Field weatherman John Humphress (SvrWeather.com) and reporter Reed Yadon (WHAS11) bravely delivered live news to hundreds of thousands of people during Hurricane Irma. To transport live video from Florida to their station in Kentucky, they used USB cellular bonding technology (Bond) with 2x high-powered USB modems (Nodes) to receive redundant network coverage through severe winds and flash flooding. Here’s how Teradek’s Bond & Nodes helped them do it:
A Category 5 storm, Irma was hailed as the most destructive hurricane to hit the United States since Katrina in 2005. On the Florida peninsula, millions of people were ordered to evacuate by the state as Irma approached with 100 MPH winds and a force that had already devastated islands in the Caribbean. By September 8, all state schools and offices were ordered to close and people evacuated out of the south.
This is exactly what brought SvrWeather.com to the scene. A severe weather broadcasting company based in Kentucky, SvrWeather.com travels to the most extreme weather events in America to deliver live weather reporting for local and major news networks. As the mass exodus of evacuees moved to escape the storm, John Humphress and Reed Yadon went head-on into the warzone.
“Growing up in the midwest during the tornado outbreaks of the 1970s, I’ve been doing stuff like this all my life,” said Humphress. “A lot of people in Kentucky have friends and family members who live down in Florida so it was a huge deal here in the south. We wanted to help bring news to them.”
Stationed in South Florida on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale, Humphress and his colleague Reed Yadon wanted to broadcast before, during and after the storm. This consisted of interviews with residents before evacuations began, live coverage of the storm surge, and post-hurricane reports on damages to the cities caught in the path of uncertainty.
But for Humphress and Yadon (and all reporters out in Florida during the storm), broadcasting this was going to be a difficult endeavor. First, as only a 2-man team, they didn’t have the luxury of an entire production nor satellite truck to transmit a strong RF signal to radio towers. This meant having to rely on cellular data to deliver their video over IP to their station in Kentucky.
Second, because they wanted to roam around the cities capturing different footage and interviews, they needed a way to broadcast from remote locations without any reliable Internet sources. Also, with tropical winds coming in at 100 MPH, cell reception was going to be a catastrophe. And when their clients (Weather Channel, Good Morning Kentuckiana and other affiliates) bring in millions of viewers on their channels, high-quality AV was crucial to their jobs.
To solve these issues, Humphress brought his Teradek Bond with him to Florida. The Bond is a bonding and load balancing device that contains 5x USB inputs for cellular USB modems. Able to ingest up to 5 cellular connections at the same time, the Bond provides robust network redundancy for video streaming so that streams stay up and running through any network issues.
Streaming to the Station
Transporting video from remote locations in Florida to the station required some innovative pieces of tech. When preparing to shoot, Humphress deployed a Manfrotto tripod with a Canon XA20 video camera. Mounted to the camera via SDI is the Teradek Bond unit with a Cube 255 connected (Cube is the video encoder attachment to Bond).
For his cellular connection, Humphress used 2x high-performance USB modems called Nodes - powerful 3G/4G/LTE that offer much stronger connectivity than standard modems. The Nodes contained an AT&T SIM and Verizon SIM, giving him two connections so that if one carrier encountered issues, the Bond’s auto failover would ensure that the stream remained steady.
Once the camera was rolling, video was sent from the Bond/Cube to Humphress’ Core account. Core is Teradek’s cloud-based stream management service that allows for simulcasting, remote monitoring and routing for enterprise workflows. Using Core, Humphress pushed the video feed to a Cube 355 decoder in the station. Core was used to redistribute the video to their affiliates.
Calm After the Storm
With hundreds of thousands of people relying on local news channels during Hurricane Irma, it was not only important for Humphress to deliver news on the storm to curious viewers but also provide high-quality, robust video as well. At the same time, with reporters putting their own lives in danger to bring severe weather news, having a run-and-gun method of shooting was crucial to safety.
With his Bond setup, Humphress had a low-cost and effective way to accomplish this. Instead of needing enterprise-grade satellite trucks (which can be wildly expensive and dangerous considering the storm), Humphress’ Bond was able to achieve smooth 720p video at 2.5Mbps without any issues at all.
At the same time, having the Nodes ensured that they had the redundant Internet connection they needed to stream consistently wherever they went, despite extreme RF turbulence in the storm. Even though their phones were getting no signal, the Nodes brought in perfect LTE data.
“You can’t put up a satellite dish in crazy winds and rain, so this is really the only technology that lets you run-and-gun,” Humphress explained. “With the Bond, all you have to do is set the camera up on a tripod, take the shot and go. Whether it’s for tornadoes or hurricanes or any extreme weather areas, I always use the same setup.”