USA Today Live going robotic

USA Today Live, Gannett's in-house TV news service, is installing LiveWave remote-control camera systems in its McLean, Va., headquarters and four bureaus so that USA Today
print reporters can appear on the station group's 22 television stations.

"We live, breath and eat USA Today," says Victor Murphy, director of operations and production, USA Today Live. "We have one system up and running now in our downtown Washington, D.C., bureau. And we're in the process of having fiber lines installed in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where the other three systems will go."

San Francisco will be online next month, New York in March and Los Angeles in April.

According to LiveWave President Peter Mottur, USA Today Live will use cable modems to control the cameras, which are Panasonic AW-E600/AW-PH300A robotic cameras. The LiveWave CC-100-SE Broadcast Pro systems include software and a computer, which is located with the camera and functions as both server and encoder. The typical cost of LiveWave's systems range from $5,000 to $10,000, the cost of the camera determining the final cost of the system. A professional-quality camera with lens will tack on $12,000 to $15,000. Total cost for the system that is implemented at the four USA Today Live bureaus clocked in at $100,000.

"I'm getting it done pretty cheaply," says Murphy. "We don't need anything incredibly sensitive for tracking; we just need to be able to frame up a talking-head shot. But it also allows me to control all the camera functions. I can set up bars, control white balance, and it's like having a camera-control unit thrown in as well."

The year-old LiveWave exhibited at its first NAB show this past April and began shipping products in June.

Mottur believes that his company's approach offers two primary advantages over its competitors in the remote-camera market: The LiveWave system allows control over any type of network connection—whether dial-up modem, IP or dedicated line—and can work with cameras from about 10 vendors, including Panasonic, Sony, Hitachi and Telemetrics.

"Our software enables them to get higher functionality out of the camera, like white balance and gain," he says. "Pretty much everything is on the computer's graphical user interface. Users also have variable speed control, so they can do moves on-air or track moving objects, and there is a cueing system so multiple operators can have simultaneous access."

With 22 stations using the system, Murphy points out, it can reduce the wear and tear of getting newspaper reporters from the downtown bureau to McLean. "A Gannett station can call up and say they want to interview someone," he explains. "We bring the reporter back to McLean and either fiber out or satellite out the signal to the station."

The privately held LiveWave is a Boston-based manufacturer of systems that provide live broadcast-TV or broadband distribution of audio and video, as well as remote camera control and network management over an IP connection. Earlier this month, the company announced plans to integrate its software and encoder/servers with Panasonic's convertible cameras and pan/tilts.