Snell Routes WDBJ Through Decade Of Technological Evolution

Alan Novitsky

ROANOKE, VA.—WDBJ, the CBS affiliate serving Virginia’s Roanoke/Lynchburg market, has always been ahead of the technology curve. In fact, we were one of the few stations that met the FCC’s May 1, 2002 deadline for digital facility construction by commercial stations. Throughout our digital transition and during the past decade, Snell routers have provided the nerve center for our operation.

Two of these routers (under the original Pro-Bel brand) were incorporated in the design of the new facility in 2002. One of these was a high-definition 16 x 16 matrix that we eventually upgraded to 32 x 32. As testimony to the durability of these routing systems, both legacy units continue to serve WDBJ in secondary roles. It’s gratifying to know that Snell still provides excellent support for these systems.

Today, our mainstream router is a Snell Sirius 830 configured for 144 x 144 operation handling all of our HD programming signals.


The station plans to bring all of our standard- definition signals into the Sirius 830 as part of our eventual move to all-HD. Next year, we’ll expand the Sirius to a 216 x 216 configuration to accommodate our current and future expansion.

The Sirius 830 router offers the reliability, redundancy, and ease of use that our operation needs. The system’s touchscreen interface gives us quick and easy access to a comprehensive range of status and diagnostics information, such as power supply and fan status, reference standards, and other system parameters. It also allows us to view the frame configuration at a glance, and this includes card presence and system status.

One feature we especially appreciate in connection with the switcher is Snell’s Catsii illuminated connector technology. The color-coded Catsii system illuminates the BNC connectors on the router’s rear panel in different colors according to the type of signal that’s connected and also tells us which signals are valid or not. All we have to do is select a specific input or output on the front-panel touchscreen, and the corresponding connector lights up on the rear panel. When you’re dealing with an entire backplane of connectors in a large router system, it’s easy to lose your place and be off by one row, or otherwise select the wrong connector. The Catsii system has removed the guesswork and errors from this task.

In addition to the Snell routers, both of our master control switchers are from Snell. We’re using an older TX420 model, as well as a Snell Masterpiece, and have found that their reliability and ease of use equals that of the routers.

Our partnership with Snell has served our operation well throughout many changes and a technology evolution. While it’s hard to predict the future of broadcasting, we’re certain Snell will always be there for us, providing the same high levels of product quality, innovation, and support as they’ve always done.

Alan Novitsky is director of engineering and IT for WDBJ Television in Roanoke, Va. He may be contacted

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