CTV Vancouver Island Future-proofs with Sony HXC-FB80 Studio Cameras
The studios at CTV Vancouver Island in Victoria, British Columbia recently went through a complete upgrade from 16:9 SD to full HD, which included re-wiring the entire station and replacing the control room switcher and studio cameras. The integration group of Bell Media, owner of CTV Vancouver Island, undertook the systems integration.
Three new Sony HXC-FB80 HD studio cameras are now the studio’s main pedestal cameras, and are used with HXCU-FB80 CCU units and HZC-RCP5 camera remote control software. Two cameras are positioned on Vinten pedestals and are fitted with Canon wide angle lenses. These cameras are used for CTV’s 5pm, 6pm and 11pm newscasts.
Not surprisingly, after broadcasting in SD for 18 years, the equipment overhaul caused a sudden, noticeable change for the station’s staff, as much as its viewers. For small regional stations like CTV Vancouver Island, moving to HD can still be an issue. However the HXC-FB80 was a good purchase for them because it has helped them to modernise in several other ways as well, including remote and centralised camera control and colour matching, CTV standards compliance and preset sharing to standardise regular programming.
Furthermore, beyond the current upgrade, the HXC-FB80 is a camera system with 4K upscale and HD HDR capabilities suitable for live production.
After cameras from another vendor could not be correctly white balanced during testing in the studio, the station’s team needed to expand their search. “We contacted Sony after that, and they brought in one of the HXC-FB80s for us to look at,” said Kyle Lancaster, director and multi-media journalist at CTV Vancouver Island. “We set up the studio, had all the cameras rigged up the same way and white balanced them all. The images looked amazing – straightaway without any further tweaks. We put our new camera on TV the same night.”
Accurate, life-like colour reproduction was what the team noticed first about the cameras’ performance compared to the days of broadcasting SD only. “It just pops on screen. The difference was immediate, and everyone was extremely excited about the change. We even had phone calls from viewers congratulating us on the HD changeover,” Kyle said.
“The colour matching was excellent,” said Kirk Duncan, another multi-media journalist at the station. “There was barely any difference between the two cameras’ settings and looks - they essentially looked the same.
“Further to that, my favourite aspect of our new cameras was the ease with which we could get them 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.”
As a small station without dedicated studio camera operators, ease of use is critical. “We don’t have operators with time to devote to adjusting the cameras before each shot,” Kyle said. “We need cameras that we can white balance or add a couple of pre-sets to - and then go, assured that they will perform reliably every night.”
Using the HZC-RCP5 software, the HXC-FB80s can be controlled from remote locations well as the local control room, which means the video supervisor for CTV nationally can digitally shade and colour the cameras from CTV headquarters in Toronto. Optical filter wheels for neutral density and colour 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.
Sony HXC-FB80 and HXCU-FB80 camera control unit.
Equally important, when the cameras first arrived, the CTV video supervisor in Toronto tuned the settings to make the new cameras consistent with national CTV standards. He remotely adjusted one camera’s pre-sets for each newscast, and Kyle and and Kirk copied those pre-sets to the other FB80s.
“We have about four different recalls for a typical program on each of the cameras. As we move the cameras around the studio over the course of each newscast, we just need to recall the different settings required for each position,” said Kyle.
The cameras can also be controlled in the studio using the HZC-RCP5 camera control software running on a computer. This enables the on-site technical director to control various camera pre-sets based on a specific set or shot, and gain access to all the shading and recalls. The TD switches and keys in graphics for the nightly newscasts from the Victoria-based control room.
“Making it possible for our TD to shade the cameras from his position has been a major step forward for us,” said Kyle. “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 affected by the facility’s row of giant windows. “At our studios, the cameras are basically shooting into a window,” Kyle said. “Our studio environment changes depending on the time of day or the weather. We needed a camera set-up that could be adjusted to accommodate whatever changes come our way, such as cloud cover or a setting sun. The cameras can compensate for that and make it less apparent that there is a window behind the talent.”
Because the station's cameras shoot into a window, the environment changes depending on time of day or weather. They needed a camera set-up that could be adjusted very quickly.
Furthermore, now that they only need a single monitor and keyboard to control the cameras, CTV Vancouver Island was able to clean up its TD station by removing the old remote hardware. Relying on remote-control software means the HXCU-FB80 CCU units can be placed anywhere in the studio.
Kyle said, “The virtual software gives us the ability to put our CCUs in the studio where we need them to go and where our fibre can reach them very easily. We don’t have to worry about running another line to reach the remote set-up in the control room. We have a computer there already, used for a various tasks, and just load the software.” pro.sony