Less Tape

Bob Ross has a broad view of the impact of new technology—and a busy agenda for NAB.

As CBS's senior vice president of East Coast operations, Ross oversees the engineering needs of the network's owned stations and its New York broadcast center. In Las Vegas, he will focus on tapeless acquisition systems from Sony and Panasonic as well as servers for news ingest and playout.

This year, CBS plans to install tapeless newsrooms at several stations, which currently use a mix of nonlinear editing equipment. The network is deciding whether to rely on a single manufacturer or assemble a system from several vendors. "The piece that's missing at some stations is a server system that sits in the middle of those different editing solutions," says Ross. "One that can link to the newsroom automation system and also ingest feeds from the various news organizations."

Once CBS settles on a tapeless newsroom solution, it can commit to either the Sony or the Panasonic camera. The network needs to gradually replace the station group's DVCPRO acquisition equipment, which will come to the end of its life sometime in 2005, says Ross.

Another item on Ross's NAB wish list is a wide-bandwidth connection between stations and newsgathering crews.

It would allow field crews to send video and audio files without having to put up the mast. Ross expects both Sony and Panasonic to introduce field-ready laptops to accept the removable storage media used by their tapeless cameras. Coupling these with a broadband connection would make getting the news from field to air much easier. "I want to have broadband in the vans all the time, so you could be creating files in the field and move the files back to the studio [via broadband transport]."

Ross will also look into Dolby 5.1-channel audio equipment in Las Vegas. CBS is attempting to offer the enhanced audio for all of its live HDTV broadcasts, including sports and special events. Currently, 105 CBS affiliates can support Dolby 5.1, but it raises unique monitoring challenges at local stations, as the audio delay that is inherent in the HDTV feed makes it difficult for engineers to manually monitor the audio on both NTSC and DTV broadcasts.

CBS is looking to electronically monitor 5.1-channel audio at the station level to detect not only whether the audio has gone silent because of failure but also if one or more audio channels are missing. Some master-control equipment will need to be upgraded to broadcast taped programming with 5.1-channel sound.