Improving Live Legislative Coverage with New PTZ Cameras and Video Switching

4 min

Challenge

Funded by the Florida Legislature and produced and operated by Florida State University’s WFSU-TV, The Florida Channel is a government-access television network that features programming covering all three branches of state government. Located in the state Capitol building in Tallahassee, the channel serves as Florida’s primary source for live, unedited coverage of the Governor, the Cabinet, the Legislature and Supreme Court. With the demand for digital content and remote viewing increased during the pandemic, the channel recently replaced more of its older camera systems with new technology to assure top-quality broadcasting and streaming of legislative coverage.

The Florida Channel programming is currently carried by 46 cable TV systems throughout the state as well as through 18 internet streams. When the state legislature is in session, the channel’s production team can cover as many as 16 meetings per day of the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives.

As The Florida Channel’s production staff varies in experience, from veteran engineers to part-time personnel, the new cameras needed to be both easy for novice users to operate but still deliver a high quality broadcast for the 2,500 hours of annual original programming that can be seen on PBS multicast channels, cable systems, and public, education and government access channels across Florida.

“With the Capitol closed to the public during the pandemic, we have become a more important resource for people to view as all legislative meetings are recorded and shown live or on the web, and then archived on the web.  Since the pandemic, we are watched a lot more than we were before as people are now able to watch us online with our 18 different web channels. If a meeting isn’t live on the air on one of our affiliated stations, it is live on the web. Viewers can watch from their offices or homes or wherever they are comfortable” said Terry Longordo, Chief Engineer, The Florida Channel. “We have the ability to cover one live meeting at the same time as covering three other meetings for later viewing, and all meetings are archived. Within 24 hours, a legislative meeting is available for viewing on the web if the meeting didn’t run live on air.” 

In addition, when the Florida legislature is not in session in the Capitol, the channel’s remote events group covers key government meetings all around the state from the Florida Panhandle to Key West.

Solution

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With its camera technology becoming outdated and causing issues and failures, The Florida Channel’s engineering team decided additional upgrading was necessary to its professional cameras. With 70 robotic cameras deployed over the years throughout the capitol complex, it was time for The Florida Channel to upgrade the camera systems in the House and Senate chambers along with the Knott committee rooms. After experiencing a substantial improvement in image quality and reliability as a result of adding the PTZ cameras in the committee rooms, the channel again turned to Panasonic. This year it added eight AW-UE150 4K 60p PTZ cameras with AW-SF300 Visual Preset Software to replace the cameras in its House Chamber, and deployed 2 new switchers, the AV-UHS500 4K/HD live production unit, in both the House Chamber and one of our Knott Building Committee rooms.

“We looked at different solutions for cameras and liked the Panasonic PTZs for their quality and price points, and changed out the older PTZs in the committee rooms to Panasonic. When the need came around to upgrading the House chambers, we looked to Panasonic because we have been so happy with the product,” said Longordo. “One operator can run anywhere from three to eight cameras at a time. The new UE150 PTZs allow us to get closer to the speaker with their 20X zoom and they’re easy to use whether the operator is a knowledgeable member of the production team or a part-time employee.”

In addition to deploying the new PTZ cameras, Longordo installed single mode fiber optic wiring around the Capitol complex to control the cameras remotely from a central master control location on the 9th floor of the Capitol building.  “We now have all of our control rooms on one floor of the capitol complex. The central production location and new Panasonic cameras have made a huge difference in making our broadcasts smoother in terms of both operations and visuals,” said Longordo.

Enhancing Broadcasts with New Switching Capabilities

Adding the versatile AV-UHS500 12G-SDI/HDMI live production switcher to the channel’s production arsenal has also been a tremendous improvement over its previous unit. “The UHS500 is beautiful. It is easy to setup, the interface is easy to use, and the built-in PIP, viewfinder and waveform monitor is a huge improvement.  Our operators just love working with it,” he said noting it’s supporting the eight, new cameras in the House Chambers.

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Summary

In addition to the use of the PTZ cameras at the Capitol complex, the channel’s remote events crew is equipped with compact Panasonic HD PTZ cameras (AW-HE42s) for its extensive meeting coverage throughout the state.

“We also utilized HE42s in the field. There’s four HE42s equipped in a field fly pack, so it cuts down on the crew’s setup time and reduces the number of members needed for these shoots. They can have two people for this remote work instead of the three or four it used to require. It makes things a lot easier and they have been very happy with the setup,” added Longordo.  

Between the ease of use and exceptional video quality offered by the Panasonic PTZ cameras, The Florida Channel is able to enhance its public broadcasts to inform state residents of key legislative activities. “With the new cameras and video switcher, productions have been executed beautifully. Set up was simple and we’ve experienced no problems at all,” said Longordo.

And Longordo is looking forward to continuing to improve the broadcast with the goal to change out the camera technology in the Senate Chambers and two other large committee rooms in 2022 if funding is available.

For more information about The Florida Channel, visit https://thefloridachannel.org/

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For more information about Panasonic’s PTZ cameras and remote touchscreen controllers, visit https://na.panasonic.com/us/panasonic-professional-ptz-cameras or contact Panasonic at 877-803-8492.

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