Democratic National Convention
Inside the Fleet Center
A behind-the-scenes peek at this historic event

These pictures provided by Rick Zach, Chief Engineer at WCVB-TV Channel 5. Click on any picture for full-size version. Click here to return to the main page for this article.

Not all that far from a scene out of Star Wars...

Photo by Peter Simpson

Via lottery, WCVB won a highly desirable space on the delegate floor.

A team effort in many dimensions. The result of that teamwork was confirmed by the viewer ratings. The ratings of the other major news stations combined could not match WCVB's ratings on it's own. That type of lopsided ratings tally has been typical for WCVB when covering major Boston events. It's a lot of work when going against some very good competition...

The Fleet Center floor workspace presented an extremely crowded, high-noise work environment. When working in this close environment, one needs to get along with your co-workers and most have done so for over 20-years.

The Fleet Center also presented an RF-hostile environment for communications equipment. The special high-noise headset enabled radio communications back to the WCVB control room located 15 miles to the west. This headset was originally designed for NASCAR pit-crews.

The DNC Skybox Areas

Fleet Center Skyboxes were converted into anchor facilities for both network and local stations. Walls were covered with new protective sheetrock. New cables were run for audio, video, data and communications. The pipes on the bottom provided chilled water for air conditioning the skyboxes that were exposed to hours of hot TV lighting. Every bit of this infrastructure was removed after the DNC.

Hearst-Argyle Television Skybox

WCVB-TV is one of 28 TV stations owned by Hearst-Argyle Television. This skybox was rented to be shared among most Hearst-owned stations.

Skybox news camera crews were provisioned so that multiple anchor people from various US cities could broadcast at the same time.

This unique system enabled communications and cueing to and from all Hearst-owned stations using Voice-over-IP. This allowed reporters to spontaneously interact with on-air people in each home market. This capability can greatly effect on-air performance and was not to be taken lightly. WCVB was merely a "client" in the Hearst Skybox.

Hearst-Argyle news executive Brian Bracco managed the visiting reporters from all participating markets. Mike Keller (WA1KQH & not shown) headed the skybox corporate engineering group.

Until the local news began in each market, the plan was "hurry-up and wait".
The station in Sacramento, CA ended it's 11PM news at 2:30AM eastern time meaning that the Boston-based crew needed to stay late.

Imagine the scene as celebrity anchors from each market crammed into the tiny skybox. Each reporter was a justified star in their own market but at the Fleet Center, they anonymously cued-up for their fixed time slot.

Multiple live anchors from Orlando, FL (left) and Manchester, NH (right).

Of course, WCVB's political reporter Janet Wu enjoyed genuine celebrity status in the Boston market. OK, we're biased. Call it a home town advantage.

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Posted: January 12 2005
Bob Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor