Virtually Mediacom

Cable operator Mediacom has installed For-A's digiWarp-EX II virtual studio system in its Des Moines, Iowa, studio to help produce a new half-hour monthly program called Digital Connections
that explains digital cable services.

"We needed to move forward with more of a long-form infomercial about our products," says John Pascarelli, senior vice president of marketing and consumer services. "We were looking at how complex the digital product is between the interactive guide, VOD, PVRs and all the channels and wondering how we were going to communicate it to consumers so they can get value out of it."

Pascarelli says using the virtual studio helps give the program a digital look, something Mediacom felt was important given the subject matter. The program made its debut on Aug. 1 and other programs, related to broadband and HDTV, are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Cecil Van Houten, production manager for the Des Moines facility, says Mediacom will use a variety of the pre-built virtual sets that come with the system.

"They give us multi-camera capability and 3D features," he says. "We can also change and tweak the sets in the computer with software programs such as Photoshop or 3DSMax to modify and tailor the virtual backgrounds for each individual show."

The stage is 35x40 feet and has Thomson LDK-93 cameras with Fujinon lenses. A VPS-400D For-A digital switcher and a Grass Valley 200 analog switcher are also used.

Pascarelli says that if Mediacom decided to build a set he most likely would have gone to an outside production company. "But this allows us to maintain all the activities in the studio without real disruption, overlaying this activity into it."