South Dakota Celebrates 125th Anniversary

PEG channel covers major state event
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State media travel three or more hours one way to cover events from the State Capitol in Pierre. OaheTV serves as the local cable channel for the nation’s second-smallest state capital city.

Broadcasting South Dakota’s Quasquicentennial Statehood Celebration Live did more than challenge community cable channel OaheTV, it put some of the industry’s top manufacturers to the test in one very public setting.

Leightronix IncodeX One, NewTek Tricaster Mini, Canon C100 with dual-pixel CMOS auto focus—it all had to work the first time, live, before a statewide audience.

And it all had to be manageable by one operator. Welcome to life at a PEG channel!

Situated halfway between two of the smallest DMA’s in the nation—Sioux Falls, S.D., DMA #113, and Rapid City, S.D., DMA #173—lies South Dakota’s capital, Pierre, a community of less than 13,000 people and no call-letter television station. Covering a story in Pierre requires that an out-of-town news crew drive three or more hours one way.

Harsh winter weather often results in crews staying overnight, if they make it at all. As newsroom budgets shrink and operating costs go up, that trek increasingly doesn’t make financial sense.

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The celebration was for South Dakota’s 125th anniversary.

From its start in 1998, Pierre’s local public, education, and government channel—known as OaheTV—has mixed coverage of state and local events, often covering events at City Hall and the State Capitol in the same day. Most of the station’s viewers are state employees. Life in Pierre is a mixture of state and local events, so our community channel reflects that.

THE PROGRAM

South Dakota’s Quasquicentennial Statehood Celebration marked 125 years of statehood. The event brought the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra to perform at the State Capitol for the first time in state history. Dignitaries included South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, State Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson, and serving as the program’s emcee would be Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels.

The evening would also debut the newly restored State Capitol Stained Glass, and guests would see the multimillion dollar stained glass restoration lit for the first time.

In leading up to the event, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard said, “It will be a night to remember, it will be something every South Dakotan can be proud of,” said Daugaard, the state’s governor since 2011.

OaheTV was fully involved with the coverage from the very start, providing an in house A/V feed to overflow seating rooms, pool media and broadcast coverage. The station began planning its coverage more than a year in advance, with b-roll shots of stained glass renovation work and still photos.

But as media RSVP’s began to return it looked increasingly like OaheTV would have an exclusive. Some broadcasters would offer spot news coverage, but many did not plan to make the trip to Pierre.

Public interest on the other hand was just the opposite. Seats for the event were snapped up in less than three hours and a waiting list formed. Organizers felt a responsibility to provide coverage to as many people as possible.

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Callahan used this Canon C100 to shoot the festivities.

“People in South Dakota have a personal connection with the Capitol building,” said event organizer Mike Mueller of the State Bureau of Administration. “If we could, we’d have seats for everybody! But that’s not possible, so we have television. We’re very grateful to OaheTV, people will be able to see this that otherwise wouldn’t.”

THE GEAR

OaheTV has long turned to Leightronix for broadcast solutions. At the heart of its equipment rack is an Ultra Nexus video server and PEG Stream encoder. Packages include PEGvault, Total Info and PEG Central.

However, the ability to reliably broadcast in real time from a remote site had always limited OaheTV. Webcasting in various forms had been tried with varying degrees of success, but a solid and affordable piece of kit had yet to emerge.

The Leightronix IncodeX One promised high-quality A/V streaming in an easy-to-use, simple to set-up form factor. At just under $5,000 the solution includes the H.264 encoder, an HD decoder to interface with the Ultra Nexus, and the necessary web interface to bring it all together.

Also included is something that we consider indispensable, considering the tight timelines: technical support. We knew from previous experience that Leightronix would be there if we needed it. In our experience, a call to the company can put you in touch with the person who actually put the box together. That kind of product support is indispensable to a small organization such as OaheTV.

The plan was to use the IncodeX One to Livestream via public Internet from the South Dakota State Capitol back to OaheTV’s Ultra Nexus located at Pierre’s City Hall. You can literally see one building from the other, but they might as well be a world apart if you don’t have microwave, satellite or the budget for either.

The IncodeX One would be the bridge between the two points. Once at City Hall, the signal would then be broadcast on local cable via the Ultra Nexus and webcast through the PEG Stream. The recently updated PEG Stream allows for viewers with an Internet connection using virtually any device, including mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

THE SURPRISE

Two weeks before the big day, NewTek launched the Tricaster Mini HD-4i. The Tricaster Mini packs an incredible number of live production capabilities into a very small footprint.

NewTek announced the product through a number of surprise YouTube appearances during which the device was unpacked and set up as an entire portable studio in under five minutes.

Looking at the videos of the Tricaster Mini HD-4i, everything we needed was right there, all the production tools needed to add value to the broadcast packaged in a small form factor that could be set up quickly and managed by a single operator.

However, while the Tricaster Mini had been announced, it wasn’t yet shipping. Lincoln, Neb.-based VSA, a dealer for professional A/V and video products, worked with us to find a Tricaster Mini, which we got just hours before the broadcast.

We knew that pinning all our production hopes on a piece of gear that might not be available was a stretch. We needed the extra production value the Tricaster Mini offered, and the speed it could be set up and on-air made it worth the stretch.

The first Tricaster Mini received by VSA was immediately relabeled and shipped overnight to Pierre, arriving less than three hours before the first broadcast event of the day. The “Five-Minute Set Up Drill” done by NewTek in its videos was about to be put to the test in a very public production.

THE SETUP

Three camera positions were pulled via HDMI cable back to the Tricaster Mini, acting as the on-air Live switch. The HDMI based Tricaster Mini was routed out via Blackmagic HDMI converter to the SDI based Lieghtronix IncodeX One connected directly to a wired cable modem and a public internet connection.

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Workers from Milwaukee, Wisc.-based Conrad, Schmidt Studios restored the century-old Capitol Stained Glass.

For cameras, we selected the Canon C100 with the new dual-pixel autofocus upgrade as our main camera and paired it with a Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 lens. The combination offered fast low-light performance with quick focusing abilities.

A Canon 5D Mark III paired with a Canon 70-200 f2.8L lens sat next to the C100 for dedicated close-up shots, and a Canon XA10 provided wide crowd shots from a third angle. A fourth camera—a Panasonic AG-AC7 AVCHD—was used to capture the moment the stained glass was lit for the first time.

Footage from the Panasonic was used in post-production but was not part of the on air Live feed because of color correction and white balance differences with the Canon cameras. Venue sound and lighting was provided allowing OaheTV to concentrate on the television broadcast.

THE RESULT

Website tracking data began to indicate viewers slowly trickling in, but viewership accelerated quickly as the event start time approached. OaheTV had redesigned its web site in the days ahead of the event to take advantage of the Leightronix PEG Stream, allowing a virtually unlimited audience via the web.

The in house A/V feed featured a never before seen slideshow of still images captured during the removal, restoration and reinstallation of the prized Capitol Stained Glass, all captured with Canon cameras.

Local cable viewers joined moments before the start of the ceremony, watching a signal with virtually no latency due to the encoding provided from the Leightronix IncodeX One. The Tricaster Mini Live switched the cameras and also provided iso recording capabilities, thanks to its ability to record individual cameras through external hard drives. The flexibility of iso recording allowed for timing changes in post-production editing.

Controlling it all was the Leightronix Ultra Nexus and the newly updated Win LGX software. Operating off a laptop at the site, we were able to switch feeds, confidence monitor, and control the cameras and Tricaster.

The gear we used to broadcast the Quasquicentennial Celebration will be of benefit to OaheTV and the community for years to come. Planning is underway for similar live community events.

With the anniversary project now complete, we did this entirely within budget. This gave us something to work for, a big project that viewers wanted to see OaheTV take on.

The momentum is there, now we’re working to make the most out of it.

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