Master Control Platforms Help Producers Control Budgets

MULTIPLE CITIES -- Today’s video producers are always looking for ways to reduce costs, whether they are running a small-town public access channel or a federal video training production center. A way to do that effectively, while improving operations, is by implementing modern master control technology solutions.


Evertz’s 3025EMC Master Control Switcher Evertz offers two excellent video switching options for the cash-conscious broadcaster. For those who already own an upstream router, the 3025EMC Master Control Switcher (starting at $15,000) provides “an affordable way to offer complete switching capability,” said Mo Goyal, Evertz’s director of product marketing. “It leverages the power of your existing router, to allow you to support full video switching at a very low price.”

Capable of supporting an SD, HD or 3G-production environment, the 3025EMC exploits the router’s channel capability to control inputs ranging from 16x16 to 1152x1152, depending on the router’s capability. The 3035EMC includes a full A/B mixer with 16 audio channel support, and four external and internal keyers for graphics and branding. The 3025EMC offers advanced options that include twoor four-channel DVE squeezeback, dynamic text crawls and Dolby E/AC3 decoding/encoding.

Meanwhile, around $20,000 will buy the same system with a 14-input internal router built in. Branded as the 3025SW, it is known as the “mini- EMC” as this switcher includes a full audio/video transition engine with external and internal keyers. Both the 3025EMC and 3025SW can be operated live (via control panels) or by using automation software.


Grass Valley’s Ignite at work in the control room of WGBH-TV Boston. WGBH-TV Boston is undeniably the powerhouse of the PBS network, with responsibility for producing much of the network's programming. But the station still has to count its pennies, especially because the federal Public Telecommunications Facilities Program that helped PBS purchase equipment has been terminated.

Faced with that loss, plus falling subscriber revenues due to the recession, WGBH turned to Grass Valley, which is headquartered in San Francisco, to rationalize its production process by implementing the Grass Valley Ignite integrated automation system in its studio control room.

The Ignite system enables WGBH to predefine and then automate many of the functions previously performed by human video, audio and playback source personnel. “One of our studio control personnel can now do the jobs of four people,” said Ed Chuk, WGBH’s director of production services.

Ignite’s usefulness lies in the fact that multiple functions, such as camera setups, audio sources, graphics and playback sources can be predefined and then made available to operators as single commands. In addition, the production lineup is displayed in a visual “timetime,” enabling the operator to see what is coming up next and to make decisions about any manual changes that may be required.

“Ignite even integrates with newsroom systems such as ENPS or iNews,” Chuk said. “This means that production or news staff working on those systems can update the playout lineup, and the changes are automatically loaded and reflected on Ignite’s log and time line.” All told, Ignite has allowed WGBH to combine four master control functions into one, without any loss of control or quality. “At a time when money is tight, Ignite is helping is do more with less,” Chuk said.


Harris Broadcast’s IconMaster Harris Broadcast’s answer to cost-effective master control operations is the IconMaster master control switcher and branding solution. This is an SD/ HD-ready modular system that combines critical master control functions with branding, built upon a modular card format that supports expansion by simply adding more cards.

The IconMaster comes with a 12- or 22-input deskmount/rackmount control panel. It is fitted with industry-standard buttons with LEDs for source selection and transitions, plus configurable LCD buttons. Options include an intelligent audio control panel and touchscreen configuration and control.

The IconMaster can be migrated from SD to HD using a configuration utility, without paying more or making any hardware changes. The system can by controlled using automation, and works with systems such as Harris DSeries and ADC playout automation.


Ross Video’s MC1-MK Remember the climactic scene of “Star Wars: A New Hope,” where the Death Star powers up its planetdestroying weapon? Sharp eyes will have noticed that the all-important weapon control lever was actually a standard T-bar (transition bar) on an old-fashioned analog TV video switcher.

It makes sense, for a conventional video switcher is an intimidating looking device chock full of flashing lights that only well-trained operators can be trusted with. But such personnel are expensive, which is why Ross Video of Iroquois, Ontario, has developed an easy-to-use budget switcher, the MC1-MK. Priced at $3,495, it is a touchscreen-controlled switcher that simplifies basic master-control functions, making those functions intelligible and controllable by lightly trained staff.

The MC1-MK is housed in a 2RU openGear DFR-8321 series frame and has slots for up to 20 openGear cards, but the basic model only requires four. The system is operated using a touchscreen, with the control functions, multiple channels, audio levels, branding and other key details shown on the computer display.

“The Ross Video MC1-MK is open architecture, which means it can integrate with third-party automation and production systems,” said Brad Plant, Ross Video’s marketing product manager. “It is an ideal all-in-production switcher for public access channels, as well as small TV stations.” The MC1- MK comes equipped to handle up to 10 sources, with the ability to expand to 20. It is capable of interfacing with numerous automation systems, allowing an operator to control a series of separate program feeds/channels.

Ross Video developed the MC1-MK in partnership with Jim Felton, chief engineer and John Seymour, operations manager of WWNY/WNYF-TV (CBS and Fox affiliates) in Watertown, N.Y. Felton was looking for an HD system that would allow a single individual to control both channels at once, reducing manpower and costs without sacrificing quality. At the time WWNY/WNYF was upgrading from SD to HD, and replacing its master control production chain.

“We literally sat down and drafted our ideas for a touchscreen video switcher, and they did the same,” Felton said.

The touchscreen video switcher developed by Ross Video and WWNY/ WNYF has not only reduced the cost of operations for the station, but made them far simpler.

“Part of the MC1-MK’s design is allowing the creation of multfunction commands that can be triggered on or off with the touch of a single onscreen button,” said Felton. “This allows us to have the system configured by engineers, and then have the commands executed by less-skilled people. For them, it is simply a matter of pushing the right button, and since the MC1-MK display has been stripped down to basic functions, they don’t get overwhelmed by too many choices.”

After six months of prototyping, design and sideby- side testing with the existing air switchers, “we were satisfied the MC1-MK was ready to go to final test,” Felton said. To play it safe, WWNY/WNYF tested its MC1-MK HD master control system in parallel with its existing SD conventional switcher-controlled program feed, running the two side-by-side for a 24 hour/7 day, frame-by-frame qualification test.

“We then took the complete solution to air the following week,” Felton said. “Not only were there no serious problems, but we discovered that the MC1- MK feed was smoother, with fewer pops and issues.

“Since we switched to this feed solely, it has worked well for us. I would have never believed that a touchscreen video switcher could let a single person operate two TV stations at once, but the MC1-MK does.”


Rushwork’s A-List The Colony, Texas, is served by the public, education and government channel, the City of The Colony Community TV, which provides both live coverage of local governmental meetings and prerecorded informational videos broadcast.

The Colony Community TV is a 24/7 operation, and Ted Ringener, the city IT manager, runs the station using a single live operator during peak hours, or by an unattended automation system as needed. To do that, The Colony Community TV uses the A-List automation system and VDesk integrated pan, tilt and zoom production system produced by Rushworks, which is based in Flower Mound, Texas.

Rushwork’s VDesk A-LIST is an integrated hardware/software automation system that includes a built in broadcast server capable of supporting up to four SD/HD TV channels and bulletin board illustrated Web/TV stills. A-List features drag-and-drop scheduling that can be managed remotely from any PC with an Internet connection. It comes with 2D and 3D DVE transitions, and the ability to record scheduled live events.

VDesk features a single-operator touch screen control that can manage four, eight or even 12 PTZ cameras using a 22-inch monitor (a tablet control is also available). When connected to a local area network, VDesk can be operated remotely from anywhere on the network. It includes onscreen monitoring of camera previews, Preview and Program displays, DSK window and fullmotion overlays, and supports chroma key and other broadcast transitions and effects.

“We’ve been using A-List and VDesk for the past eight years,” Ringener said. “These two systems have allowed us to operate our station using minimal personnel, while actually increasing our production and scheduling capabilities.”


Utah Scientific’s MC-40 With so many broadcasters launching subchannels on their HDTV broadcasts, Utah Scientific saw the need for a simple channel master control solution. The result was the MC40, a 1RU chassis that contains a complete SD/HD channel processor.

Using any of a range of control panels or virtual graphical user interface panels, an operator can access every single feed carried on the router, and use it to feed a distinct broadcast channel. The MC40 also supports ID keys, station logos and emergency alert system messages; everything a stand-alone broadcaster needs.

“The MC40 can handle eight inputs, support two keyers and do video mixing and fading,” said Scott Bosen, Utah Scientific’s director of marketing. “It also handles embedded audio mixing, and connects to both remote master control and automation systems. With this unit, you can operate a fully-fledged TV channel, all within a 1RU chassis.” The MC40 sells for $15,000.