A New Era in Master Control at Iowa PBS

(Image credit: Aveco)

JOHNSTOWN, Iowa—Iowa PBS has been a national leader in TV for decades.  We have centralized master control of four program streams, distributed statewide via 17 transmission facilities as well as outputs to streaming services. We produce nationally syndicated TV shows, use our studio facilities for widely viewed specials and have received many awards from our programs and live sports. 

When our Avid-Sundance system reached end-of-life, we carefully accessed all master control automation and found Aveco a stand-out leader. There are many important innovations in playout and we wanted to use them now!  

However, our transition period had to happen during COVID-19.  We were amazed at how smooth the process went—a major master control replacement, adding many new features, while no one could come on-site!  A well-designed transition plan and the workflow automation scripting in Aveco helped a lot. 

The Transition Plan
Aveco has a direct database conversion from Avid-Sundance (and others) as well as BXF integration with Myers ProTrack traffic and API integration with Telestream-Masstech. All existing media and metadata migrated easily into Aveco. 

Via BXF, whenever a trimming or segmentation update is made in Aveco, the updated “confirmed timing” instantly updates both ProTrack and Masstech. Bi-directional MXF was one of our first steps.

In the past, Iowa PBS used many video server ports for ingest but Aveco’s equipment pool management efficiently allows sharing of ingest ports for program feeds, studio feeds, archival ingest, etc. It implements priorities to ensure important scheduled feeds are never missed and provides equipment pool sharing of video server ports for video roll-ins during live production. Aveco also controls live graphics—bridging master control and production use of shared resources. 

While Iowa is the center of political hurricanes every four years, we’re also in the center of “Tornado Alley”—our Intelliweather system is integrated with Aveco master control to bring instantaneous storm updates; every second matters. 

Iowa PBS has a great staff and training remotely due to COVID—on a new advanced automation platform—was expected to be a big challenge. There were many new features and workflow improvements to learn.  The new Aveco software was easy to understand, the trainers had a great grasp of what’s needed, and our staff got up to speed surprisingly fast.

Cloud Leadership
There are many features our staff especially like in Aveco—the integrated MAM, multichannel timeline, BXF bidirectional integration between Aveco-ProTrack and Masstech, the efficiency of equipment pooling, the easy sharing of master control and studio production, ease of use, great reliability, the safe client-server architecture, and the flexibility of unattended and remote operation. We were and continue to be very pleased with Aveco’s responsiveness to our comments and concerns and their flexibility at working with us on refinements to the overall operation of the system.

Most broadcast technologists see current or near-term use of the cloud for a variety of functions—MAM, storage, playout, pop-up channels. It was impressive to see Aveco’s early leadership in this area, with on-prem, hybrid cloud and full cloud operation on air for a range of quality broadcasters. Aveco controls our Harmonic Spectrum platform on-site and the Harmonic VOS360 cloud system which we may use in the future.

TV is in another fast rate of change—over the years, there have been many major waves. We’ve found some smaller companies are the best in innovating and adapting and we consider Aveco one of these and are honored to work with them and other quality manufacturers helping lead our industry. 

For more information, visit aveco.com.

Bill Hayes

Bill Hayes, director of engineering and technology for Iowa PBS, has been at the forefront of broadcast TV technology for 40 years, 23 of them at Iowa PBS. He’s served as president of IEEE’s Broadcast Technology Society, is a Partnership Board Member of the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) and has contributed extensively to SMPTE and ATSC.  He is a recipient of Future's 2021 Tech Leadership Award.