The studios at CTV Vancouver Island in Victoria, British Columbia recently went through a complete 16:9 SD to full HD upgrade which included re-wiring the entire station and replacing the control room switcher and studio cameras. The systems integration was performed internally by the Bell Media integration group (CTV Vancouver Island is owned by Bell Media).
After broadcasting in SD for 18 years, the equipment overhaul brought about a sudden and noticeable change to the station’s staff as well as viewers.
Three new Sony HXC-FB80 HD studio cameras, along with HXCU-FB80 CCU units and HZC-RCP5 camera remote control software were selected as the main studio pedestal cameras. Two cameras sit on Vinten pedestals and are equipped with Canon wide angle lenses. The cameras are used for CTV’s 5:00pm, 6:00pm, and 11:00pm newscasts.
The Sony FB80’s were brought in for testing after cameras from another vendor never properly white balanced during testing in the studio. “We contacted Sony after that, and they quickly brought in one of the HXC-FB80s for us to look at,” said Kyle Lancaster, director and multi-skilled journalist, CTV Vancouver Island. “We set it all up, had the cameras rigged up the same way, fired them up, white balanced them all, and it looked amazing – right out of the box without any tweaks. We put our new camera on TV that night and purchased three as part of our HD upgrade. Even before we upgraded, we could see the difference in color reproduction when we were just broadcasting SD.”
CTV mentioned that the true-to-life color reproduction was the first thing they noticed about the cameras’ performance. “It just pops on screen. The difference was immediate, and everyone was extremely excited about the change. We even got a few phone calls from viewers congratulating us on our new HD changeover,” said Lancaster.
“The color matching was excellent,” reported Kirk Duncan, multi-skilled journalist, CTV Vancouver. “There was barely any difference between the two camera settings and looks. Out of the box, they looked the same. That was my favorite thing about our new cameras – the ease with which they were set up and ready to go. The menus were easy to navigate. We went through and adjusted what we needed to change without additional assistance. We could figure it out, and everything really did look great right out of the box.”
As a small station without dedicated studio camera operators, ease of use is critical. “We don’t have the people to sit there and doctor the cameras with every shot,” explained Lancaster. We need cameras that you can white balance and are ready to go. Or add a couple of pre-sets and go. These cameras have been that for us and more. You’re able to pull them out, do your pre-sets and rest assured they’ll perform reliably every night.”
Thanks to the HZC-RCP5 software, the HXC-FB80’s can be controlled from remote locales as well as the local control room, which means the video supervisor for CTV nationally can digitally shade and color the cameras from CTV headquarters in Toronto. Optical filter wheels for neutral density and color correction can also be controlled using the application. Gamma functions enable the user to fine-tune tonal values as well as control contrast and detail.
When the cameras first arrived, the CTV video supervisor in Toronto tweaked the settings so that the new cameras were consistent with national CTV standards. He remotely adjusted one camera’s pre-sets for each newscast, and Duncan and Lancaster copied those presets to the other -FB80s. “We’ve got about four different recalls on each of the cameras. As we move the cameras around the studio over the course of each newscast, we can just recall the different settings that we need for each position,” said Lancaster.
The cameras at CTV Vancouver Island can also be controlled using the HZC-RCP5 camera control software running on a computer at the station. This enables the on-site technical director to control various camera pre-sets based on a specific set or shot and have access to all the shading and recalls. The TD switches and keys in graphics for the nightly newscasts from the Victoria-based control room.
“That’s been a huge thing for us to be able to have our TD shade the cameras from his position,” said Lancaster. “On the virtual panel we see the shaders as they would appear if they were physical remote controls.”
The settings that CTV Vancouver Island employs are also affected by the facility’s giant row of windows. “At our studios, we’re shooting basically into a window,” explained Lancaster. “Our studio environment changes depending on the time of day or the weather. We needed a camera set up that could be easily adjusted to accommodate whatever changes nature may throw at us like cloud cover or a setting sun. The cameras can compensate for that and not make it as apparent that there’s a window behind our talent.”
An additional benefit is that with just one monitor and keyboard to control the cameras, CTV Vancouver Island was able to clean up its TD station by removing old remote gear.
With the remote-control software, the HXCU-FB80 CCU units can be placed anywhere in the studio. “The virtual software gives us the ability to put our CCUs in the studio where we need them to go so that our fiber could run to where we need the CCUs to be. We don’t have to worry about running another line to get the remotes in our control room. We have a computer already there, so we just load the software. It was super easy to set up.”