Now I’m The IT Guy

snapshot_000DC5D4C863_20150221162928When I started my studio project I had no idea I’d become “the IT guy.” Everything is digital. Nothing is analog… except me.

The good news is I like this stuff, but this is way deeper in than I’ve ever been. I’ve got servers and a bunch of other single purpose computers, like my switcher and the modem that allows me to send HD video over the Internet.

Nearly every device is sharing with every other device. Files need to be available no matter where I am or they are.

I poked holes in my firewall and forwarded ports to allow the outside world to communicate directly with some of my gear. It’s not without danger. Miscreants are robotically probing for weaknesses in systems like mine 24/7.

In the analog days video and audio were like water flowing through pipes. You could cut the pipe at any point and split it or meter it.

Not today.

The flow is more orderly and intensely complex. Data doesn’t flow, it’s routed. As you might imagine, 1080i video consumes lots of data. Every hour my studio is feeding it sends around 5Gb of data.

Packets are flying through my network at breakneck speed, but it’s still the bottleneck of my system… of most complex networks. Optimization is everything. I’m working with vendors’ experts who know their systems to tweak every last bit of performance.

This isn’t a never ending project, is it?

Here Comes The Gear For My Studio

The only real difference is I’m running everything. No director. No cameraperson. No audio operator.


I start in Palm Springs Thursday. My home studio goes live in a few weeks. Right now it’s still a garage! Lots of work to be done.

Boxes are starting to arrive. Think of this as a giant jigsaw puzzle. I know what the finished project needs to do. Now I pray the pieces are the right ones in both fit and function.

IMAG2014-w1920-h1400The garage will be a real TV studio, 21st Century style. There will be a control room, though it won’t be bigger than a breadbox. It’s actually a Tricaster Mini, a special purpose PC designed to process video. The show gets ‘stacked’ beforehand, then I sequence it while on-the-air.

Weather maps will still be produced at the TV station, sent to me via FTP, stored in a server and played back live. Phew!

behr sparkling apple green for chroma keyThe wall separating the garage and kitchen will be painted Behr Sparkling Apple. That’s the Internet consensus for chroma key green.

Chroma key is a process in which one color (Sparkling Apple) is removed and replaced digitally by weather maps and graphics. When I’m on TV I stand in front of a green wall and point at maps that aren’t there. I see them in a few off-camera monitors.

It will be exactly the same process in my studio. The only real difference is I’m running everything. No director. No cameraperson. No audio operator.

The video gets back to the station via a Dejero VSET encoder. Stations use similar methods for ‘backpack’ liveshots. While testing, my video made the trip to Palm Springs in under a second.

Those are the major pieces. There’s also the peripheral stuff–microphones, lights, tripods, monitors, converters and on and on and on.

The station is letting me take a surplus cubicle off their hands, allowing me to isolate any noise from all the gear and providing me with an office.

This is all the more interesting because it allows me to send this live, high quality video anywhere at virtually no additional cost. To other TV stations? Maybe a news website? Who knows?

I’m the general contractor. I’d better not forget anything.

The Job My Computer Was Built For


Back in Connecticut my friend Peter Sachs has become infatuated with a utility quadcopter. It has an onboard camera. Really cool video (see below).

He’s in on the ground floor.

I though the video was a little shaky, so I asked him send it to me.

Here’s the power of the net. He sent me this high quality, full HD video in just a few minutes. That’s when my computer took over.

This PC was built specifically to edit video. It has a fast and powerful CPU with a video card chosen to make it even speedier.

I fired up Premier, Adobe’s video editor and dragged in Peter’s video. A couple of clicks later I’d installed a filter which dampened movement. Very math intensive. It worked in the background as I moved on.

On a separate channel I brought in the original video. Diagonal wipe. Font. Render. Lather. Rinse.

I sat back like the chief engineer on a large ship. My feet were up on the desk. On screen graphs showed my CPU working at 100% on all four cores. 11.5Gb of RAM, the max I allow for Premier, was fully in use.

You should be awed by this technology. I am awed by it. Video production has been democratized. Anyone who wants to make video can make video. The cost barrier has been shattered.

In the late 80s Channel 8 put in a room that could do most of what I’m doing today, but in standard def and on video tape. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. This setup is a hundredth the price with the ability to render work at today’s professional standards.

It’s just crazy. My career in TV started as film was moving out. Tape beat film for ease, but today’s technology blows away everything that came before.

Don’t be confused. I can’t edit like a professional editor. I don’t have the chops. The equipment itself only takes you so far.

I’d like to get more involved with video production. I’m fully equipped.