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West Texas Gets Hi-Def News

In a Prominent example of how smaller markets are increasingly investing in high-definition upgrades, the CBS affiliate in Amarillo, Texas, KDFA News Channel 10, has launched local HD newscasts. The upgrade in Amarillo is the first of several hi-def upgrades that Drewry Broadcasting is planning for its stations in Texas and Oklahoma over the new few months.

“We are the first station to go HD [for local news] in the West Texas region,” says Brent McClure, VP and general manager of NewsChannel 10 Media. McClure oversees the five stations run out of the Amarillo facility. “We are the only ones doing HD, other than the PBS stations, between Oklahoma City [to the east] and Albuquerque [New Mexico, to the west] or between Oklahoma City and San Antonio [to the south].”

Amarillo is a small market, DMA 131, but Drewry Broadcasting decided go all-HD for the facility, which operates five stations—KDFA NewsChannel 10; Telemundo affiliate KEYU; independent station KZBZ NewsChannel 10 Too; LATV; and the NewsChannel 10 24/7 News and Weather channel.

That entailed a major investment of more than $1 million and required Drewry to replace much of the facilities’ infrastructure, with the installation of a new router, master control, studio cameras, weather system, graphics system and about two miles of cable.

“The plant was composite analog,” says Tim Winn, chief engineer at News Channel 10 Media, adding that the decision to go all-HD had a number of advantages in terms of costs and work flow. “Now that we are all HD, everyone can share across all of the channels a lot more easily. It is all HD, and we don’t have to worry about what is coming in and going out or try to train people in different work flows.”

Highly Defined Plans

The construction and upgrade was handled in-house, without an outside integrator, by relatively modest engineering and IT staff that consists of three full-time employees (including Winn) and two part-time local workers.

The key to handling such a huge change in the station’s operations was careful planning and training, Winn and McClure say.

To lay the foundation for the HD upgrade, Drewry acquired HD-compatible playout services from Digital Broadcast four and a half years ago and began moving to a file-based work flow, adopting Adobe Premiere for editing four years ago. Next came news playout, which “has been HD for three years,” Winn notes.

For the HD upgrade, the company made its equipment purchases in May 2010 with deliveries beginning in the fall. The new Chryon graphics system was installed in November and used in a SD mode, and the Sony HXC100 studio cameras arrived in December, providing staff with ample time to get used to the new equipment.

The new production switcher from Ross Video went in two weeks before the launch of HD newscasts on Feb. 23. And while the new weather system from Weather Central went live on that day, they had been training on the system since November.

The station also acquired a Utah Scientifi c 400 series router and a MC4000 master control. In the field, they are using JVC GY-HM790 ProHD cameras and have purchased Canon XF 305 cameras for creative services.

The carefully staged deployment of equipment and a major focus on training the staff allowed the Feb. 23 launch of the HD newscast to go relatively glitch-free. “Training is absolutely important both for the product and for morale,” McClure says. “If people don’t know how to use the equipment, it just creates an atmosphere of frustration.”

As a result of the upgrade, all the work flow and content, including the 52 half-hours of news produced by the Drewry stations each week, is now done in HD. So far, KDFA NewsChannel 10 is the only one broadcasting in high-definition. The other four stations currently are down-converted to standard-defi nition for broadcast, though sometime later this year they plan to launch an HD feed for its Telemundo service.

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