Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Live views of troops come from GCS camera

By Richard Mullins
Gannett News Service

VICTOR, N.Y. - Much of the live battle footage being transmitted worldwide from Iraq is coming through new portable camera systems built by one small company in this Rochester, N.Y., suburb.

Vance Kannapel, video product manager for GCS Inc., operates one of the videophones being used in Iraq by news organizations.
(Gannett News Service photo)
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The company is called GCS Inc., and its 30-employee factory is running 24 hours a day to supply equipment to news crews in the Middle East. GCS's live camera systems, built into hardened suitcases, also played a major role in media coverage of the operations by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.

"Most of the video feeds you see when people are on the go are units we have made," said Vance Kannapel, video product manager for GCS. "And those (systems) were not available up until six to eight months ago. So our business is really picking up now that the war is kicking off."

Major media outlets such as Fox, MSNBC, CBS and ABC are using the systems because they allow news crews to transmit while moving on a tank, jeep or aircraft carrier. That's a significant improvement over older, stationary systems, company officials say. CNN purchased more than a dozen GCS camera units to bolt onto Humvees, Kannapel said, and GCS's own staff has been watching footage of the war to pick out which images are coming through their machines.

"A lot depends on how well the reporters are trained on the system," Kannapel said. "But in one image, I saw a column of tanks and I could read the lettering on the tank in front as they drove at 60 miles an hour, bouncing around the dunes."

"If you . . . saw a Humvee traveling in a line at 40 miles per hour . . . we used equipment from GCS to show you that," said Dick Tauber, vice president of CNN's satellite and circuits department in Atlanta. "We also had more of their conventional video phones with several of our embedded team in different locations filing reports, and that is a big help for us in covering this conflict."

Since these new images have been seen around the world, Kannapel said dozens of international news outlets have called with rush orders to supply their own war correspondents.

That kind of widely scattered coverage has only been possible with recent technology innovations, said Wally Dean, with the Committee of Concerned Journalists in Washington, a former editor at CBS News.

"The coverage of this war is different and we believe substantially better because of the embedding of reporters with the troops," Dean said. "That embedding would not have worked for broadcast journalism had it not been for the technology that allows those reports to get on the air."

In the past, viewers often saw little more than military news conferences, Dean said. Now they see live battle coverage, fundamentally changing the perception of the conflict, he said.

"With cameras on tanks rolling through the desert, viewers can appreciate the real fog of war," Dean said, "because so many journalists are embedded, sending back very detailed reports about what they see, but views that are very limited in scope. You have moving columns of troops and you have hurry-up-and-wait."

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