WBAY launches HD newscasts -- what did you think?

FoxCitiesTV's picture
Green Bay
As teased on Facebook, WBAY had their first HD newscast this afternoon. I didn't see the Noon or 4 PM newscasts but I've heard there were noticeable improvements even from this afternoon to this evening.

I caught most of the 6 PM newscast and here are my initial thoughts:

-- Clarity is impressive and a VAST upgrade from their SD offerings in the past.  Among the area's SD newscasts, I always thought WBAY was near the bottom of the pack, because of their dated graphics, music and video quality.  Video quality is scores better in HD.

-- The set and graphics package is VERY blue, and it lends a very cool hue to the picture overall.  The graphics package has a slight wash of red to it, and I wish they would have extended that more to the set as well.  I have a feeling the new LED set lighting they're using won't help warm up things much.  (EDIT:  Watching the 10 PM newscast now and yeah... that LED lighting is a touch on the cool side, and it's very stark and flat.  Some faces look downright pale and sickly.   Not much shadowing and there's quite a "flourscent" sheen over the whole picture.  Wonder if they can put some gels on those lights to soften up the color palette a bit.  The LEDs will keep the studio cool and save on energy, but it's doing them few favors on skin tones in many spots.  Wide shots with the anchors and Graphos or sports or both shows a VERY cold, steely toned set.  Little gradiation of color and not a ton of dimensionality.  The only time the picture seems to "thaw" at all is when they pan over to the edges of the set behind the sports anchor and they have the area landmarks behind them.  I wouldn't have gone with that projection screen behind the anchor desk personally.  WFRV occasionally flies in a flat-screen as needed, but it's less crowded in the background.  They've even got pointsettias behind Erin Davisson right now!  The glass on the WBAY anchor desk is kind of icy and flat too.  I'd try and shoot a tiny bit of light under that to set that out.)

-- If I remember right, WFRV sometimes stretches SD content to fill the 16:9 frame.  WBAY windowboxes it with graphics consistant with their overall graphics package, which I actually prefer better.  Yes, there was a mix of archival SD footage and new HD stuff.  I don't really mind though.  You're going to have that, at least it's not artificially pulled to fit the frame.  (EDIT:  On the 10 PM news during sports, there were a few windowboxed 4:3 shots without graphical sidebars.  I still prefer black bars over stretched video.  There was one shot of the Wisconsin Badgers that looks like they pulled it off a YouTube video and zoomed in over it, cropping off some heads.  Weird.)

-- I don't watch WBAY news very often, but I've always thought George Graphos stood too close to camera which obscured more of the background weather picture than necessary.  Compare that to WLUK where they're knees-to-waist up.  Don't remember how tight they frame weather folks on WFRV but Graphos always stood out to me among the locals.  This hasn't seemed to change with the HD frame, and he still obscures much of the big, beautiful new graphics and radar.  Don't know if this is personal preference or if their green screen is too small, but just something I notice.

-- Noticed some of their chroma keying on the green screen isn't super clean.  Still looks very video-jaggy in HD.  (EDIT: Watching the 10 PM cast.  The chroma key on Graphos is actually quite sharp and clean now.  The jaggy I referenced earlier was behind a reporter.)

-- Doesn't really bother me since all my TVs are HD, but I wonder if some folks with 4:3 TVs who choose to crop the 16:9 picture to 4:3 in their converter box will complain about text and bodies being cut off.  Some of the graphics adhere to 4:3 "safe zone" but some others don't.  Camera framing would seem to suffer from this too.  (As much stink as people made when FOX pushed widescreen framing on the NFL, I'd imagine there are still 4:3 purists out there).  Some anchor "two-shots" with Cami and Bill seemed odd to me too.  They have that big projection screen behind them, but they're not centered in front of it.  They either need to move the desk, move the camera or the anchors.  Having one huge edge behind one of the anchors and nowhere near the other is just bad framing.  

-- I know the photogs are probably still learning new gear, but there were one or two out-of-focus shots on news pieces.  One with the Harlem Globetrotters was very noticable.  HD isn't as forgiving of bad focus.  (EDIT:  Watching the 10 PM cast now.  I know the newer ENG cameras are much smaller, and that seems to lend a bit of a shaky "YouTube" feel to standups shot off a tripod.)

-- I know they, like WFRV, will now wedge "HD" into every title and station graphic from now on, but the way they do it kind of bothers me.  We read left to right, and they inject HD on the lower left corner.  For example, their sports graphic looks to read "WBAY Sports HD Center."  But I think they still refer to it as HD Sports Center or Sports Center HD.  Minor thing but it kind of sticks out to me.

-- I know with flat panel TVs being big and cheap these days, we're in the age of people constantly standing in front of them in lieu of doing CG.  (WLUK suffers from this a ton, especially when they feel the need to shoot against the godawful backdrop of that red wall in their newsroom...)  Don't know if all WBAY's monitors are this way but the Sports Center one is VERY reflective.  Now I'm going to always be looking at the reflection of the back of that sports anchor's head in that flat screen.  (EDIT:  Watching the 10 PM cast now and I'm not sold on the rear projection behind the anchor desk.  The proximity to the desk makes the anchors look a tad claustrophobic.  The big flat panel or screen (not the green screen) that Graphos stands in front of sometimes looks terrible.  The edges are dim and dull.  The smaller Panasonic plasma looks somewhat better.)

-- Someone else mentioned it, but they could have used an update to their news music package.

-- For some reason, transitions between "slides" during weather seemed very jerky or low frame-rate.  Looks like the animation of a web banner ad.  Again, a little knit-picky thing, but it jumped out at me.

-- EDIT:  Watching 10 PM cast and this also just occured to me... I don't think they had in past as much as WFRV or WLUK, but they're really not utilizing that wider frame with graphics.  Mainly the same lower thirds and over-the-shoulder stuff every station does.  No ticker (which I actually like vs. WLUK) but no other stuff like time or temperature.  Done well, it doesn't have to be the "busy" looking kind of thing like WLUK can be sometimes.  Scratch that -- watching just now during sports, they have a scores-filled banner across the bottom, but it's inched a tad too high and covers their logo and lower thirds a bit. :)

-- Overall -- a VAST improvement, and nice to see another Green Bay station doing a major upgrade.  It's long overdue in this market.  I can see myself watching their news product more because of this.  Between WBAY and WFRV, WLUK looks mediocre in comparison, and WGBA looks downright muddy and inferior.  (Side note -- glad to see WLUK scooped up Chad Doran from WGBA -- he was so wasted at NBC26 amongst their crop of "cameraman-journalists").  Bravo, WBAY.  Would love to see the studio first hand to check out all the new digs.  The techno-nerd inside me was fascinated at their behind-the-scenes package they posted online.

Those were the main things that I saw.  What did you think?
Posted December 14, 2011 9:24pm in
Krause's picture

I very much agree with you --

I very much agree with you -- those are some great points. Overall, WBAY's newscasts are much better... especially since their previous graphics were circa 2003.

I look forward to seeing what WLUK will do, being "uncool" and still broadcasting SD news. ;) And I still have no hope whatsoever for that sad station referred to as NBC26. :P They might as well just simulcast WTMJ...

By the way, congrats on being the Facebook Fan of the Day this morning on Channel 2, Mark!!

FoxCitiesTV's picture

Facebook fan of the day? No

Facebook fan of the day? No way that's a coincidence. :) Didn't catch it, what did they say? I didn't get in trouble for saying Graphos stands too close to camera, did I?

Krause's picture

lol! :) Well, they didn't say

lol! :) Well, they didn't say much else except for the fact that you were their fan of the day. Here's a link to the video: http://www.wbay.com/global/video/flash/popupplayer.asp?ClipID1=6555842&h1=December%2016%20Birthday%20Club%20%26%20Facebook%20Fan&vt1=v&at1=Sales%20-%20Astrology&d1=120700&LaunchPageAdTag=Search%20Results&activePane=info&rnd=85860326

FoxCitiesTV's picture

Gotta give Rompa credit... he

Gotta give Rompa credit... he got the last name right.

You know there's gotta be a morning show producer with a sense of humor over there. Look at Rebecca Schuld's face after the mention... I bet she's in on it.


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