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Cheap TV Broadcasting Solutions?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the making-smart-buying-decisions dept.

Television 18

captnitro asks: "I'm heading up a studio renovation at a rather large college's TV station. Ever since I've been there, we've operated on a huge ten year replacement cycle for equipment; that is to say, a few new pieces trickle in every year, and none of it ends up being compatible with the stuff we already have that was purchased in 1996. This is due t: a dwindling budget due to budget cuts ($12k); and management, never the station engineers, making the purchasing decisions. Here's an example: since lighting isn't deemed a crucial point of the station by management, we have ceiling mounted hardware-store-standard floodlamps which make the studio incredible hot while shooting; our cameras are eight years old, but nobody wants to buy new cameras because management wants $35k ENG cams when we don't even have the broadcast resolution to be able to use them. This year, however, things have changed, and the station geeks have been given full authority to choose what they want. My question is this: what would other A/V engineers in my position recommend for cheap solutions?"

"Our wishlist is as follows:

(1) New Lighting. I'm thinking some nice non-strobing flourescents to properly flood the studio but stay cool (KinoFlos?)

(2) Cameras. Canon XL1s's are the best idea I have, but I really haven't heard much concerning 'pro-sumer' priced studio cameras, so perhaps someone can help me out here. Cameras are more of a long-term goal. While we're at it, does anyone have ideas for a camera-mounted prompter solution? Right now we're running a shareware prompter app off of a Win95 box whose VGA signal is mirrored to camera-mounted prompter monitors.

(3) Audio. Cheap mixers and compressors -- anybody have experience with the Behringer UB series? Lav mics. Does anyone have success with wireless lav mics in a studio situation, or should we stick to our XLRs?

(4) Decks and format. Currently we're STILL using SVHS to record shows. I've been considering recommending a switch to something a little more versatile. Others like MiniDV, but I have preservation issues. In my heart of hearts it would be great to record master to BetaSP, but as I've said before, we don't even need that kind of resolution.

(5) IT. Right now more than anything we need to come up to speed on 'convergence technologies', such as streaming our shows. At a conference a few months ago I looked at Sonic Foundry's 'MediaSite Live' system, I liked it, but could probably put something together myself much cheaper. I've also considered an Xserve and QT Streaming Server, but I don't really have much experience with that. Being a BSD junkie myself I'm fully and completely open to Linux/BSD solutions.

Finally, anyone know a company that makes newsdesks? The one's we built on our own look like crap.

Mostly this question is to see what other small, budget-minded stations have done to creatively solve their technical needs. Any help is appreciated."

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18 comments

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Two Choices (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7476329)

1. Steal the equipment you need.
or
2. Steal money and buy great equipement.

Problem solved.

Two Words: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7476415)

Male Prostitution. Get yourself a good client base and you will have plenty of money to fund your faggoty tv station.

Here's some REAL advice (go away, stupid trolls) (5, Informative)

csoto (220540) | more than 10 years ago | (#7476560)

Take a look at:

http://www.utexas.edu/web/video/

A) Lighting: We've used Kino Flo (http://www.kinoflo.com/)

B) Cameras: Stick with the XL-1s. They're great. You could move up to a small Sony DV "pro" camera, but you won't get much more. The one advantage to them is that they typically make camera dolly/prompter solutions for Sony gear. You might find some for the XL-1, however. Our studios use Sony studio-specific cameras with all those goodies, but the imagers aren't any better than a good XL-1 or Sony DVCAM.

C) Audio: All over the place, but Mackie makes great reliable, cheap mixers. We use a lot of Sennheiser mics. But, again, we have all sorts.

4) Decks, get the Sony DSR-45. No doubt about it. We have a whole bunch of different decks, but this one will get you all the audio ins/outs that you need, a built in LCD monitor and DV/DVCAM format compatibility.

5) Get a PowerMac G5 and use Cleaner or Sorensen Squeeze. If you want to do live, use the free QT Broadcaster. You could actually do this on a cheaper Mac, maybe an eMac or iMac or even a PowerBook or iBook (get the G4 at least). You might also consider a dedicated box such as the VBrick VBXcast, which we also use. It creates MPEG4 (QuickTime compatible) in realtime. Very spiffy little box.

Hope this helps!

Re:Here's some REAL advice (2, Informative)

ricojansen (38509) | more than 10 years ago | (#7480801)

I work for a public broadcaster in the Netherlands in the Internet department.

A) I don't now much about studio lighting so I wont comment on that.

B) I second the comment about the XL1's we use them, they are very good, only disadvantage we found is the location of the cable connections which cause the cables to get loose occassionely. We also use Sony PD150's these are quite solid as wel. The advantage of the XL1 over the PD150 is the shoulder-rest which makes for steadier shots.

C) Mackie's are reliable mixers, however there usability can use some improvement. For lowend audio we use Behringer stuff it is not to great in quality but it works. We are also quite happy with our Yamaha OV-1 for audiomixing. It might be more expensive but is fully digital and motorized.

4) Sony DSR-25 if you don't need the remote by RS422, DSR-45 if you do. The built in LCD takes care of yet another TV in the heap of equipment.

5) Cleaner stinks. When it works don't change *anything* on the computer or it will break again.
We have found it quite unreliable in quite a number of aspects. The user-interface is very bad as well. It's click hell. We are changing over to a more expensive solution called FlipFactory by Telestream. But that will be above your budget I'm afraid. However it is utterly flexible, it can read/create close to any video compression there is. Including MPEG 4:2:2,Quicktime,Windows Media and Real, and all the 'weird' broadcast specific formats.

Re:Here's some REAL advice (1)

csoto (220540) | more than 10 years ago | (#7484316)

Yes, pay attention to the comment about the connectors and shoulder mounts. The mount makes all the difference.

Of course, TOP was talking about studio shots, so he probably meant it would be on a dollie. But, still, the XL1 can be outfitted as a wonderful "near-broadcast" camera.

Google is your friend (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7476605)

I wish people would ask Google before asking Slashdot. There is a lot of info out there on this subject. This [google.com] should get you started.

Good luck.

Why so liitle money? (0, Flamebait)

pmz (462998) | more than 10 years ago | (#7476623)


Did the school blow its whole budget on the "distance learning" bandwagon so that two other schools can watch a math professor write illegibly on a chalkboard?

As for cheap, why not good camcorders with s-video out or something? Do you really need top-notch studio quality?

I'm sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7476682)

GNU Radio has something for you.

How did I know... (1)

Julius X (14690) | more than 10 years ago | (#7476719)

That this was VTTV [vt.edu] . Probably cuz the symptoms sound a lot like other VT organizations [vt.edu] that I've done work with over the years... :-)

Anyhow - I don't have a lot more to contribute other than that - but I'm sure others will, and I think anyone from around here knows, VTTV could use the help.

What about.. (0)

TheDarkRogue (245521) | more than 10 years ago | (#7476788)

an air conditioner if the place is so damned hot?

Re:What about.. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7477001)

Air conditioners are loud. Remember, this is a mic'd environment. Also, the submitter notes the space is cramped -- if they don't have A/C, it's not just like "adding it in".

thoughts on dv and convergence (2, Interesting)

Scott Atkinson (207816) | more than 10 years ago | (#7477063)

I'm the news director of a small upstate New York tv station, and we're starting the move off of tape, away from analog and onto small, light, and (relatively speaking) cheap cameras.

We're headed into year one, and we still have lots of interoperability issues.

Unlike the IT world, where you can buy reasonably priced beige boxes for lots of jobs, everything - and I mean everything - in tv has a proprietary format or twist or connector.

We're starting with SONY PD-150s, we think. The Canons are nice too, but the SONYs seemed the choice of some big stations that use mini dv for special projects.

Also, the head/carriage assemblies come from SONY's pro division, not the consumer end of things.

I also like the Panasonic with 24p.

Lots of folks use SONYs, Canons and a few others for documentaries, but there just isn't much experience out there in using mini-dv as a day-to-day, use it and abuse it format, esp. at the small local/student level.

As for editing and the rest, I'm still thinking. No one ever got fired buying Avid, and their low end solution is attractive, but as a Mac guy I'm partial to FCP or even Final Cut Express.

Whatever you buy, if you're going to play back from server eventually, make sure everything will talk to everything else without transcoding. The transcoding software I've priced is very, very expensive.

Audio Advice (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7477472)

I'm more used to working in a theatrical environment, but the principles should be the same:

Radio Mics: Don't use them. Some brands of radio mics (typically the cheap ones) can pick up interference quite easily - especially from Radio Aids used by the hard of hearing. Another frequent problem I've had with radio mics is when someone goes off camera / off stage they say something like "Man, I really fucked that one up" - and the sound guy has yet to close the mic...

Another point to make is that XLR wired mics generally offer better sound quality than radio mics, although for a TV broadcast this is probably not a great issue.

I have used the Behringer line of FX equipment (but not compressors) - I've found them to be pretty reliable, and average sound quality...nothing special, and there's no reason not to buy them.

Mixers: As another poster mentioned, Mackie make decent mixers. Being a Brit, I use Soundcraft mixers - I prefer the build quality and overall feel to Mackie. Soundcraft Spirit mixers are probably the number one in the UK - they're pretty cheap too, and certainly reliable.

Mics: Sennheiser (as said before) are pretty good, especially the Evolution series - certainly a good cheap alternative for SM58s (but that's not really what you're looking for, I guess). For rifles, I typically use AKGs, and the a mixture of many different brands for lav mics - I tend to test them first to see if they have the "sound" I'm looking for.

Cheap Solution (2, Informative)

The Donald (525605) | more than 10 years ago | (#7478305)

My question is this: what would other A/V engineers in my position recommend for cheap solutions?"

I really can't thnk of any cheap solutions that work well. Most high-quality solutions are priced high for one reason: they can be. Media 100, DVC Pro decks, and ENG cameras can get into the five and six digit ares very quickly. There is a huge leap in cost from pro-sumer to pro equipment, but you will get what you pay for.

1. Lighting is a very key point in any TV production . I can't get away from using the old standard high power ones though. The candlepower they throw is intense, and it used in may news rooms, which is where most college kids get interships.

2. Do NOT skimp on studio cameras, get a studio set up that has Remote Control Units for camera for things such as iris and color temp. While you can skimp with ENG camera set-up as makeshift studio builds, items such as intercom and tally are removed. Again, stuff like this will haunt people in entery level jobs. I knew Panasonic made some sweet D-250 years ago, and now Hitachi has some sweet studio builds, there not as pricey as Ikigami, but there good for most, if not all, of the productions. It may cost quite a bit, but it can last ten years plus with minimal costs long term.

3. Audio - Mackie, Allen & Heath, etc. Many players, almost all good. For a full Tv production board, it looks like cost will be a big factor, but try to get a 16 channel board with at least 2 subs. It may seem like overkill now, but it will assist in getting some real world work. As for the interface, stick with a good breakout box or snake box, and inverst in some SONY wireless recivers and Lav's. They have a good choice where it can be used for both ENG and studio.

4. I like DVCPro for one reason, the upgrade path is set. You have the 25 line, the SD, and the 50 line, the HD. Now, the resolution is overkill, and the tape costs can be prohilitive, but the tapes can be reused over 100+ time without hits or dropouts. Record many times on Beta SP and see the quailty you get on that. DVCPro is good also if you use Cannon's XL 1 for ENG, as most of the Panasonic stuff can be brought into the DVC decks with a 50 tape caddy.

5. This is the poster child for "can do it cheaper" people. I know of a few palces using :eightronix TCD-RP as a video server, and using VideoNet by inLighten [inlighten.net] as a BBS for a TV station broadcast on the local cable plant. It works well for them, and suits their needs well. While they could have done a roll-your-own solution, the staffing was prohibitive. This is something you would do if your running programming on a channel on campus. If you are not, the afformentioned solution of Cleaner is the best one I can think of.

Remeber the students, because more often than not, they will be using it. If you can convince the the school that it's a learning lab, then later, more cash will come

What we did. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7478398)

In terms of cameras... do you have no connections at the local TV stations? They do occasionally upgrade their studio cameras, and then have old studio cameras that they're not using anymore... those usually make good donations to a student TV station. The very large university I went to had its TV station populated with six nice studio cameras. Sure, they were made in the 1980s (or earlier, who knows), but they worked fine for their job.

In terms of a tape format... this is what we did, and I'd recommend it for you, too: Mixed DV/DVCAM (or DVCPRO if you go Panasonic).

See, MiniDV is a good shooting format, and there are plenty of affordable "prosumer" 3CCD cameras that would be good for a student TV station (the Sony PD-150, for example). Sony's prosumer/professional DV cameras support a Sony-proprietary additional tape format called DVCAM; Panasonic has their DVCPRO. Basically it's the same MiniDV format, but the way the tape is setup, it runs faster so that it uses more physical tape to record the same amount of information, which basically makes it more secure for archiving and less framedrop-prone than miniDV.

We picked Sony and went Sony all the way. Two Sony PD-150s that could be checked out as field cameras; a DVCAM deck connected to an eMac (comes with iMovie for free, or you can buy Final Cut DV for like $299) that made a pretty cheap and effective non-linear editing station; and DVCAM decks in Master Control for broadcasting.

Lemme tell you, those PD-150s are wonderful cameras. They have XLR inputs for adding microphones, 3 CCDs and manual white-balancing for getting good color, a black-and-white viewfinder (which professionals use because it lets them check the light levels, which is very important--NEVER shoot video that's too hot!) and a color pop-out LCD screen that can be used to view just-shot footage, or folded back in and turned off to save battery life. We bought extra batteries and an external battery charger to reduce turnaround time from one person to the next, since we sometimes had people just clamoring for a camera to shoot their show with.

The PD-150s and DVCAM decks will take both MiniDV and DVCAM tape, so to save money, you can shoot your initial footage on MiniDV tapes, and then edit on an NLE station (an eMac with one or two 100GB+ Firewire drives works well!) and output your final show onto a DVCAM tape, which is then good both for airing the show and for archiving.

(For your editing station, you want a dedicated deck for two reasons: One, it frees up your cameras so they can be used while someone's capturing their footage to hard disk, and two, using a deck instead of Firewire-linking the camera and capturing off of it will extend the camera's life, since it reduces the amount of time you're using the tape heads in the camera by that much.)

Here's a tip: DV equipment is pretty sensitive to tape quality to some extent. If you use a REALLY generic MiniDV tape in a PD-150, it might end up eating the tape! Have the station buy actual Sony-brand MiniDV and DVCAM tapes in bulk and then sell them at cost to the students when they need them, and that'll keep people from using generic tapes that destroy your precious new cameras.

(For archiving, DVCAM tapes are available in a physically larger cassette size than the MiniDV size, as well; these are more durable and harder to lose, and you might use those for actual masters of shows.)

Then you get a couple DVCAM decks for Master Control to run finished shows on, and voila, you're done. One nice smooth setup.

Those are some recommendations from someone who was once at a LARGE university's campus TV station and lived to tell the tale.

---
I'm not a real actor, I just play one on TV.

We just finished our digital studio upgrade (1)

minitrue (213792) | more than 10 years ago | (#7478552)

Sounds like you're doing some fun stuff there. I work for MNN cable access [mnn.org] in NYC. We just finished rebuilding our studio where we just got done dealing with these same issues. I understand joo.

1> Lighting. This is probably the most important part of making a show look good. I think I'd be doing you a disservice to say "get two inkies, three 5K fresnels, blah blah blah." You should really consider bringing in a good lighting designer who can not only recommend some good fixtures, but who can also put together some stock light plots that will look good for 95% of all productions. Never sleep on good lighting for a studio. It really makes all the difference.

2> Cameras. We went with the Hitachi Z3000W [hdal.com] as our studio camera. It's digital, it has great resolution, and a wicked nice lens. They provide a lot of bang for the buck (can't remember how much we paid, tho.) Take a look at Triax cabling for connecting the cameras back to Control. It's flexible, the signa's clean, and they're a lot easier and cheaper to replace. For a teleprompter, we're just using QTV [qtv.com] with WinCue. Works fine.

3> Audio. We had some Behringers around but they didn't stand up to the abuse we put it through. Then we found the Sony ECM-55B [bhphotovideo.com] . It's our workhorse lav. I've had nothing but headaches with wireless so I'm not going to comment on them.

4> Decks. There are a ton of Good Broadcast Reasons to go with BetaSP but it's just so damn expensive. I love DV. Because we're public access, we have to work with civilians who can't afford $20 per tape. Let them master to DV at $4 a pop and they can go home, finish in iMovie or Premiere on their home computer and bring it back in to us all clean and digital like. Sure, it's compressed and of course it might artifact, but working with analog in post is a system bandwidth hassle. Meanwhile DV works at full-res on my mom's iMac. Until Thompson decides to make the Filmstream [thomsongrassvalley.com] for $3K, I'm sticking with DV. I say go with DV if you can (DV, DVCAM, DVCPRO, whatever.) You can't beat the price.

5> I'm not a big fan of the Streaming In A Box solutions. What you get for your streaming really depends on what you want to deliver. Do you want to provide video on demand? Bring the video into a Mac or PC via FireWire, use Discreet Cleaner [discreet.com] to convert the file to MPEG4, Real, whatever, and drop it on a streaming server with lots of storage, hordes of RAM, and some fat ass bandwidth. Just looking to simulcast your broadcast? Even easier: run the program output of your master control switcher to a video capture card on a superfast PC. Start up some live encoder software (QuickTime Broadcaster [apple.com] , Helix Producer [helixcommunity.org] , MPEG4IP [sourceforge.net] ) and have it send a unicast stream to a replication server attached to the net. With live streaming, you don't need any storage at all (unless you need to archive.)

6> Newsdesks. Check out uniset [unisetcorp.com] . They make good looking inexpensive sets and CYC panels (for doing green screen). We've been very happy with their stuff.

One last thing: check out DVLince [dvlince.com] - an all-DV server based production workflow for under $300K. Sony just bought them to rebrand it as their own gear. It might not be exactly what you need, but it's worth checking out.

Re:We just finished our digital studio upgrade (1)

minitrue (213792) | more than 10 years ago | (#7478568)

Oh yeah, another thing about audio: we like the Mackie D8 [mackie.com] a lot. Really good board for the price.

What you need to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7479446)

For starters the words "cheap" and "broadcast" do not mix. Whether or not you have the bandwidth or not, you should invest in the best you can for two reasons. Better equipment has a future and talks to other gear better, and second cheap gear is crap and students should learn on stuff they will use in the real world.

Also get to know a dealer/integrator. You might think that all sales people are crap, but some are very helpful and can get you what you need while keeping within a budget. In other words there are decent people out there who know what they are taking about and can help you while not taking advantage of you. Its obvious you need some guidance and help, so don't just go buying equipment you think is good because then you will be no better than the administrators before you, which you loathe. Check out www.digitalvideogroup.com, they are in Richmond and are one of the best in your area.

1) Lighting, as mentioned name brands mean little here. This is where you can spend very little and still get a lot. Don't buy overpriced lights, just get what you need.

2) Canon XL-1 were a hot camera in 1999, there are much better camera's on the market now. Second DO NOT buy a pro-consumer camera to do the job of something professional. Panasonic and Ikigami make great camera's. Sony is good, but read on to find out why not to buy Sony. Camera's are the source of what your audience will see, so why skimp on what's important, get some decent ENG cameras with CCU's. Second is to choose a format. You have two choices, Sony's DVCAM and Panasonic's DVCPRO. Go with DVCPRO because as mentioned it has a upgrade path, and unlike Sony Panasonic is not trying to make you buy a new stupid format every two years that no one will use. Also Sony is in serious financial trouble, their future is questionable.

3) Audio, AS others have said Mackie makes a great product for a cheap price, so why choose anything else. AS for wireless mic's, Samson makes a decent product at a low price, so why buy overpriced Sony? Also for intercoms choose Telex.

4) Video distribution and serving, go with Leightronic's. Cheep and easy to use. For a switcher I think Grass Valley would be overkill for you, Look at the Panasonic MX70, its digital with effects for under 10K

5) Editing, go with Avid for a few reasons. Despite Apple's market hype, Avid owns the market. So have you students learn something that will get them jobs later. Next, Avid's Adrenaline and Mojo systems, part of the new DNA line are very fast, very full featured, and very cheap. Trust me Final Cut looks cheap, but add the cards you need and storage and it's the same price as Avid with less features and lot of bugs. Apple only makes final cut to sell G5's, they have no real interest in video.

Last, I am a VT grad. Fix your front end as well. It is no good to have good equipment when you picture still looks like ass.
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