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HD Universe Is Expanding

While many stations have yet to offer high-def local news, an even smaller number are sending back remote HD reports. Bob Hildeman, CEO and cofounder of Streambox, which provides technologies to transmit content for more than 150 U.S. stations, estimates the percentage of stations doing HD from the field is "in the very low single digits for either file or live HD acquisition."

But this is changing. Streambox is already allowing stations to send back HD material over 3G networks, and Hildeman believes 4G wireless networks will make wireless delivery even more appealing. "4G means that the stations will have a very robust network that can accommodate high-quality video," he says.

Clearwire, backed by Sprint and a group of cable MSOs, has deployed a 4G network in 62 markets with a total of 82 million residents, and Verizon plans to roll out its 4G network to 38 markets with 110 million people by year-end.

As part of the recently completed Broadcast Auxiliary Service relocation of spectrum, stations also acquired digital microwave equipment that some are now using to transmit HD. "Broadcasters like Scripps and Newport are actually using 16 QAM [Quadrature Amplitude Modulated signals] at 19 Mbps [megabytes per second] to send live microwave stand-up remotes from the field in 720p every night, taking encoded output from JVC cameras," notes Larry Librach, VP for JVC's professional products group.

Meanwhile, the proliferation of lower-cost camcorders with price points below $12,000 has also been fueling a move to do more HD from the field. JVC got an early lead in the sector with the launch of its GY-HD250U and GY-HM790U HD camcorders, and Sony, Panasonic and Canon are all selling units priced at under $12,000 that are being widely deployed in the field.

Those prices have encouraged many stations to buy HD cameras, even if they are still shooting standard-def footage. "In general we are selling HD cameras for less than what we sold SD cameras for a few years ago," says Steve Cooperman, product manager at Panasonic Solutions Co. "Everything is getting smaller, faster and less expensive out of economic necessity."

An even bigger factor than cost may be the impact of these low-cost HD camcorders on workflow. The cameras rely on solid-state storage, which has encouraged stations to move to file-based workflows and more efficient production techniques. "Workflow has been the most important overall issue in getting our product out in the marketplace for ENG," adds JVC's Librach. "They can now shoot, take the [SD/SDHC storage] chip out of the camera, put it in the laptop, edit it and then play it out to the station or save it. It is all incredibly fast."