WVUE Studio Tour 3

Here are the Weather related servers. I was struck by how old they are. These are rather ancient server towers, and indeed, they're due for upgrade. Each of these machines generates one of the various weather graphics we see on air.

Updated, Jan. 31, 2010:These servers were recently replaced with new ones that produce full HD graphics. Prior to their upgrade, viewers of WVUE news noticed that, while the meteorologist himself is in 720p resolution, the weather graphics behind him are 640x480, "pillarboxed" into the images. We would often see the meteorologist standing "in front of" the black pillars at the sides of the image.

Now, as of January 30, 2010, the weather graphics are in full HD.

Lewis referred to these as "Bob's servers". Indeed, anything having to do with weather around WVUE is definitely "Bob's". Having been at WVUE since 1977, Bob Breck has the longest tenure of any on air weathercaster in New Orleans by a huge margin. It is, in fact, because of him that their slogan is "Your Weather Authority".

The label on the bottom center server is legible in the image. It says "Vipir 1". Yes, this is the box on which the Vipir models are run.

Here's another row of servers and workstations. The servers in the foreground that say "Avid" or "Pinnacle Systems" are video stores. I believe these are for the news department. A few pictures down we'll see more of these same types of servers that are for syndicated programming, locally produced programming, and advertisements.

This area contains most of the equipment having to do with video and audio patching and routing. We see banks and banks of 1/4 inch patch bays here (I remember them from my radio days). These patch bays are still used to an extent. However most signal patching and routing is done with computer controlled digital switches these days. These are located in this area also, but take up much less room than the older-fashioned patch bays!

OK. Here it is. The notorious, the famous, the infamous, the unique FOX SPLCIER!

It's the device that says "BP5100" on it. One rack unit of pure joy.

This is one of the final devices in the signal chain to the STL. When FOX programming is on the air, FOX is in complete control of the content, bitrate, and format of "8.1". Their feed is "spliced" into WVUE's bit-stream out to the transmitter by this device.

The empty rack space on the left is reserved for the Generation II FOX Splicer when it arrives.

Here is a rack of satellite receivers. The tiny one at the top, labeled, is the only satellite receiver WVUE owns at this writing that is capable of receiving HD. This makes it their busiest satellite receiver. The syndicated programs, "Seinfeld", "Lost", "Desperate Housewives", "The Office", "Jeopardy", "Wheel of Fortune" and others are received from satellites on this receiver and transmitted by WVUE in HD. On the extreme left, cut off, some dish controllers can be seen. Software on a PC is used to schedule a move of the dish, and for the satellite receiver to tune to the correct transponder and transport stream at the correct time to record each show. The shows are recorded into video servers for playback on air. Between the satellite receiver and the video server is a format converter. Shows in SD 480i must be up-converted as they are being recorded to the video servers, in "pillar box" format to 720p for broadcast. Shows in HD are usually transmitted over the satellite in 1080i. They must be converted to 720p as they record from the satellite receiver also.

Here are some format converters. They can convert from any standard digital format to any other. As you can tell by the labels, the top two are dedicated to converting the SD version of the FOX network feed to 720p. WVUE must use this feed if they have to insert a "weather crawl" on the screen, since FOX permits their affiliates to alter their SD feed, but not their HD one. The SD feed is also the failover if anything happens to the HD feed. The bottom two are used for more general purpose format converting.

The consumer VCR under them is actually fairly actively used. Its VCR mechanicals are broken, but its cable ready tuner is used to pick up stuff for news rebroadcast, particularly things that are only available on local cable, like City Council meetings and such.

Louis told me that when WVUE aired the Saints Pre-Season games, the digital COX cable box seen above the format converters would have served as his backup, if he were to have lost the satellite feed of the game. He didn't have any problems with the satellite feed. They were received in HD on the satellite receiver in the previous picture.

WVUE has lots of "Weather Cams" around the New Orleans area. All are just web cams but one. The one exception is an old-fashioned camera with a microwave link that WVUE has owned for decades. For years that one was the "Treasure Chest Cam" at the Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner. The day I visited, Richard had moved the camera from the Treasure Chest to Landry's Restaurant on the lake at West End. I stood by while Richard showed Bob Breck that the camera was moved and they had a picture from it. The next day, the phone line was installed whereby a simple POTS modem connection is used to pan and zoom the camera. Here is the old microwave receiver for that camera.

And here is the little monitor that shows the picture from that camera. I was the first non-WVUE employee to see it. The new "Landry's Cam" debuted on air the following Monday.

Here are some PathFire servers. The top one (with the black oval on the front) is HD capable, the others are older and are not. Lots of syndicated programming is downloaded, via a special satellite link to these servers. Pathfire is more analogous to satellite internet then to normal satellite TV feeds.

And here's a workstation with some PathFire management software running on it. I see "People's Court", "Judge Mathis", "Scrubs", "My Wife and Kids", "Friends", and others on this monitor. These are all syndicated shows shown by WVUE.

Here are the main video servers. The identical banks on the left and right are mirrors of one another. If one bank fails, the other takes over. Every program and commercial that does not come from FOX is recorded into, and played back from these servers. This is basically the same concept as a home DVR, like TiVo, but on an industrial scale.

Moving on to Master Control.
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