The Oklahoma Network now has more room and new tools to provide PBS programming.
From its origins in a basement classroom in 1953, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) has grown today into a statewide network that provides programming to 1.8 million viewers per week across Oklahoma and surrounding states. Known as The Oklahoma Network, the regional PBS program provider has its headquarters and main studios in Oklahoma City and a satellite facility in Tulsa. Also, there is an OETA transmitter 25mi southeast of the Tulsa facility — linked by fiber to the Oklahoma City operation.
From the Tulsa site, the network's staff creates a few stories each weeknight for the “Oklahoma News Report,” OETA's statewide newscast. Live interviews from Tulsa are regularly conducted for a variety of network programming.
Making a move
In May, the Tulsa operation moved from a converted pizza restaurant, beneath an airport flight path, to an 11,000sq-ft, purpose-built, single-studio facility carved out of a parking lot on the campus of Oklahoma State University - Tulsa. Besides better access to downtown, better parking, better acoustics and a better view, the new facility offers 50 percent more space and state-of-the-art technology.
Following a year of careful preparation, the network broke ground on the facility in December 2009. Construction and systems integration for the new facility came together fairly quickly and on time. Planning was a group effort, including input from the production staff, PSA Dewberry architects and Dallas-based systems integrator Digital Resources. The building itself was completed in October 2010, at which point the technical infrastructure could be installed and integrated. That process took almost seven additional months.
OETA had been in the previous facility for 27 years. Both layout and location were sub-optimal, as nobody anticipated such a long tenure when they first moved in. The prime motivation for the move to a new studio was the need to upgrade to HD in order to match the rest of the PBS network. As a result, very little of the hybrid digital/analog equipment was transferred from the old facility. Given the age and limitations of the old facility — tape sessions sometimes had to stop because of airplane and traffic noise — management determined that the HD upgrade represented the right opportunity to build a new facility. The OETA Foundation supported the cost of both the building and equipment.
Designed by PSA Dewberry, the new building is comprised of a large studio, two conference rooms and a dedicated green room/dressing room for guests.
The technical infrastructure of the new studio is built around routing switchers from Utah Scientific — two UTAH-400 routing switchers (one 3G HD video and one audio) controlled by the company's SC-4 control system.
One of the router's features especially valuable to the OETA team is auto-sensing, which recognizes the type of signal put into the video router and makes the appropriate conversion. Also important is the tight integration between the video and audio routers. The team chose the UTAH-400 audio and video routers to replace a UTAH-300 analog router. The analog router served well for many years, so it was natural to go back to Utah Scientific for a new router. The company's sales and technical support were additional reasons for the choice.
The routing system is supported by a full complement of new UTAH-100/3 series distribution amplifiers. Twelve card cages are loaded with HD (3G), SD, analog video, digital audio and analog audio DAs. The system's master timing references are generated by a pair of Utah Scientific TSG-490 sync generators with automatic changeover and GPS synchronization.
The new studio is 40ft by 50ft, with the lighting grid 15ft above floor level. There are 30 new lights — ARRI 650W lamps, 1K ST1 lamps, 1000W baby solar spots and 2000W baby zip soft lights. The Dove lighting system uses a 36/72 DMX console. The cameras selected for use in the studio are three Sony HDC1400R HD studio-configuration cameras with a fiber-optic interface. The cameras are outfitted with Canon BCTV Zoom KJ17ex7.7B lenses. The camera cable system selected is the Canare Fiber Optic Bulkhead system.
Signal monitoring in the facility is accomplished using the Harris Videotek VTM-4100 test set. One is used in the technical operations center (TOC), and there are two others used in master control — one at the director's station and the other at the camera shader position. Audio monitoring in the TOC is accomplished with the use of a Wohler AMP1-V2DA digital monitor panel.
The monitors in the new facility are all flat-screen. The new video wall comprises six 24in Ikegami monitors, four are fed with a Miranda multiviewer system for monitoring the various sources, as well as the preview and program outputs from the switcher M/E busses — one for program and one for preview.
One of the goals with the new facility was to separate master production control and the TOC. Previously, the control room was in a corner of the TOC, which often meant noise problems. As anticipated, separating the two resolved the issue.
OETA's Sony studio cameras feed into a Ross Vision 2M/E HD video production switcher in the TOC through two Utah Scientific distribution amplifiers. For audio, a Midas Verona 24-input with eight mix groups is used. These feed to Ensemble Design's BrightEye 30 analog to AES audio converters. The speakers in the control room are Genelec 803A active monitoring system.
Content originated in the field using Sony PDW-F350 XDCAM HD camcorder is uploaded to an Avid Unity/ISIS shared storage system in Oklahoma City over the fiber link. It is then edited in Tulsa using two four-year-old Avid Newscutter editing systems. (The editing suites were the only equipment brought over from the old quarters.) Previously, the team had to shoot its studio footage in SD and upconvert. With the new cameras and switcher, it is now shot in HD from beginning to end. Both field acquisition and archiving are on XDCAM HD disks.
Something else the team has been able to do in the new facility is build in computer floors on the same level as the rest of the flooring, with cabling recessed in an 18in subfloor underneath. It has also grounded the TOC to a star system, a 20ft circle of 10ft metal stakes wired to a central ground.
Moderating Tulsa's notorious summer temperatures for the staff, and more importantly for the equipment, are two 10-ton Trane Package A/C units, one equipped with heating for the studio. Mindful of the problems experienced with noise before, the A/C and heating units were placed on top of the garage next door rather than on the roof of the studio building.
Given the dramatic nature of Oklahoma weather, a crucial upgrade was made to full backup power. During ice storms in 2007, for example, the Tulsa studio lost power for five days. At that time, shooting and editing continued using a portable generator to power one edit bay. Then, videotapes were driven to Oklahoma City for the newscast. There was no computer access, so reporters wrote their stories in longhand using kerosene lamps for light. It was back to the Stone Age.
Now, OETA has a 250kW backup generator and Liebert NX 60 kVA uninterruptible power supply to ensure that all technology keeps working even in the event of a power loss.
Because of close collaboration with the Oklahoma City studio — especially during the nightly newscast — a significant benefit of the new set-up is the Clear-Com Eclipse intercom system, which links the two operations over fiber so phone lines aren't tied up.
Getting the fiber link between the main studio in Oklahoma City and the new studio in Tulsa to carry the Avids, the live video stream, the intercom, the telephone and Internet traffic over one-half Gigabyte fiber was a major challenge. To accomplish this, assistance was sought from Superior Access Solutions' Rick Cabalka, vice president of commercial sales, and Dave Werdin, founding partner, PE. OETA purchased MPEG-4 encoder/decoders to have the speed necessary for the live video stream.
Besides state-of-the-art equipment, improved location and more efficient all-HD workflow, the new facility has additional benefits. For example, OETA will be able, for the first time, to work with interns in the university's broadcast program, giving them practical experience and providing the network with extra staffing power. Another improvement is the dedicated green room/dressing room area for guests, who previously had to change in the restroom. The large conference room includes a catering kitchen, so events like board meetings can be hosted here.
For several years, OETA staff felt they were just making do with what they had, and it was a constant challenge. Now, with state-of-the art equipment in a brand new building, the mindset is different. Everything is first-rate. And, for the future, the building was constructed with expansion in mind. At eight employees now, the facility will easily accommodate a staff twice that size.
OETA: Robert Allen, foundation president; John McCarroll, executive director; Mark Norman, deputy director technology and implementation; Richard Ladd, director of engineering; Bill Thrash, station manager; Roger Newton, Tulsa chief engineer
Digital Resources: Tim Davis, director of engineering; Richard Bock, broadcast sales
Architects at PSA Dewberry
Technology at work
ARRI 1K ST1 lamps; 650W lamps; 1000W baby solar spots; 2000W baby zip soft lights
Avid Newscutter editing system; Unity/ISIS shared storage system
Canare Fiber Optic Bulkhead system
Canon BCTV Zoom KJ17ex7.7B lenses
Clear-Com Eclipse Meridian intercom system
Dove lighting system, 36/72 DMX console
Ensemble Design BrightEye 30 analog to AES audio converters
Genelec 803A active monitoring system
Harris Videoteck VTM-4100 test set
Ikegami HLM-2450WB 24in LCD monitors
Liebert NX 60 kVA power supply
Midas Verona 240 audio board
Miranda multiviewer system
Ross Video Vision 2M/E HD switcher
Sony HDC-1400R studio cameras; PDW-F75 XDCAM disk recorders
Trane Package air conditioning units
Utah Scientific SC-4 control system; TSG 490 test pattern generator, two each, w/changeover unit; UTAH-100/3 series distribution amplifiers, video 3G/HD; UTAH-400 routing switchers
Roger Newton is OETA Tulsa chief engineer.