for an install of this scale, so doing it in three days required practice, accuracy, and knowing the gear well.
One of the only issues we ran into was easily solved, but worth mentioning as it is something most people might not know about. This would be the difference between NDI and NDIHX video formats. Each of these video formats is cross compatible, but implementation is very different. Normally, NDI is a near latency free format using about 125mbps of bandwidth. NDIHX though is a compressed format offering similar quality but at a much lower bandwidth of around 12mbps. The issue with NDIHX is that compression adds latency. This latency is determined by whatever is decoding the stream and in this case was the switcher. While testing at our shop with ProPresenter, the latency was very low, almost perfect, but with the BroadcastPix switcher it was much slower. Here our skills with integration come once again came to the rescue! With some routing and delays in the X32 broadcast audio console we created a delay group for only the in-studio mics and only to locations for broadcast and recording. This didn’t affect in ear IFB’s or intercom.
While on-site we tried to help in every way possible to get the station back on the air quickly. We taught them how to use and helped configure a new video wall as well as work to pick new camera positions. We even trained staff on the use of ProPresenter for graphics.
We had a wonderful time with the staff at WJFW and a very successful installation. We recently received a call from Marty and Walt asking about other things they can try with ProPresenter and NDI and they excitedly mentioned, “By the way, everything runs amazing, the cameras just do their job and hit their marks.” Now that’s what we like to see! A clean install, adding lots of usability that is reliable to the core so you can get down to business!
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