Tightrope Improves Production Workflow at CTN

Bill Blood

PORTLAND, MAINE—Community Television Network provides programming for the Portland region and is carried on local cable systems. Part of our mission is to support, strengthen and enrich the community by giving citizens and institutions access to electronic communications media. Residents and nonprofit groups are invited to deliver community announcements and even produce content in-house with equipment training provided by our staff.

An operation such as ours with two programming streams requires a production workflow based around equipment that’s simple to use and operate. We’ve extended that workflow simplification beyond what the community uses to include our in-house operation. This helps our lean, but dedicated staff to produce and deliver high-quality, professional broadcasts with simplicity.

Tightrope Media Systems Cablecast servers and automation technology provide the core of our operation. These servers support file-based ingest, scheduling and playout for the two on-air channels (Television Ch. 2 in the city and Ch. 5 in outlying regions). They also accommodate video-on-demand content for our website. These servers also simplify our workflow via their native drag-and-drop file ingest and playout capabilities, eliminating time-intensive transcoding steps.

For Ch. 2 scheduling, Cablecast’s accessible programming interface script pulls data from all recently ingested content to program the upcoming week’s schedules. This automated feature eliminates manual scheduling requirements for that channel, while operators can separately use the Cablecast interface for the more complex scheduling requirements of Ch. 5. Prior to installing Tightrope, we required two separate systems to accommodate scheduling for both channels.

The Tightrope system delivers more than traditional server capabilities. One of the pluses is its video overlay feature which accommodates our channel branding needs internally without downstream keying hardware. This further reduces our equipment costs, which is something welcomed by most public access and community TV stations.

We typically use the video overlay feature for generating lower corner station bugs and text crawls to promote upcoming programs, such as our monthly evening call-in-show with the Portland mayor. We promo this event throughout the morning and afternoon via scheduled crawls at the bottom of the screen. Selectable fonts and crawl speed, as well as support for background and foreground images, allow our staff to customize these insertions.

An added bonus of the Cablecast system is its ability to incorporate new features via remote software upgrades. Our video overlay feature was added this way, along with a new management tool to allow staff to easily access the servers via the Internet. This lets us make scheduling changes from home, or perform such actions as switching to bulletin board feeds in the event of an after-hours technical problem.

Collectively, these enhancements streamline the workflow here at CTN, helping our small staff operate in a very productive manner across all technical phases. The system has been especially helpful in managing operations in light of budget-related staff cuts. Overall, the Tightrope server system saves us about 20 hours a week in labor—a noticeable advantage that is paying off week by week.

Bill Blood serves as CTN’s engineer and production manager. He may be contacted atwilliamhblood@yahoo.com.

For additional information, contact Tightrope Media Systems at 612-866- 4118 or visitwww.trms.com.