Weather Star XL is the fifth generation of the WeatherStar systems used by the American cable and satellite television channel The Weather Channel (TWC), that are used to insert local forecasts and current weather information (such as the "Local on the 8s" segments within its program schedule) into TWC's programming. At its rollout in 1998, it came months after a major update to the channel's on-air presentation. The Star XL was a major leap over the much older Weather Star 4000 system, featuring advanced capabilities such as transitions, moving icons, cloud wallpaper backgrounds and reading the local forecast contents. The WeatherStar XL first appeared in a beta roll out on select cable systems in November 1998 and appeared briefly on The Weather Channel Latin America until that channel's demise.
On June 26, 2014, The Weather Channel discontinued broadcasting its analog satellite feed, thus officially retiring all Weather Star units prior to the IntelliStar, including the XL. To address the need for a low-cost replacement, The Weather Channel developed the IntelliStar 2 Jr. platform in 2013, which is capable of operating natively on both analog and digital cable systems.
The Weather Star XL is a rack-mounted rendering computer, manufactured by Silicon Graphics, Inc., containing a modified SGI O2 computer. The O2 is an entry-level Unix workstation introduced in 1996 by SGI to replace their earlier Indy series. Like the Indy, the O2 used a single MIPS microprocessor and was intended to be used mainly for multimedia purposes; the O2 was SGI's last attempt at a low-end workstation. The Weather Star XL utilizes the SGI IRIX Operating System with custom written software for The Weather Channel. Because of the proprietary SGI hardware and software, the Weather Star XL remains the most expensive STAR system, having a manufacturing cost of $US6,500. As a result of the XL's high price, many smaller cable headends retained their Weather Star 4000 or Weather Star Jr. units until the IntelliStar was released, skipping the XL altogether.
The Weather Star XL on TWC Latin America.
The Weather Star XL receives raw video data from The Weather Channel and weather statements from the National Weather Service, as well as forecasts from an Internet connection. It sends back monitoring data to The Weather Channel. Its crawl controller (which manages the text for local advertising) is accessible via a modem and terminal/terminal emulator. In Latin America, TWC only used satellite to deliver the service.
The Weather Channel and the Star XL receive new graphics. Some XL systems receive this upgrade in March 2002, and at least one XL unit only received the update partially until July 2002, intermittently losing Vocal Local and retaining the old regional forecast animation and maps.
The date and time are repositioned to allow room for larger title bars.
A new cloud background is added.
The URL text "weather.com" is added underneath The Weather Channel's logo.
A daypart forecast and seven-day extended forecast known as the "Week Ahead" is introduced. The three-day extended forecast still displays during the 90-second forecast flavor.
On the one-minute flavor, the regional conditions map is replaced by the daypart forecast.
The radar has been repositioned from the end of the forecast to the middle, right after the current conditions. This applies to all flavors except the 60-second forecast flavor.
The margins on the three-day extended forecast page are widened slightly. As a result, phrases such as "Partly Cloudy" and "Mostly Cloudy" are now fit into one line as opposed to two like before this update.
If no wind gusts are reported at the displayed observation site, the text "none" would display in that column on the lower display line during local forecasts and national broadcasts. This no longer happens. Instead, the gust product are not shown on the LDL if no gusts are reported.
The watch expiration phrase for severe weather watches has been changed. For example: "SAT 0900 PM EDT" becomes "9:00 PM EDT Saturday."
The regional conditions map, that shows the current weather conditions for the surrounding region, is discontinued.
In the top 30 media markets, the Regional Forecast map, which shows the forecast for select cities throughout a given region, is discontinued and is replaced by a Metro Forecast map. This shows the forecast for select cities in a given metropolitan area within a 75-100 mile radius.
The "AM," "PM," and "FEW" variations to the weather icons are introduced to the forecast maps; live national broadcasts also received this upgrade.
The "AM" and "PM" variations to the weather icons on the lower display line have been modified, and are now rendered in lower-case white text instead of the previous uppercase styling and white-to-light blue gradient. The national broadcasts, as well as weather.com, however, received this upgrade one or two months earlier.
The 36-hour forecast segment has been modified so it is easier to understand. Previously, if the forecast for a time period were to split into two pages (due to its length) it would split in a middle of a sentence. Now, whenever possible, it would split to two pages in between each sentence. A line break was added between each time period.
The lower display line (LDL) graphic that is shown on live national forecasts is redesigned. It changed to a black and opaque (previously translucent) display; the XL's LDL becomes the first Weather Star lower display line to display The Weather Channel's logo on the graphic.
During programming such as Storm Stories, more detailed information is provided on the lower display line.
The XL gets new graphics once again, now featuring a modernized TWC logo, a sunny background, and new title bars. "Weather.com" is moved from underneath the TWC logo to a new position underneath the title bar of each screen's segment.