The Electronic Technology students took a field trip and toured the WVLT TV studios on November 14th. My class toured the electronics facilities, server room and even news room, and we got a glimpse of how technology has altered nearly every aspect of current television.
We all remember the fuss that was created when the government decided to make all television stations broadcast their content using digital communications. Before going digital, television stations broadcasted signals using AM and FM technologies: one signal to broadcast the picture (AM), the other to broadcast the sound (FM).
Digital communications still use RF (Radio Frequency) technology. The difference is that Digital TV uses digital error correction techniques. Minor defects in the signal quality will not affect the picture or sound reproduction at the receiver (TV).
When we arrived in the news room, our guide told us that old style television cameras cost around $65,000. Today's cameras cost under $6,500 dollars. Also, in the "old days" of television – a decade ago - two or three cameramen controlled the cameras during news broadcasts. Today, those cameramen are gone, having been replaced by robotics.
At WVLT TV, three engineers program the segments hours and sometimes days in advance of the actual broadcast. Each story you hear on the news has an allotted time spot, and the programmers take that into consideration when programming the newscasts.
Another interesting fact we learned on our tour is that the internet is used extensively. Our guide said that if a reporter were out on the interstate and there was an accident, then he or she could make a video with their phone or tablet, send it to the station to be used in a newscast. Before, that same reporter would call the station, and would have to request a news van. Most often, by the time the news van arrived on location, the accident would most likely be cleaned up. It took a lot of time to load all of the equipment into the vehicle.
Backpacks now have replaced many of the functions of news vans. These backpacks contain air cards used by four major cell phone carriers in the region, allowing the crew, usually a reporter and cameraman, to send their stories back to the station instantly.
The electronic resources our students learned about was very exciting and has encouraged valuable class discussions. Thanks to WVLT for the informative tour!