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PBS Station Instructs With Grass Kayak

Kevin Armstrong
When we made the switch to high-definition production programming at our PBS member station, we were excited with the prospect of supporting the growing number of HD viewers in the Eastern Illinois market. People were actually calling to request HD programming. We’re located on the campus of Eastern Illinois University (EIU), and our HD facility launched in mid-March, bringing new life to our programming.

The HD upgrade project involved the installation of new equipment in our master control, production and news areas. When it came time to replace such key items as master control and production switchers, we chose Grass Valley products, as we’ve known and trusted that company’s equipment for many years.


The Grass Valley Kayak HD switcher provides us with a lot of functionality at a very fair price. It’s amazing how many features are offered. The switcher is also very easy to operate, which was an important consideration, as we use the new control room as a teaching facility for students. Our goal is to provide training on state-of-the-art equipment—the same kinds that our graduates will work with when they enter the job market. With the Kayak HD, the experience they’re getting here at EIU in producing multi-camera programs is on par with any facility they’re likely encounter after graduation.

The Kayak HD is used for a daily, live half-hour newscast called “News Watch.” When we’re not producing a newscast, our production department also uses the Kayak for a number of live-to-tape programs—including community programming and talk shows. That’s another reason we chose the Kayak, as it can be pre-set for different shows via its FlexiKey programmable clean-feed system and its hundreds of E-MEM snapshot or timeline registers. This enables the operator to simply push a few buttons to get ready.

We work with a variety of SD and HD material, so we often have to convert signal formats. The Kayak includes a MatchDef option for performing these conversions, saving us money (and space) by not having to buy external gear. The switcher also provides us with 48 inputs and 24 outputs, allowing us to use a wide variety of sources for any given program. Another feature that is very useful is its six-channel RAMRecorder with embedded audio clip record capability. This provides about one minute of clip playback in HD, which is more than we usually need.


We used a Grass Valley Zodiac switcher before the HD transition, so our operators were able to make the switch to the Kayak very smoothly. The user interface is very similar on both switchers, so the learning curve is very quick.

As we’re a public TV station, we’re careful to choose equipment that is not only cost-effective, but which also provides the latest features to future-proof our investment. We appreciate the reliability of Grass Valley’s products, and that’s why we continue to choose them. So far the Kayak HD switcher has lived up to its promise, and our students are doing great work with it. It’s doing everything that we ask, and more.

Kevin Armstrong has served as Chief Engineer at WEIU-TV for the past eight years. He may be contacted

For additional information, contact Grass Valley at 800-547-8947 or