Ensemble Powers OPB's Digital Makeover

Don McKay (L) and Felipe Olvera
PORTLAND, ORE.—Here at Oregon Public Broadcasting, our mission is to give voice to the community and to connect Oregon with its neighbors. We produce or present several of the programs that are seen on public television stations across the country.

A few years ago, we started the transition to digital broadcasting, and faced the same situation that all existing television facilities faced—the requirement to change out our analog infrastructure.

And like many other facilities, we had to decide where to go for the digital gear needed to make the transition.

Don McKay, our vice president of engineering elected to go with Ensemble Designs. His decision paid off well for Oregon Public Broadcasting, providing us with the kind of flexibility and reliability that's required in today's television plant. Our problems with the new equipment have been few, but if a glitch does develop, we've always received quick response and service from the technical staff at Ensemble.


Our main air signal passes through an Ensemble Avenue 4460 bypass protection switch, which in addition to serving as a transmission path switch, also monitors the main feed that goes to air. It detects signal presence and can provide us with reports on ASI stream details, including PMT, PAT and PIDs. We are able to set all of the detection parameters from either the touchscreen on the Ensemble Design frame containing the switch, or via the PC control interface.

The primary input to the protection switch is from our MPEG encoding system, and the backup feed to the switch comes from a PBS satellite feed. This allows us to always have a signal up should there be a serious equipment failure.

We installed about 30 Avenue frames in our television and radio facilities. I think we have at least one of everything Ensemble makes. And we just purchased 16 of the company's model 7660 embedders/disembedders for our new master control broadcast server installation.

The Avenue frames each hold 10 cards and are equipped with redundant power supplies. This has given us plenty of room to expand card counts when needed.


We're also really happy with the touchscreen control option with the Avenue card frames. A touchscreen on one frame can control and monitor cards in any frame in the system, providing a convenient way to make adjustments and keep tabs on our signals. I can go to one central point for the status on any card in the system. If a problem should occur, we can isolate it and fix it immediately. It's really nice too to be able to check card serial numbers and inspect and change firmware versions from any control point, as the Ensemble Website has all the latest firmware and we can download it anytime we need without charge.

Our decision to go digital with Ensemble was a good one and we would not hesitate to choose them if we had to do it over again.

Felipe Olvera has been with Oregon Public Broadcasting for more than 15 years and is in charge of the TV and radio engineering staff. He may be contacted at folvera@opb.org.

For additional information, contact Ensemble Designs at 530-478-1830 or visit www.ensembledesigns.com.