WFMZ Revamps Ops With Grass GeckoFlex

We wanted to be able to manage our signal flows more efficiently, and the GeckoFlex platform has been really great in this respect.
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Jeff Kuhns
ALLENTOWN, PA.
After nearly 30 years of analog operations, WFMZ-TV began local HD broadcasts in 2008 with Grass studio and switching gear. Much of our internal plant continues to operate in SD and analog video/audio. We still receive some analog satellite feeds too, so signal conversion is still a very important element here.

As with many operations these days, budgets are tight, and when additional conversion gear was purchased, we wanted to be sure what we got was reliable and wouldn't need to be replaced later on. Our research led us to Grass Valley's GeckoFlex frames and signal processing conversion cards.

MANY CONVERSIONS NEEDED

We wanted to be able to manage our signal flows more efficiently, and the GeckoFlex platform has been really great in this respect.

Along with our HD news content that we rebroadcast on our SD channels, we also must downconvert news stories and footage to analog video and audio for distribution to other news outlets. In addition, there's always some material that comes in as 1080i, which must be converted to 720p. And we also need to do convert video for the Web. On top of that, we still have analog or SD signals that have to be converted before they go through the switcher.

That's a lot of formats to handle, and that's the main reason we went with Grass Valley's GeckoFlex modular conversion platform.

Another of the GeckoFlex attractions is being able to load up the frame with a variety of different modules, which can all be remotely monitored and adjusted with the Grass Valley's NetConfig application.

When you take an HD video signal and need to either embed or dissemble analog audio, NetConfig allows you to monitor performance along the way. And if something goes wrong, it can lead you right to the problem within minutes. We run multiple virtual network LANs here at the station and have set aside one of those networks to be "video only." The engineering team can monitor every card from any station computer on our network, or outside our facility via remote access.

The modular architecture of the GeckoFlex system is also great in another respect too.

Like almost everyone else these days, we regularly re-evaluate our signal requirements. With the GeckoFlex frame, we don't have to worry about expensive upgrades to accommodate these new requirements and the signals that go with them. It's just a matter of plugging in some new cards.

We now plan to take our second control room from its current analog format and completely rebuild it for high definition as well. We're also planning to integrate multiviewer systems into our master control suite, current HD control room and eventually into our rebuilt second control room. We're sure that Grass Valley's GeckoFlex will play a big role in these efforts too.

Since we installed the system, we've only had minor technical issues, and these have been quickly resolved via telephone phone or by e-mail. The customer service we've received has been nothing short of stellar.

Jeff Kuhns is a broadcast engineer at WFMZ-TV. He may be contacted at jkuhns@wfmz.com.

For additional information, contact Grass Valley at 800-547-8949 or visit www.grassvalley.com.