Sarasota’s ABC Affiliate Taps JVC ProHD Mobile News Camera for Nik Wallenda’s Tightrope Walk

Sarasota, FL, resident Nik Wallenda gained national attention last month when he completed a 1,400-foot-long tightrope walk across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The event was shown live on the Discovery Channel on June 23, but WWSB, an ABC affiliate based in Sarasota, used the built-in streaming capabilities of the JVC GY-HM650 ProHD mobile news camera to provide live coverage of press conferences and other events from Arizona for Wallenda’s hometown fans.

WWSM's Charlie Yeagley with the JVC GY-HM650 ProHD mobile news camera.

WWSM’s Charlie Yeagley with the JVC GY-HM650 ProHD mobile news camera.

With only a two-person team, anchor Lauren Dorsett and creative service producer Charlie Yeagley, who handled shooting duties, the station provided live coverage of Wallenda’s arrival and press conferences, as well as stand-ups from the event. WWSB had previously covered Wallenda’s tightrope walk across Niagara Falls in June 2012, where the station had coordinated with another ABC affiliate for satellite uplink time.

Jack Dillon, director of engineering of Calkins Media Broadcast Division, which is part of Pennsylvania-based Calkins Media and includes WWSB, WTXL, and WAAY, said the use of the GY-HM650’s built-in live streaming capabilities for live shots saved WWSB roughly $10,000 for satellite truck rental, as well as additional uplink fees. “We covered a local story 1,500 miles away at a cost of travel for two people,” Dillon said.

Rather than a Verizon 4G LTE modem, which attaches directly to the GY-HM650 via USB, WWSB used a Verizon 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot, which Yeagley kept in his pocket during live shots. Most of the time, the GY-HM650’s live delay was around two seconds, which Yeagley attributed to a “great 4G network” in the region. “The camera setup worked during every live shot,” he added. “The quality of the output was unbelievable, considering we were using the camera with only a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot.”

It was very easy for Yeagley to move from one live shot to the next – with the 4G hotspot in his pocket, he grabbed his camera and tripod, walked to the next location, turned on the camera and hotspot, and he was live. In contrast, he watched a shooter from a local station unravel two spools of cable and struggle to run them underneath a boardwalk to get the same live shot. “There was definitely some jealousy – and a lot of interest,” Yeagley recalled. “He started taking pictures of our camera and sending them to his news director.”

The GY-HM650 also streamlined the workflow. Between locations, while Dorsett was driving, Yeagley would use the camera’s built-in clip trimmer to edit specific clips, which he would then upload via FTP to a shared site for the company. As a result, the individual files could be edited at WWSB or other Calkins Media stations and newspapers.

“I love the camera. I was really impressed,” said Yeagley, “The amount of work I didn’t have to do for a live shot made my job easier. It allowed us to focus on our product, as opposed to worrying about technical stuff.”

The Wallenda coverage was WWSB’s first use of the camera’s built-in streaming. While Dillon said the GY-HM650 should be considered an addition to microwave and satellite uplinks, not a replacement, WWSB is now using the technology regularly to produce live shots from Venice, Fla., which is about a 30-minute drive from the station. “This is absolutely an additional tool we can use to get content back to the station,” he said. “Now we can reach out and do more and more live content. This is a better way to serve our audience and give them the live content that they want.”

Since purchasing its first cameras earlier this year, Calkins Media has standardized on the GY-HM650, according to Dillon. WWSB has three units, while WTXL, the ABC affiliate serving Tallahassee-Thomasville, FL, has six and the corporate office in Levittown has one. The company is ordering an additional three cameras for WWSB and six for WAAY, the ABC affiliate for Huntsville-Decatur, Ala. (DMA #79). “The camera produces quality video, and at this price point, to be able to have the capabilities and flexibility this camera gives us is a big advantage,” he added.

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