Broadcasting from Lima, Ohio, viewer-supported television station WTLW (Witness the Living Word) delivers high-quality Christian and family-centered programming to its viewers. When the station upgraded the video acquisition capabilities in its production studio to HD this summer, they chose Z-HD5500 HDTV cameras from Hitachi Kokusai Electric America, Ltd. (Hitachi Kokusai) to provide the rich features, outstanding quality and long-lasting durability they wanted.
Owned by American Christian Television Services, WTLW operates two channels: WTLW-TV44, which has been broadcasting since 1982, and 24-hour all-sports network WOSN (West Ohio Sports Network), launched in 2010. The two channels share the same production studio, which had until recently employed standard-definition Hitachi cameras.
“We upgraded the infrastructure in our studio to HD a few years ago, but we were still using SD cameras and up-converting them to 1080i,” explained Jeff Klingler, chief engineer at WTLW. “Our usage of the studio is ramping up, so our goal this year was to bring our studio acquisition up to true HD. The new Z-HD5500 cameras were the last piece of the puzzle.”
While Klingler’s past success with Hitachi cameras made them the leading contender for the upgrade, it was the powerful yet cost-effective capabilities of the Z-HD5500 that solidified their decision. “The Z-HD5500 is an excellent product with a really strong feature set, and the price point is awesome,” said Klingler. “It’s a perfect fit for what we do.”
The ability of the Z-HD5500’s global-shutter CMOS image sensors to capture flawless video under varying LED lighting conditions was one of the features Klingler found appealing. “We knew that we would be replacing our existing incandescent lighting with new LED lights as part of the studio upgrade,” he recounted. “The Z-HD5500 cameras play very nicely with the different temperature ranges.”
WTLW purchased three Z-HD5500s through integrator AVI Systems and began using them in production in June of this year. Two of the cameras are operated on pedestals, with the third mounted on a newly-installed jib. Already using solutions from Ross Video for switching, graphics and news production, the station quickly took advantage of the Hitachi cameras’ integration with the Ross Dashboard open control and monitoring platform for remote camera management.
WTLW has not owned the Z-HD5500s long enough to truly judge their longevity yet, but Klingler expects to get the same outstanding durability and reliability that he has experienced with earlier models. “Our SD Hitachi cameras were 10 years old and we never had any problems with them,” he said. “In fact, they’re still going strong, and we sold them to a local production company. As a small independent Christian TV station in a small market, we don’t have the budgets of network TV, so we really like to get a lot of bang for our buck when we buy something. Hitachi cameras consistently give us that.”
Klingler also highlights the benefits of dealing with Hitachi Kokusai from a customer service perspective. “I can’t say enough about my relationship with my Hitachi representative,” he praised. “Customer service is always his top priority.”
Beyond the operational and business benefits that the Z-HD5500s bring WTLW, the viewer-facing impact has been equally positive. “It was a great upgrade from what we had before to where we are now,” said Klingler. “As an engineer, I love the robust features from a technical perspective, but it’s the resulting productions that our audience cares about. The cameras really make a difference, and what we are producing now is a lot better looking. Our viewers absolutely notice the improvement, which is what’s most important to us.”