Snell Morpheus Provides Increased Efficiency at KBTC-TV

Darin Gerchak (L), KBTC’s director of engineering and Steve Newsom, the station’s chief engineer.
TACOMA, WASH.—KBTC-TV is a public broadcaster that serves viewers in western Washington state. As part of our station's 2006 conversion to digital operations, we took the opportunity to implement a new automation system to support playout of our four SD channels and one HD channel. We had a serviceable automation system then, but it suffered from a distinct lack of "forward movement." In light of this, we decided to look into more modern and progressive technology that would evolve along with the industry.

Our search led us to Snell's Morpheus automation system, and at the same time, we made the decision to invest in other Snell systems including a Masterpiece HD master control system and a Sirius router that supports both SD and HD channels.

Snell provided all of these systems as a complete turnkey package, giving us the benefit of single vendor tech support that has proved to be phenomenal. We've recognized the significant efficiencies and cost-savings associated with our Morpheus-based workflow, and five years later, we've completed a complete facility rebuild using updated hardware and software for these very same systems.

While Snell's Morpheus is very intuitive and its operation shares many similarities with other leading systems, Morpheus' architecture is considerably different. This difference has allowed our engineering staff to define some different workflows that, in our experience, are simply more reliable. And the relative familiarity of our staff with the system's user interface meant that the switch to Morpheus wasn't an overwhelming transition.

Among the key benefits afforded by the Morpheus automation system is tight integration with our other Snell master control and routing systems. This allows us to run separate automation and master control technologies while making full use of the communication between the systems to facilitate remote system access, monitoring, and control—all of which are essential to running an unattended master control as we typically do. The resulting workflow has also enabled us to transition to a very lean on-site staff. And in the unlikely event that a problem should arise, we can access everything from home.


The automation system runs in conjunction with a third-party playout server and archive system. Another key Morpheus benefit is that it can manage both the air server and archive system—moving content between the two—without the need for additional hardware. We estimate that this alone has saved us upwards of $70,000. Add this to the personnel hours saved, and we're doing well in meeting our obligation as a public broadcaster to invest responsibly in technology.

Since we launched our Morpheus automation system, we've provided our viewers with a very reliable high quality signal. In addition to saving money through our unique technology integration and workflow, we're seeing increases in membership and pledges as a result of our quality product and delivery. We strive to make our broadcasts as flawless as can be, and in this respect, Morpheus has been a big help. We've achieved greater consistency with fewer people—doing a whole lot more with a whole lot less—and that's the name of the game for any broadcaster today, PBS station or not.

Darin Gerchak is director of engineering at KBTC-TV, a Tacoma-based public television station. He may be contacted at

For additional information, contact Snell at 818-556-2616 or visit