Tag Archives: Broadcast Technology

The AutoCam Invasion in Boston, early 1990s

The recession of the 1980s into the early 90s pushed media companies to economize. The Massachusetts economy had it worse than some other places. AutoCam was made by TSM at the time. The  pedestal had this sculpture look. There was Radamec, and Vinten. All three are supported by Vinten as they bought TSM and merged with Radamec a few years later.

 WBZ-TV 1991

WBZ channel 4 was one of the first of the market to get AutoCam. They used standard ENG cameras to shoot.

WCVB-TV 1993/94

When the new set for the 90s came along in 1993, they were the next station. They had the black colored pedestals. Chronicle taught New Englanders this new technology in the behind the scenes of NewsCenter 5 in 1994

on the 25th anniversary special of the station, they had shot taped interviews, notably one from a competing station. That scene showed the AutoCam but not the boxy looking Ikgami, they switched to ENG cameras too. Ironically these bots are controlled via  hard wired connections to a computer. The camera is fed as a pass through for a touch panel monitor to trigger automated shots. The computer is the brain, and the “brain” controls the motors. The bots are dumb. Why I say this? When WCVB switched to HD, they kept ol peds, but put full HD cameras and new computer, but all the intelligence was fully backwards compatible. some stations like CBS’ Sacramento station still had these ol devices as late as 2018… but modern controllers and HD cams.

WHDH-TV 1991

it was likely that WHDH Channel 7 was the first to go to one person robotics. The station was loosing a lot of money because of the said recession and to pay off the once principal owner Bob Kraft… ironically the following year after the sale of WHDH properties, did Kraft buy the New England Patriots… you wonder if there’s a correlation.

but whoever was managing the station kept the station low fi. Sets were modified off the shelf furniture… maybe the newsroom for Live at Five was the best. But the cameras that tied into the  TSM AutoCam was the RCA-TK46. They were high tech for the time…in the early 1980s. These used tubes to capture pictures in studio. When a tube would go on the fritz, the picture would look blurry. These weren’t  as efficient like the TK-47 even those were used up till the mid 1990s. Supposedly these cameras had been purported in comments on other socials to not last for long.

But the stations blue on white branding was perfect to throw on the TK46 camera’s blue on white color scheme.

The average height of a robotic pedestal at full stow is 60″ most studios often have the cameras low for that “10 pound” factor. But the Tk46 against the AutoCam made the setup even monstrous  as the station allowed the press to come in April 1993 to announce the sale to Sunbeam Broadcasting

Both Channels 5 and 7 had one or two in their newsroom as a secondary set. WCVB and WHDH today have moved onto the Vinten’s Fusion which combines the brains of Vinten and Radamec’s approaches to automatic movement. WBZ did go to the next generation AutoCam under Vinten; the SP-2000 X-Y but CBS standardized with the 5th grade science project known as CamBot aprox in 2016.

WLVI didn’t go robotic and their manual pedestals were really outdated. WFXT went with Fox’s preferred Radamec pedestals when they did news again in 1996. However in March of 1992, the  launch of New England Cable News, they were on AutoCam from the start. The 1989 vintage continued to be in use at NECN until 2010, when they went to SP 2000 and then went to Fusion just as NBCU took managerial control. In 2020, the Fusion pedestals didn’t move to Needham, but maybe got repurposed at 30 Rock…


Broadcast Tech: The Road to Enterprise Tech Made Me a Stronger Person

There are moments you don’t forget. I remember the first computer I used in early education, that was most likely a Macintosh LC or II, the memories are very fuzzy in 1991. I was turning 12 and entered into the middle school and was exposed to Domain Controllers that was of Windows NT 4 in 1999. Microsoft Office would follow not too long after.

I started to understand it as I got older, but really it wasn’t until my late 20s, while I am not a good coder to this day, I started to get a working knowledge of virtualization, the Internet Protocol routing, switching, and the core things that make an enterprise network function. Since most broadcast outfits here in the U.S. are IT-controlled, the approach is IP based, file-based workflows (if you don’t carry tape recorders or tape based camcorders), and running on generic servers.

Lots of people have no clue how an enterprise network should function. Too often, there’s more Linus the Tech dudes, Computer Clans, Macintosh Librarians or even Brandon Bishops of the world than people like me who have some deeper knowledge. It’s not just install Windows Server, or Linux servers, throw some random local IP address in the 192.168.1.x for thousands of devices and people to use them, it and use TP-Link switches (of which I like to call Toilet Paper) and be done with it. Don’t get me started using your Cable Modem as your “router”!

It’s not about going on Amazon and finding gear for “cheap” and use consumer grade stuff. It requires a bit of a higher knowledge and retraining the brain from going from plastic clad devices, to metal clads with fans, moving away from UPC codes to Part Numbers, the working knowledge of apps like Microsoft’s Visio and literally let go of the low-level knowledge of inter networks.

For me when I was about to turn 13, my world of tech changed, and this was a requirement to understand the things you typically see at the North and Central halls of the NAB Show, pre pandemic, or prior to 2019.

I recommend you learn Cisco’s IOS (for better or for worse), Juniper, Windows Server, etc. Along with Linux, the remains of macOS “Server”, etc. as well. Having some knowledge of how scripting works, is important as well as creating databases. Why? it helps you be well aware of your technical surroundings and maybe bond better with your IT or IS departments and prevent the berating and harassment if you can generally speak their “language”.

TechBeat was originally created to kinda bridge the technical stuff to the masses by focusing strictly on enterprise. Learning this stuff is not well documented, and figuring it out on your own is not recommended, and technical people are not humans, so using my journalistic experiences helped me figure out how to document this stuff better in a communications sense.

In short, respect the enterprise tech because you take the consumer stuff for granted.