After the DTV Transition

When E.W. Scripps Vice President of Engineering Mike Doback goes to NAB next month, it will be with a renewed enthusiasm and a sense of freedom. With seven of the group's 10 stations broadcasting DTV and three more ready to go on-air this spring, Scripps has moved past DTV conversion and is ready to move on to new and ambitious projects.

"Now that we have evolved through the antenna/transmitter stage of DTV, we can devote resources to making the pictures," he says. "The cost of the DTV conversion has been a burden for all companies because you don't have the ability to do all the things you can because all you can buy are transmitters."

With that long and complicated process behind it, E.W. Scripps has embarked on the development of a 70,000-square-foot, completely digital facility for ABC Affiliate WCPO(TV) Cincinnati. Working in conjunction with Cincinnati-based KZF Design and Turner Construction in building the facility from the dirt up, the company has a "great opportunity to start fresh," says Doback.

Integrator AF Associates, Northvale, N.J., is helping develop a list of equipment needs. "It will be a fully functioning HD facility out of the box, and there's a lot of excitement there," Doback says. "We plan to go on-air June 1, 2004, so it's an incredibly aggressive design buildout."

The only major equipment moving from the current facility are a Grass Valley Kalypso Digital Production System and Euphonix digital audio board.

Scripps is converting WCPO from analog to digital formats and, at NAB, will look at nonlinear editing equipment, file servers for playback, graphics equipment and digital archive systems. "We're trying not to scrimp," Doback says. "It will be a state-of-the-art facility. It's going to be a facility that should last 50 years."

For the group, Scripps will be checking out advances in digital-tape format. Currently, most of its stations use DV-based production equipment; several use SX gear. "For new acquisitions," Dobak explains, "we'll be moving away from linear videotape."

To that end, Doback will be investigating acquisition-product introductions that use DVD and blue-laser disk-based technology.

With heavy news production at its stations, Doback will pay attention to innovations that help streamline operations. "We're designing newsrooms to maximize workflow and functionality with the support services located around the newsroom," he explains. "Technical support, creative support, editing, even the news studio itself will be unified with the newsroom."

For production in the field, he will be investigating developments in ENG equipment. Having had some conversations with truck vendors prior to the show, he says, "we're anticipating some pretty neat stuff this year."