>Of HD Radars and Messed Up Broadcasts

>We’re starting this week with the wrapup on a Friday night broadcast snafu, and a newly replaced radar at a station that’s done without for 15 months…

Reds HD Mess: As you may recall, Friday night, we were tweeting like crazy with our readers, along with Time Warner Cable customer representatives, as the Reds game…didn’t air in HD. At least at first.

We now know for sure what happened from around 7 PM Friday night, when we first got word of the happenings from Friend of TSMW Mike Taylor, until sometime close to 9:30 PM when it was fixed for Time Warner customers here. (We don’t think it was ever fixed for DirectTV.)

Apparently, the problems arose from trying to broadcast two sports in HD. The Reds game had to be put on an alternate feed, as the Cavaliers were also set to be broadcast in HD Friday night. FSO says some changes had to be made about an hour before the 7 PM first pitch – and not all cable and satellite companies got the word in time. That apparently included Time Warner and Direct TV subscribers at a minimum in our area, maybe others also. (We now know that Insight customers in Northern Kentucky had no problem getting the HD feed – what we here at the TSMW Headquarters saw was indeed High Definition.) The Standard Definition feed was never impacted – but of course, Reds fans know that FSO had promised 145 High Definition games (their entire Reds schedule).

We now hear that this isn’t the first time an HD Reds game didn’t air somewhere this season: in an apparent glitch on Wednesday, the Reds didn’t air in High Definition on…Insight. We didn’t catch this mixup, but suspect it’s the same issue.

Anyway, FSO says they hope to have all of the Reds games in HD from here on out. Although they have the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Reds conflicting again Wednesday as far as HD broadcasts, they hope that’s not going to be an issue.

Precision Doppler 12 HD: We had first seen pictures of the WKRC-TV 12/Cincinnati radar site in Cold Spring on John Gumm’s Facebook page, but didn’t say anything about it because we weren’t sure when a supposedly repaired PD12 Radar would launch.

Well it happened today – and it’s not repaired, it’s completely replaced.

We didn’t get a chance to screenshot the new radar when it showed up on the noon news today. Nonetheless, Precision Doppler 12 Radar IS completely re-done, and is definitely high definition.

Gumm posted all about the new radar over the weekend on the forums of the Skyeye Weather website (which Your Editor is a member of) run by former WXIX-TV 19/Newport chief met Rich Apuzzo. This is what he wrote:

“After nearly a year of careful planning, I am pleased to announce the arrival of the most advanced TV radar in the Cincinnati area – Precision Doppler 12 HD. When Precision Doppler 12 broke down over a year ago, we first decided to just fix it. But after much discussion with our radar designer, [Weather Detection Systems](WDS) we decided to rebuild instead with the goal of being ready for severe weather season 2010. This was a much longer and costlier option and is proof of the station’s dedication to weather. We have been in the testing and calibration phase for the past week. In fact, I spent all afternoon Wednesday at the radome in Cold Spring with WDS’ chief radar engineer going through this process.

The end result is amazing. I did some test runs with the new radar this past week during the storms we had and its performance was outstanding.

Here are the major upgrades:

1.) Upgrade to an RVP8 processor- this is the same processor now used in the 88Ds. This allows for much faster scan speeds than were available with PD12. We, however, will have the option of 3 scan speeds and will switch between each as needed. Faster is not always better!

2.) Upgrade to a new transmitter with pulse compression. This has increased our peak output power by a good margin. Our radar still operates at much lower output power than Baron Services standard radars (see WCPO) by design. We use pulse compression along with a much bigger dish and much more sensitive receiver equipment in order to exceed their data quality and resolution despite the lower wattage. The design of this radar simply makes it more accurate in the display of velocity and reflectivity data.

3.) New receiver, exciter, and synthesizer components. This results in higher resolution data than before.

4.) Integration with Weather Central’s ESP:LIVE system. This gives us all the hi-res HD mapping capabilities of the ESP system and also allows for the addition of our exclusive storm tracking algorithms which were developed at the National Severe Storms Lab. It will also allow us to display up to 3 Level 2 NWS radar data streams along side of PD12 HD.

There are other enhancements we will be working on in the weeks to come, some of which we will be the first in the country to utilize.

Guys, I am like a kid with a new toy. This is awesome!”

Your Editor’s take having seen the new radar: I like this new radar. Did WKRC get blasted by numerous media outlets for not having their own radar for 15 months? You bet: Two of the three competitors have run commercial spots touting their OWN radars – and blasting away at 12 for having not fixed theirs.

Was it worth it? From our point of view, absolutely. Radars can’t be replaced overnight…the NWS radars in the interim served as a halfway decent replacement, and it’s better to take 15 months to do something right, than just hurry to do it half-right in six months or less, and wind up needing to repair the radar again shortly thereafter.

We’ll have to see how the new radar performs when there’s something to track, however… tracking ground clutter isn’t the best use of new doppler radar technology, after all…

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