The Slate 1000

Idaho Public Television broadcasts “Legislative Live” using Broadcast Pix’s production switchers.
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Starting with the Jan. 8, 2007, premiere of “Legislative Live,” Idaho residents could view state Senate and House proceedings on two of Idaho Public Television's OTA DTV channels, as well as on digital cable channels and by accessing streaming media via Internet or cell phones.

Idaho Public Television, a PBS member station serving the entire state, offers the coverage as a public service. To make “Legislative Live” available to anyone, anywhere at anytime, Idaho Public Television used a $350,000 appropriation by the Idaho Legislature in 2006 to buy broadcast equipment for the project. The purchase included two Broadcast Pix Slate 1000 digital production switchers.

Integrated functionality

These two switchers share an identical configuration and operational workflow. They reside side-by-side within a 15ft × 9ft production control room in the basement of the capitol building.

The space constraints required the station to select a small-sized production switcher with all the functionality, quality and reliability afforded by high-end production systems. The two Slate 1000s met all of those requirements.

The switchers are part of a family of products that includes the Slate 100 and Slate 2100. All three models reside on a single Windows XP PC and offer the same functionality found in a television production control room, including a CG, effects, still and clip store, and the digital production switcher itself.

Streamlined monitoring

Two Viewsonic 17in LCD monitors display all the camera and source signals. This dual monitor configuration helps keep size requirements down. Each of production switchers also has an Ikegami TM-9DRM2-1 dual 9in color QC monitor.

Dedicated control panel

Operators can make camera selections by pointing and clicking with the mouse or using a computer keyboard. The broadcaster, however, opted to employ the Broadcast Pix dedicated hard control panel. The control panel gives this Windows-based workstation the feel of a traditional production switcher.

The switchers' control panel offers immediate access to everything the operator needs, including the DVE, CG, wipes, keyers, chroma keyers, still store and camera switching. The switchers are mounted on a Winsted desk. A Harris Videotek VTM-150 waveform and vectorscope with SDI inputs is used for quality control.

Camera signals

Both production switchers are similarly configured to accept three SDI wide-screen inputs from three Panasonic AW-E860A 2/3in 3-CCD SD cameras. The House and Senate each have three cameras equipped with Fujinon A20×8.6BMD 20X professional motor drive zoom lenses and Panasonic AW-PH36ON indoor pan-and-tilt systems. While there was some concern that the motorized pan-and-tilt systems would be disruptive within the chambers, they have been extremely quiet.

The system is also equipped with a GigE network card, but the engineers decided not to connect the production switchers to the outside world for fear of introducing an Internet virus.

Still and clip store

The switchers have an integrated still store, configurable for up to four hours of clips playback. This installation opted for two hours of storage. A longer storage capacity was needed, so the control rooms have a 360 Systems Image Server 2000B-120 video server with more than 40 hours of storage capacity.

CG, graphics and effects

The internal graphics system is a Harris Inscriber CG. The speakers' names can be recalled from memory using preprogrammed hot keys on the switchers' Pix pad.

Production graphics, using different color templates for the House and Senate, provide on-screen text. A CD-ROM drive uploads the graphics files. The production switchers' easy workflow allows one person to switch the cameras, while calling up the right slates to identify each person and activity, all while working the DDR and other gear in the room.

Audio signal processing

The audio from the in-chamber audio mixers is muxed and embedded within the switchers' SDI outputs downstream. The two audio feeds (one for each chamber) are then fed into two Adtec edje 2000 MPEG-2 IP streaming encoders with MPEG audio, which converts the embedded SDI signals into an IP-based signal for backhaul to the station at 3.5Mb/s over a dedicated Ethernet VLAN.

Back at the station, a decoder turns the IP-based signals into SDI with embedded audio. The signals not demuxed because the entire facility is already SDI throughout. From there, the signals are sent to the five statewide transmitters as an SD subchannel.

Multiple broadcast outlets

Anyone with an Internet connection can view the same live broadcasts of the House or Senate proceedings by accessing streaming media, playing at either 56K or 200K broadband, at

AT&T Edge customers can access the same Web-based streaming media from any Windows Media 5.0-compliant mobile device.

Dependable operation

“Legislative Live” started providing live coverage of the legislative session in early January and ran through the end of March 2007. However, beginning April 1, the Idaho state capitol building is undergoing extensive renovations and repairs through 2009.

The temporary move will eliminate any public seating in the chambers. This means Iowa's PTV network will become the state's primary public access to the legislature's work. The Broadcast Pix Slate 1000s are destined to a long workout, but they are clearly up to the task.

Ken Swanton is president of Broadcast Pix.