WMHT-TV Upgrades with Ikegami HD Camera Systems

WMHT-TV is a member-supported PBS station serving viewers in Eastern New York and Western New England, operating from new studios in the Rensselaer Technology Park, in Troy, NY. Now approaching its 50th anniversary, WMHT-TV recently upgraded its production and broadcast facilities with new digital HD equipment, including five Ikegami HDK-77EC full-digital multi-format HD CMOS camera systems.

Anthony Tassarotti, the station’s Chief Technology Officer, explains that this choice was based on evaluations of several HD camera brands and models.

“We had a shootout with at least five different models and manufacturers,” Tassarotti recalls. “All of them had to achieve a certain level of quality, reliability, and price in terms of performance and our ability to maintain them going forward. We were most impressed with Ikegami’s HDK-77EC cameras. The picture quality was outstanding, they’re reliable, and we were able to get the number of cameras we needed at a price we could afford.”

Engineered to meet the demands of an increasingly varied HD production market needing both 1080i and 720p video-capture capability, Ikegami’s HDK-77EC is an economical docking-style portable multi-format HD camera with three 2.5 megapixel CMOS imaging sensors that deliver sharp, detailed video with native interlace and progressive 16:9 format flexibility combined with reduced power consumption and lower operating temperature.

The HDK-77EC can be used with Ikegami’s CCU-890M camera control unit for built-in fiber (and optional triax) connectivity for convenient mobile and studio flexibility. Users can choose the type of camera cable with a switch at the CCU, combined with mounting the docking FA fiber adapter (or TA triax adapter) to the camera head. An optional 1080/60p dual-processing capability is also available. WMHT has opted to use a triax connection for its five HDK-77EC cameras.

“Triax works just fine for our needs, and it’s nice to have the ability to upgrade to fiber optics, should we want to do that in the future,” Tassarotti says. “All we’ll need to do is just change the backs on the cameras and run the fiber.”

Four of WMHT’s Ikegami HDK-77EC HD cameras are configured for studio use with 9-inch Ikegami color LCD viewfinders, compact HD studio lenses, and studio pedestals. The fifth HDK-77EC is on a jib with a wide-angle lens for overhead shots. Although the station shoots in 1080i, Tassarotti notes: “We can run these cameras in 1080i or 720p HD mode or even in 480i SD 4:3 mode, which is very convenient, should a client ask for that.”

Operating from its two video-production studios and a single control room, HD programming produced at WMHT includes a weekly statewide public-affairs show and several other studio productions, including a new health series, a financial planning show with a live studio audience, and periodic fundraising telecasts. Client work varies from week to week, and includes both live and taped broadcasts. “We are doing from 20 to 40 hours of studio programming per month,” Tassarotti estimates.

In addition to the multi-format picture quality and decreased power consumption of its CMOS sensors, the HDK-77EC incorporates Ikegami’s Chip C4 digital signal processing ASIC chip to deliver high picture quality and reliable operation with detail enhancement and color-reproduction functions, including auto optimization of human facial details as a function of the size of the face in the picture (tracking zoom and focus data from the lens). Network-control features built-into the HDK-77EC can enable video operators to adjust and shade cameras from many control locations. Tassarotti also notes that the HDK-77EC doesn’t require as much light as some TV cameras, which also helps to reduce power consumption. “We have a mix of fluorescents and incandescents, and we have dramatically reduced the amount of light that we use on set, thanks to the sensitivity of these cameras,” he says.

“The video looks great, and we’re very happy with it,” Tassarotti affirms regarding WMHT’s Ikegami HDK-77EC HD cameras. “That portion of our audience that has HD TVs – especially those who receive the station over the air – is reacting very well to how we look. Our production clients are very happy with the picture quality as well. Best of all, our engineers – who tend to be very picky when they set up cameras and look at the pictures – are satisfied, so everyone is happy.”

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