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Mark,
It’s a well known fact that TV engineers hair turns while sleeping only. That is why it takes years for it to creep up. Ha!
(Said by someone who is looking at a 60 hour week.)

I should be fine then, did a 90 hour week last week and just found five minutes to go on here now so hopefully no new grey this week. It gotten so bad with the hours lately that there is no time to work on projects anymore, I keep buying parts here and there and now I am literally tripping over stuff that I bought back in the spring and haven’t installed or used yet, there’s cables and software and parts all over the place some of which I’ve bought twice because I forgot I already bought it!

Just be sure to bank your earnings for later. Hard times are here and you never know what will take place. Some of our freelancers will see only one or two days this month.

Yes and good advice, I’m paying down debt right now as who knows what will happen come spring, I’m contract so I don’t get paid extra for all these extra hours but in this economy complaining is not an option.

What worries me and not just for the television industry but others as well is that when recovery happens any jobs will be part-time/on call and we’ll all be working not at one or two jobs but three or four. It’s also an employers market right now and for the next few years.

That’s why I’m trying to push this live web truck/wirecast stuff as the days of million dollar sat trucks are not guaranteed I am hoping I can advance with this new technology but to get on full time I might have to go back to school and upgrade my skills and qualifications.

The hours are getting longer and I know my only chance of a “vacation” this year will be “if” I am covering the Waterloo and GTR regionals this season. Trying to get good news on TV is also becoming a real challenge, if there is a big go green push this year at competition then I have a good chance at it though with one station.

mark

mark

Mark,
To show how bad things have become, the AP reported that NBC is being purchased (at least in part) by Comcast.

Cable takeover marks new era for NBC, TV industry
The Associated Press
Eight decades after pioneering the concept of broadcasting, NBC is on the verge of a startling move that illustrates broadcast television’s decline.

Cable TV operator Comcast Corp. is expected to buy a controlling stake in NBC Universal, perhaps as early as this week, bringing the network of Johnny Carson, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Tom Brokaw under the corporate control of the company that owns the Golf Channel and E! Entertainment Television.

“This is highly symbolic,” said Tim Brooks, who had worked at NBC for 20 years and now writes books on television history.

Starting Sunday, Vivendi SA has an option to sell its 20 percent stake in NBC Universal. Majority owner General Electric Co. is expected to buy it and then sell a 51 percent stake of the entire NBC Universal unit to Comcast, which serves about a quarter of the nation’s subscription TV households.

Broadcast people, the folks who remember when television was ABC, CBS, NBC and little else, used to look down upon cable.

The idea of broadcast TV was implied in the name; the networks tried to reach the broadest possible audience. For cable it’s important to do something specific and do it well, and the audience doesn’t need to be as large.

NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker recognizes this. Cable properties such as USA, SyFy, CNBC and The Weather Channel mean more to NBC Universal’s bottom line than staggering NBC, fourth place in the ratings.

And those cable properties â more than the flagship “Peacock” network â were the draw for Comcast. By owning more content, Comcast further hedges its bets as mainly a distributor of shows in case viewers ditch their cable TV subscriptions and migrate to the Internet, mobile devices or a platform that has yet to emerge. The company could charge for the shows or sell ads wherever the viewers are.

In a sense, NBC would become a pioneer again, as it seeks to stay relevant amid intensifying audience fragmentation.

NBC was established as the nation’s first radio network in 1926. Its parent company, the Radio Corporation of America, made radios and realized the best way to get people to buy the product was to make sure there were interesting things to listen to.

“Without NBC, there wouldn’t be broadcasting as we know it,” said Walter J. Podrazik, a consulting curator at the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

NBC was the leading radio network, so powerful in those days it had two networks: NBC-Red and NBC-Blue. It was forced by the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1940s to divest itself of one network. NBC-Blue eventually became ABC. In fact, all three original broadcast networks can be traced back to NBC. One of its original owners, Westinghouse Electric Co., bought CBS in 1995.

Some of NBC’s radio profits were funneled into researching the new television technology. NBC began television broadcasts in 1939 by covering the opening of the New York World’s Fair.

In Canada right now the big CRTC (FCC) hearings are going on in Ottawa regarding fee for carriage, the conventional over the air broadcasters want a percentage of the fees from the cable subscribers and are saying that ad’s don’t come close to paying the bills any more. Even radio which ten years ago used to be a license to print money has been decimated.

One thing I know for sure is I am going to have to upgrade my skills fast for this business or something else, The way it’s going they want one person to do five things and maintain the same quality of ten years or more ago when each task was done be one person.

This media business though is a unique breed of cat and so are some of the people in it.

Right now though I think and maybe I will be wrong but I think this whole idea of live via the web, transmitting broadcast grade video via the web is the next generation live truck, not a million dollar sat truck but something almost as effective for a fraction of the cost.

Building it has a few technical challenges as this is still fairly new but what I am finding is selling the idea is near impossible, I’ve seen bosses that are firmly stuck in the 80’s, in the tape era and don’t want to hear anything about being able to feed video from the middle of nowhere using a laptop and saving a ton of money. Not that there is anything wrong with the 80`s, the music was good.

If I stay in this business or am lucky enough to stay in this business I think that’s what I want to pursue, I want to be on the leading edge of the next generation live truck, then again once they figure out how easy it is they will just add that task to the camera operator and before you know it we’ll be doing five things at once :slight_smile:

I haven’t given up yet.

mark

Mark,
This is a real double edged sword. The cable operators won’t pay and the broadcasters won’t have viewers without cable. Some of the stations here in town estimate at least 70% of their audience is on cable. One has even suggested they may shut down their transmitter and just feed the cables.
Broadcasting on the internet is still going to be a problem with throughput. There just isn’t enough bandwidth to handle that much data to that many customers. With the current economy, we are seeing a shift back to over the air. Cable rates have skyrocketed in the past few years with a monthly bill approaching or exceeding $100 US. Many cable providers are trying to add in billables by tacking on internet and phone to the same cable. The lunacy of this is when your cable goes out, so does the phone, the internet and your link with local news.
What might be a possibility is that the transmitter becomes a source of data for your DVR/video server. It just broadcasts a data stream all day which you then select a service from. As drives and solid state storage come down in price, anything is possible. Who would have thought 10 years ago that a terabyte drive would be available for under two hundred dollars. We are retiring video servers that have 18 GB drives because you can’t find any new ones.
The multiple jobs by one individual comes in part from the economy and part from our viewers. We have found that viewers have become more tolerant of technical problems, bad video, poor camera work and downright disgusting editing. Since the viewers don’t seem to care neither does management. I know it is hard to be good at everything but “I can do that” will get you more jobs than the other guy. It’s hard but that is the life we have chosen. When I tell people I normally start at 6AM but am really on call 24/7 they look at me like I am from a different planet. Why would I put up with that kind of work environment? I could wonder about their job in the same way. I can’t make everything bright and wonderful but I will continue doing the best I can and making a difference when an opportunity arises.

I think also the tolerance for lower video and technical quality comes from YouTube as well, they have how many millions of “viewers” and we have how few? When we had the propane explosion in Toronto last year most of the video the TV stations used was youtube video and since the police would not allow any acsess for media cameras that home video looked really good!

We have in Toronto area now clsoe to 24 Digital over the air HD channels that you can pick up with an antenna apparently and the quality is way better than what cable and satellite can offer so yes I can see a switch back to over the air and I might do it myself soon.

What I am doing on weekends with wirecast and live severe weather the station loves it yet the quality is not perfect and I still haven’t figured out why the video hangs up for a couple of seconds every now and then but they are thrilled with it back at the station.

The hardest part of this adjustment has been getting my head around the fact that it is now ok for each shot not to be perfectly steady and on tripod and perfect white balance etc. Ten years ago every “mistake” would be pointed out to me and now I could hand them a blank tape and never hear anything bad. It’s really been a challenge to adjust to the new look of TV news, just have to keep that youtube video in mind.

mark

Well this is kind of interesting, I shoot on contract for two Toronto area stations and at one we’ve been using technology for quite awhile, ftp’ing video from the road and it’s been quite efficient. The other station as I mentioned before still stuck in the 80’s until recently, up here Telus (Telus.ca) launched thier new 3.5G network in Ontario and let’s jet say after the old fashioned live trucks failed three times in one week they decided to let me show them and what better timing with this new network, totally wide open un-throttled upload as well and I am sending let’s say 5 min of broadcast video down to the station in 4 min, and our live stuff now looks ten times better and people are starting to “prefer” this new way not to mention we are saving a fortune on satellite costs and other feed point costs.

Just to be able to send back you’re video or story from anywhere and 10 minutes to air is awesome but I also feel sad that we didn’t’ have this technology ten years ago, I think of all those frantic runs down the highway to try and get tape back, pulling into the parking lot with heavy smoke coming off my brakes and now we I can send video from the scene in minutes.

Of course now I am working harder than ever and doing more shoots becuase I don’t have to drive back to the station anymore!, there are only two of us equipped right now and of course when it’s a deadline dash guess who gets rushed to the scene?

Next projects for me are to build a fully self-sufficient live truck out of a pelican 1610 case, lower level will be a layer of gel cells and upper later an Asus G51 and in general to put the kit together and have it working with as much simplicity as possible because there is no time to get technical at 20 minutes to air, this stuff has to power up, connect and work fast!.

Of course now that they like this so much I am throttling back the amount of information I give them on exactly what I am using, believe me in the last three weeks things have changed quite a bit, been telling them for a couple of years now but after a week of showing them (at my expense BTW) suddenly when the video magically really does appear at the station they suddenly “believe”.

Every live truck operator should learn this stuff and campaign to have it as an option on their trucks as by doing so it means some job security.

I think though the days of $500,00 and million dollar trucks are winding down and the new truck will be in Pelican 1610 cases.

mark

Mark,
I just saw something advertised in the latest QST Amateur Radio magazine that you might be interested in. It is a battery boost regulator and will provide 12-15 volts at up to 40 amps with battery voltage down to 9 volts. I don’t have the magazine with me so I can’t remember who the manufacturer is. Maybe someone can look it up for you or I will try to remember to check when I get home tonight. It seems to be just the right protection when you need a few more minutes to upload the story.
Things continue to change around here. Still waiting for the other shoe to drop on the Comcast purchase of NBC.

Thanks, I’ll try and google search it out when I have time to breathe once again, with all that’s going on it Haiti I have been doing near 20 hour days driving from Toronto to CFB Trenton and back shooting the military loading planes for Haiti, been using the live-via internet stuff a lot as well from the base and it’s been working amazing but now I am leaning towards building a desktop into a pelican case as it would be more protected from rain as well as easy BNC/XLR connectivity as opposed to firewire with the laptop.

Perhaps for a desktop style unit I could get a video card that had firewire as well as RCA type connectors for video and audio and then just make my patch cables from there.

Amazing stuff though, just wish I had this 10 years ago.

Mike,
We have been hearing good things about the ToughBook series. I think they have waterproof cases and keyboards. Pricey but worth the expense when needed.
Al

Apparently they are great for blocking the wheels of a truck in flooding situations and still usable aftwerwards but I had heard the problem with toughbooks besides the price was graphics cards and CPU, not as high end due to heat dissipation issues.

As I type this here at CFB Trenton a competing station’s sat truck has a problem, something snapped, the dish is now pointed skywards but not southwest and it’s secured from rotating by a rope, my FTP system is working fine and all my video is back in Toronto. I’d recommend mobile FTP for all existing live trucks as well as a back-up transmit system for when things like this happen and the happen to all of us from time to time, now I just have to make a more durable kit for rapid deployment and use in bad weather.

There was a snap and 10 min later not one but two live truck operators were atop the sat truck all while a beeping sound was coming from inside and that’s never a good sign.

Probably metal fatigue or something, it just broke and the dish fell back and it’s staring at the sky.

m

Sounds like the elevation lead screw or mount let go. Never a good thing. They need it to stow the dish so they can drive. Someone needs to take a picture for the archives though.

I took two pics with my blakcberry camera but I can’t see too well up there, probably the elevation lead screw because the whole thing seems mounted normally from what I can see, they have a second truck coming hopefully with an engineer on board, that stuff up there looks rather heavy to move around though.

They were just opening up the dish and I heard this loud “chunk” in the background as I was filming this C17 take off and then I saw two guys on the roof of the truck securing the dish with rope.

Stowing it will be a problem because even if they can safely get their paws on the thing it looks heavy, I wouldn’t want to be up there with no safety railing that close to the edge.

I remember five years ago our truck failed on the story of the year, 15 minutes to air, broken fan belt on generator, I took a peek and saw many cracks in the belt and knew right away that the price you pay for not doing minor maintenance.

I’m sure the cold weather affects the parts up there as well.

Fyi, I did offer to help the competition as I have lots of tools on board but it’s way too heavy for us to mess with right now. They were rather interested in my FTP system on the seat of my truck though :slight_smile:

mark

Sounds like a revenue opportunity.

Maybe, or just a good secondary method of transmitting, they have two engineers on top of the truck now and I’m hearing it’s probably that elevation lead screw that popped out. The one engineer has also brought his small dog to the scene, a dog named snoopy AKA: director of engineering, apparently it’s not only FIRST teams who have mascots and as I type this I see the dish moving and all looks well and apparently it was a “resolver”, calibration off and the computer stopped everything as it was getting a signal that the antenna was in the right place when it wasn’t.

I learned something today.

If it was the resolver calibration, the lead screw motor may have run to the mechanical endstop and then broke it off. (It might have a shear pin to prevent any real damage.)

I saw the engineer at another scene last week and that’s exactly what happened, wow! You know you’re stuff. Who say’s stuff can’t be diagnosed and fixed over the internet or phone? :slight_smile:

This is where I am supposed to respond “That’s why I get the big bucks!” but you know how wrong that is working for PBS. It was mostly just looking at what you reported and coming to a conclusion that fit. I am a maintenance guy after all and have worked on these up close before. When we meet, you will have to ask me about the Franki Valle and the Four Seasons Live to satellite event. That was a day when I really earned my pay.