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WLVT Manages Playout With PlayBox Neo

WLVT Master Control Operator Carlin Canfield works on the station’s new PlayBox Neo platform. (Image credit: WLVT)

LEHIGH VALLEY, Pa.—At PBS39, Lehigh Valley Public Media, we broadcast five channels of programming: WLVT PBS, WLVT Create, France24, PBS39 Extra and WORLD Channel. PBS39’s primary service area includes much of eastern Pennsylvania and parts of western and southern New Jersey. Cable television carriers include Comcast, Service Electric, RCN, Blue Ridge Cable and others. WLVT-TV is also available over-the-air and throughout the region via DirecTV, Dish Network and Verizon FiOS.

With five separate broadcast channels—three that pass through our internal master control and two others managed by joint master control (JMCO)—a playout system we can count on 24/7 is clearly a must-have. Given the amount of live and pre-recorded content we create and deliver, we need rock-solid playout that is flexible, easy to use and affordable—all in one system.

This was made clear when our legacy automation system failed right after I started as a consultant at WLVT a few years ago. Based on my previous experience with PlayBox Neo equipment, I knew we could install one of their automation servers quickly and get it up and running in a day, which we did. We’ve been with PlayBox Neo ever since.

For WLVT, we need to add in live pledge drives with lower-thirds and insert live and pre-recorded local programming—all within our budget. We get that all in a simple-to-use system with a lot of options for the price from PlayBox Neo.

THIRD PHASE

As our programming output has expanded, so has our playout system. We’re now in our third phase of PlayBox Neo installations. The most recent install was due to a new channel launch for PBS39 Extra in March, which reruns some of our most popular shows from PBS39. We’ve assigned PBS39 Extra to our JMCO and brought our home and crafts channel, Create TV, to our in-house master control.

Create TV features original and pledge programming, which requires lower thirds and logos. We added our second dual-channel AirBox Neo server to our setup for content ingest, master playout and storage. We also added a TitleBox Neo character generator for fully interactive 4K UHD/HD/SD channel branding. With both, we can do file-based video playback, live pass-through streaming and graphic overlays. We’ve got the flexibility to play out local programming precisely when and how we want to do it.

In 2018 when our old clip player died, we replaced it with the ProductionAirBox Neo and also had that installed and working in a live show the same day. It’s used for playing clips back into our original productions that are shot in our studios.

The support we’ve received for such a mission-critical part of our operations has been stellar. Van Duke, director of U.S. operations for PlayBox Neo, has gone above and beyond for us. No matter the issue, he and his team have come through for us.

Currently, our full setup of PlayBox Neo equipment includes:

  • Two dual-channel AirBox Neo servers for master control 
  • One TitleBox Neo CG 
  • Four channels of CaptureBox Neo to control multiple ingest channels 
  • One ProductionAirBox Neo for multichannel live production clip playout 

While we use their server-based solutions, given the present state of remote production, we may look someday to the company’s Cloud2TV virtual channel playout system at some point. Cloud2TV’s SaaS lets you operate their playout channels from any location via a simple web interface.

After serving as a technical consultant to WLVT, Andrea Cummis started as the station’s chief technical officer in March of 2018. She is also the vice president of the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE), a role she’s held for the past year. She can be reached andreac@wlvt.org.

For more information, visit www.playboxneo.com.