360 Systems Servers Provide Solid Platform for CityTV

Santa Monica CityTV, which covers the town's city council meetings, school district meetings, planning commission meetings, and rent control board meetings, is an Emmy-winning channel known for its programming quality and innovation. We program four Time Warner cable channels, reaching approximately 24,000 households.


Darren Doerschel We broadcast around the clock with mostly content, and have recently added a 360 Systems Maxx 2400 server to augment the 360 Systems Image Server 2000 we purchased two and a half years ago. That original server has been extremely reliable—there have never been any failures—and it could easily accept files from our editing system. Our goal was to increase our capacity with two record channels and to be able to ingest two separate files simultaneously, so we went with the Maxx 2400.

The two servers juggle record and playback duties for our flagship station CityTV16 and replay channel, CityTV20. We record live coverage of public meetings, live call-in shows, and other shows on both servers. Original programming is shot on Sony XDCAM, and is edited on Final Cut Pro. The edited files are stored on another server to allow us hi-bandwidth, Fibre Channel access to all XDCAM video. When the files are scheduled for playout, they are transferred via gigabit Ethernet to the 360 System servers, which also handle archive and playback storage. The servers accept native files, so we don't have to compress or transcode the files, which saves time and money.


Two operators can use the Maxx 2400 at the same time, and the graphical user interface makes learning easy for our production assistants. Another convenient feature I like is the ability to edit in the server. Many times we're not sure when the gavel is going to fall in public meetings, so we just start recording at the scheduled time and trim the file later. We can control playback easily through our Tightrope automation system and BroadcastPix switcher.

A systems engineer, three editors and two production supervisors work from our master control and five edit bays, four of which are equipped with NLE systems. One small insert studio is used for green screen video, program wraparounds and hosted segments. We also rent production facilities all over Los Angeles. Content is 70 percent original, with the remaining 30 percent comes from other government access channels in California and around the country. We also stream video to an outside Web server, so viewers can watch live or archived meetings online.

We're managing the transition to HD by shooting in 16x9 digital format so the aspect ratio will match HD specs, and we can then upscale the video through conversion. Most equipment can be converted over to the new format, and we may be looking at acquiring an HD server as well.

Darren Doerschel is technical operations supervisor at Santa Monica CityTV and has worked in the television industry for 23 years. The opinions expressed are those of the author alone. He may be contacted at darren.doerschel@smgov.net.

For additional information, contact 360 Systems at 818-991-0360 or visit www.360systems.com.