WeatherStar (sometimes rendered Weather Star or WeatherSTAR) (meaning Satellite Transponder Addressable Receiver) refers to the technology used by The Weather Channel (TWC) to generate their Local Forecast segments (currently known as Local on the 8s) on cable TV systems nationwide. The hardware takes the form of a computerized unit installed at a cable television headend. It receives, generates, and inserts local forecast and other weather information, including weather advisories and warnings, into TWC's national programming.
2 Weather Star I,
3 Weather Star II,
4 Weather Star III,
5 Current systems,
6 Weather Star content,
7 External links,
Since its introduction at TWC's launch in 1982, several generations of the WeatherStar have been used:
Weather Star I:
The Weather Star I, the original Weather Star, was released on TWC's launch. It would (like subsequent Weather Star units) receive local weather data from TWC and the National Weather Service via data encoded in the vertical blanking interval of TWC's video, as well as receiving extra data from a subcarrier transmitted above TWC's video and audio signals on its transponder on satellite. The Weather Star I was manufactured and developed for TWC by Compuvid, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. A couple of years before the founding of TWC, Compuvid had already made a similar product which was installed at cable TV systems owned by Landmark Communications, TWC's corporate parent at the time. This system displayed weather conditions, forecasts, and announcements on viewers' TV screens via a set of locally-installed weather sensors at the cable headend. The Weather Star I was an updated version of this unit, receiving data from both TWC and the National Weather Service.
The Weather Star I lacked graphics and was only capable of displaying white text on various backgrounds: purple for the "Latest Observations" and "Weather Information" (which displayed random data, usually weather-related trivia, past weather events in the area, or info on upcoming programming) pages, grey for the "36 Hour Forecast" page, brown for scrolling weather advisories, and red for scrolling weather warnings. Until the release of the Weather Star III, TWC only used one 1 minute long local forecast sequence featuring each of the three forecast screens mentioned above. As with all future Weather Star models, the Weather Star I could key its text over TWC's national video feed, most often to display the current conditions at the bottom of the screen.
Even though the Weather Star I met the Federal Communications Commission's Part 15 regulations for emanated RF interference (RFI), it still radiated enough to interfere with broadcast channel 2, resulting in problems at the cable TV's headend where the Weather Star I unit was installed. This problem was temporarily solved by having ferrite chokes attached to all cables and wires attached to the Weather Star.
The Weather Star I was also notorious for frequent text jamming and text garbling issues.
Weather Star II:
The Weather Star II, released in 1984, had improved RF shielding and an improved overall hardware design. Otherwise, it was similar in features to the Weather Star I.
Weather Star III:
The Weather Star III, released in 1986 as an upgrade to the Weather Star II, was another text-only unit essentially identical to the Weather Stars I and II, though with additional internal improvements and forecast products (and consequently, more local forecast sequences). However, TWC decided to drop the "Weather Information" product soon after the introduction of the STAR III. The Weather Star III was completely retired in December 2004 to comply with 2005 FCC alert regulations requiring an audible tone to sound at the start of every display of a weather warning. The Weather Star III and previous units were capable of generating an audio alert tone only during the first display of a weather warning. From 1989 to 1992, The Weather Network/MétéoMedia in Canada (which are equivalents of TWC) used Weather Star III technology to display local forecasts, which were on a sky blue background, a colour TWC's units did not use.
The Weather Star 4000 was the first WeatherStar model capable of displaying graphics. First conceived in 1988, it was designed and manufactured by the Canadian electronics company Amirix (then the Applied Microelectronics Institute). The Weather Star 4000 is still, as of 2012, in use in some smaller communities. The first Star 4000s were programmed to operate in a text-only mode, similar to the STAR III, but with two improvements: an improved font was introduced, as was a graphical current radar page at the end of the Local Forecast, showing precipitation in the viewer's local geographic area. Within a brief period of time, the Weather Star 4000 began to produce graphically-based Local Forecasts. A customized version of the Weather Star 4000 was used by The Weather Network until 1997, when they switched to a technically different system that produces local forecasts, known as PMX.,
The Weather Star Jr. is a budget model manufactured by Wegener Communications for cable TV headends in smaller communities which was released in 1993. It features the products of the Star III with the typeface of the 4000. When the change in FCC regulations forced the retirement of the Star III, cable TV headends using that unit upgraded to the Weather Star Jr. or more advanced units. Since it is capable of producing an alert tone at the start of every weather warning with the assistance of the Weather Star Jr. Audio Weather Alert Generator, it is still in use today by smaller cable TV providers, such as Champion Broadband.,
The Weather Star XL is an IRIX-based computer manufactured by SGI and introduced at the end of 1998. The Star XL was a major leap over the 4000 with advanced technical capabilities such as modernized graphics (with Akzidenz-Grotesk as the main typeface), narrated current conditions and extended forecast products, and new weather icons that would last the channel for the next eight years from its launch. Its current on-screen appearance closely resembles the WeatherStar's successor, the IntelliStar. The Star XL was also the first platform of WeatherStar to be adapted and modified by The Weather Channel for their Weatherscan service, a 24-hour local weather channel carried on some select cable TV systems nationwide; three years later, the Weatherscan XL units would be phased out and switched to IntelliStar technology as the first trial of the system. However, the Star XL has a high manufacturing cost (US $6,500) and weighs 55 pounds.,
The IntelliStar was rolled out on Weatherscan in February 2003; the "domestic" (used on TWC) version was then introduced into top media markets, including Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, in early to mid-2004. Initially, its graphics were essentially the same as those seen on the WeatherStar XL (though using Interstate as the typeface), until December 2006, when the IntelliStar received its own, even more realistic icon set. The amount of information provided is dramatically increased: schoolday/weekday forecasts are provided, more local maps are used, UV and other health information is shown, and traffic information for certain markets, provided by Traffic Pulse, are also shown.,
The IntelliStar 2 HD ALPHA was introduced to a New York cable headend carrying The Weather Channel HD in late 2008. With the ALPHA, there is no narration, lower display line bar, or icon animation. The ALPHA was the first system to feature a high-definition 1080i 16:9 output.,
The IntelliStar 2 was officially released in July 2010. Many of the existing issues, which were present with the ALPHA, were corrected. The IntelliStar 2 features, Animated Lower line display, Current Conditions, Weather Bulletins, Metro Conditions, Regional Doppler, Metro Doppler, Hourly Forecast, Local Forecast, and The Week Ahead. Voice narration is done by Jim Cantore. Currently, the system is rolling out in a gradual process on major cable systems across the country. This unit will only be used on The Weather Channel HD and will not replace the IntelliStar or other units on the standard definition channel or on Weatherscan.,
Weather Star content:
Many of the segments displayed by all WeatherStars have gone through several changes throughout the history of The Weather Channel:
With the release of the Weather Star III in 1986, many new forecast products (including the "Regional Forecast", "Travel Cities Forecast", and (in Southern California) the "Air Quality Forecast", among others) were added. In addition, the random "Weather Information" page was discontinued.,
The narration of TWC staff announcer Dan Chandler was added to the local forecast music tracks (which were sent nationally) starting in 1987. Previously, only music was played during the forecasts.,
The Weather Star 4000 received major updates in 1990 and 1991. Previously creating local forecasts similar to those on the older Weather Star III, new graphic styling, mixed case, and many new segments were added to the 4000, further distancing it from the legacy machines.,
The Star 4000 received the Current Radar slide in 1990, using radar data and an IATA radar map to display the local radar for an area.,
In September 1992, the narration of TWC staff announcer Dan Chandler was re-recorded for a final time for the WeatherStar 4000, III, and Jr., The "36 Hour Forecast" segment is now narrated to have come from the National Weather Service.,
A graphic of the NOAA emblem was added on-screen during the "36 Hour Forecast" segment generated by the WeatherStar 4000 from 1992 to 2002. The "Local Radar", which displays the precipitation in the area and its movement over the course of the last 90 minutes, was added to the 4000 in November 1992. Additionally, the "Travel Cities Forecast" background was changed to a blue and grayish blue gradient, the text was replaced with the regional weather icons, and the name was changed to "Travel Forecast for ________".,
In early November 1993, the date and time were nudged further downward to make more room for the local forecast screen segment titles.,
In Spring 1994, the regional icons were updated so that the multi-layered icons are smaller in size. the upper layer cloud moved almost directly on top of its underlying weather graphic.,
On August 4, 1994, the Travel Cities Forecast's background was changed again, this time to solid dark blue. The color key on the radar screens now has 8 colors instead of 6.,
In April 1995, the Local Update from the National Weather Service was added. Local Updates, rebranded versions of NWS Short-Term Forecasts, were displayed when conditions changed rapidly.,
In 1995, Dan Chandler's narration was discontinued, leaving the WeatherStar local forecasts with just music being played (as was the case before 1987) until 2000, with the introduction of the "Vocal Local" feature to the Weather Star XL.,
In 2002, the "36 Hour Forecast" segment began to come directly from The Weather Channel - mixed case letters were also introduced to the local forecasts. The Weather Channel logo was modernized on the 4000. The Local Update segment on the 4000, another National Weather Service-provided item, was also discontinued at the same time.,
In addition to the introduction of the Weather Star XL, narration voiced by TWC staff announcer Allen Jackson was added during the local forecast since March 2000. The "Current Conditions" and "Extended Forecast" segments are now automatically narrated to the viewer using Jackson's voice, a feature called "Vocal Local" (as mentioned above) that has been present starting with the Weather Star XL and continuing with the later IntelliStar systems. In September 2001, weather.com was added underneath The Weather Channel logo, the cloud background was changed to a lighter blue cloud scheme (carried over to the later IntelliStar), and the local forecast title bars were redesigned repositioning the date and time. Later in April 2002, "Daypart Forecast" and "The Week Ahead" segments have been added to the XL. "Weather Bulletins" is also added and only appears if the National Weather Service issues a weather statement. In January 2003, a "24 Hour Local Forecast" segment was added.,
The 75-100 mile "Metro Area Forecast" map made its debut in late July 2002, replacing the "Regional Forecast" in the top 50 markets.,
As of August 15, 2005, the WeatherStar XL got its second major facelift, while the IntelliStar received minor changes. On both systems, the cloud background was changed to a bright sunny background and The Weather Channel logo was updated. On the WeatherStar XL, the local forecast title bars were redesigned and new slide transitions were introduced. In addition, the IntelliStars in the top 50 US markets received an air quality product from the Environmental Protection Agency, which previously was only available on WeatherStar units in Southern California. Initially, all IntelliStars (and other WeatherStars in Southern California) with the air quality product showed the air quality forecast for three areas. This was later changed on IntelliStars outside Southern California to show the air quality forecast for one location.,
As of December 12, 2006, weather icons on the IntelliStar were replaced with more realistic icons. This change also applies to IntelliStars on DirecTV, Dish Network, and Weatherscan, as well as weather.com. In rare cases, not every IntelliStar or Weatherscan system got this kind of update. 1,
On October 23, 2007, the IntelliStar got its first major facelift in graphics (not counting the minor changes in 2005). The new background is a light blue sky background with a bright sun in the upper right corner. The on-screen text (except on the title bars) is changed from white to a dark blue color to have better contrast with the new background. The title bars are also redesigned, and new weather animations with sound effects are introduced on the right of the screen during the 36-Hour Forecast.,
As of February 7, 2008, the blue text introduced in the IntelliStar's previous update is changed to black for greater readability.,
As of March 20, 2008, the IntelliStar no longer features the 3-day Extended Forecast.,
As of September 5, 2008, a new HD STAR system began beta testing. New York City has been confirmed.,
As of March 11, 2010, weather icons that was featured or based on weather.com website and in the Multimedia Video section are debuted to the IntelliStar. WeatherStar XL's LDL is no longer cued in during the live-national programming.,
As of July 15, 2010, IntelliStar 2 beta testing began on Comcast systems in Nashville and Murfreesboro, TN. Later as of August 2010, Storm-Tracker Jim Cantore provided the voice-over on the HD Version instead of Allen Jackson (in which he still uses the narration on the SD Version).,
As of November 12, 2013, the IntelliStar and IntelliStar 2 HD have been updated with new graphics as part of the "Weather All the Time" graphics update on The Weather Channel. Currently there is no voice narration, and two custom-production soundtracks play during the LOT8s segment - one for normal conditions and one for severe conditions.
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