I have been working on finding ways for KFVS/Heartland News to use technology and the internet in new ways that can help us both on-air and online. If you were watching Heartland News at 5pm and 6pm you might have seen a new tool used on the air. (Note that the quality of this cut of the video isn't as good as what was on the air due to compressing the video and processing the video as flash for blog purposes.)
If you follow technology, what we did is nothing fancy or nothing new. Most people have heard of Skype. TV stations are just starting to take note of how Skype can be used to bring the viewer more live shots from anywhere in the world.
We didn't just stumble across this idea at KFVS. I (along with KFVS12.com web producer Christy Hendricks) have been playing around with applications that would allow us to go live in the field without the use of an expensive microwave or satellite vehicle. (These vehicles can cost upwards of a million dollars.)
Back in 2000, I remember sending an email to past News Director Brandon Sherer suggesting we get several laptop computers and webcams. This would allow reporters to go live in the field with video before a live truck can get to them instead of just using telephone interviews (phoners). At the time, the technology still had a few issues. There wasn't widely available broadband internet connections across the viewing area. However, with the widespread use of DSL/Cable modems, wifi, and cell carrier air-cards, our internet connectivity problem has been fixed.
One of our biggest hurdles has been the delay in getting the video/audio back to the station for use on-air. If you watch satellite live shots on our air, CNN, or CBS you will notice there is about a 3-4 second delay. You might think, "Why is the person being interviewed taking so long to respond?" That is due to the satellite delay. The delay comes from having to beam the signal 22,000 miles in the sky to a satellite. Then it has to be beamed back down to earth, another 22,000 mile trip. With some of the internet applications we have tried out, we were able to get the delay down to 5-10 seconds at best. That isn't good enough for TV purposes.
Over the coming weeks you will see the use of this technology more and more on KFVS12. One of the exciting parts of this (or at least I think), is that we can talk to viewers when there is "breaking news" happening. Instead of just talking to someone over the phone we can now put their voice with video (as long as they have a webcam).