Digital Garden of Eden

Jim Goodmon, president and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting, has long used his Raleigh station WRAL-TV as a laboratory to work out the kinks in digital broadcast. Goodmon has worked closely with the FCC, ATSC, MSTV, CBS tech engineering (WRAL-TV is a CBS affiliate) and other national bodies to help develop digital standards. In 1996, WRAL-TV began the first regularly produced high-definition newscast in the nation, including field acquisition and studio production. Goodmon has pioneered a wide range of devices and developments, getting, for example, Everest to make him the world's first high-def logo generator and Sierra Digital to make him the first one-in/eight-out distribution amplifiers.

So it is no surprise that WRAL-TV's recently completed expansion and current renovation involve noteworthy innovation.

"WRAL's expansion project was done to provide a new space for news broadcast, including a new two-level open newsroom, a news-production-control room and a news-production and -editing facility, as well as a new home for administration, sales and traffic," says Kyle Lombardo, project manager for Oklahoma City-based architects Rees Associates. "The technical core had been upgraded to digital before we came aboard, but WRAL is now in the process of converting the entire facility to high-definition 1080i. Because we knew it was going to be used for high-def broadcast, we wanted a more open newsroom."

The expansion features a new control room based on a Sony HDVS-7000 1080i switcher with a Wheatsone analog audio console and a large, new, improved graphics area with Chyron Infinit character generators and Aprisa still stores.

"In the transition, we converted field acquisition to Panasonic DVCPRO 100 one-piece cameras, and all the news editing is done with the Panasonic DVCOPRO 150 studio machines," reports Capitol Broadcasting Director of Engineering Tom Beauchamp.

In the refurbishment of the 35,000-square-foot facility (phased in to maintain operations), a new roof is being added, and all electrical wiring is being replaced. "We are not adding new equipment here, but we are building new spaces around the existing equipment, including new electrical service and air conditioning," Beauchamp notes.
"This renovation project will have the world's first high-def live newsroom and will probably be the only place to shoot a high-def commercial," says Lombardo. "The new WRAL has flexibility built in to accommodate future needs. For instance, we have fiber to the desktop—just waiting for the desktop to come to fiber."

Goodmon chose to stay in this facility and expand and renovate it because it has been in his family for generations. It is built on a famous horticultural spot and tourist attraction known as the Azalea Gardens, developed by his family just a few miles west of downtown Raleigh. Azalea Gardens is being expanded too, adding rose, iris and other gardens to existing elements that celebrate broadcasting—such as the Transmission Garden, featuring a fountain with sweeping sculptural elements representing radio waves, and the Frequency Garden, set up in a sine-wave pattern.