WMSN-TV is the Fox affiliate in Madison, Wis. Traditionally, Fox has less network time than the other major networks. This means we have more time to fill with syndicated programming, which in-turn requires taping more satellite feeds.
During most of our broadcast day the master control operator is responsible for not only switching on-air programming and spots, but also for recording satellite feeds.
Master Control can get quite hectic at times. An operator can roll their break, move the satellite dish, setup framesync levels, set the deck record levels, place the deck in record and, as the break is finishing, roll the next program.
About five years ago, our 10-year-old Microtime S-230s began feeling their age and reliability began to suffer. The 230s had served us well and in fact were still well supported by WRM Video. But reliability, age and maintenance costs persuaded us to look for new framesync units.
Assistant Chief Engineer Jamie Nelson and I looked through various trade magazine advertisements and equipment reviews. Framesync technology had obviously advanced and there were several manufacturers whose specifications looked great.
OLD FASHIONED KNOBS
Technical advances allowed various parameters to be controlled via a single knob and a menu. We were looking for something with good old-fashioned dedicated knobs – something an operator could walk up to and quickly locate video, chroma, hue and sync, and adjust without going through a menu.
The Hotronic line of framesyncs caught our eye and the price reeled us in.
Our first AT-61 went into service as a utility framesync for receiving satellite feeds. We have never had a feed that caused the framesync to become unstable, and the 10-bit processing delivers a high quality analog composite picture.
The AT-61 only takes up a single rack unit of real estate and requires video in, video out and reference. System timing controls are screwdriver accessible on the front panel, allowing for convenient timing.
We purchased our first unit with the audio delay timing option as a fudge factor, not knowing exactly what the delay through the unit would be. The delay is insignificant and we don’t use the audio delay function. But if we ever have a wild feed with lip-sync out of whack, we’re ready to give it a try.
STABLE AND RELIABLE
The framesyncs have worked flawlessly right out of the box and have been very stable and reliable. The only minor problem we had was a cooling fan dying. Hotronic had the fan in stock and sent a replacement quickly.
My sole complaint with the design is the video control pots have a center detent, which causes the pot to slip back into center detent if you are too close to either side of the center setting. I would prefer a continuous control pot that would allow control over the full range of the pot or a preset pot that you would pull out for variable control.
We have since replaced our other framesyncs with AT-61s and dedicated another to our Fox network feed. Hotronic also has a remote control option, which we have on two of our units. The company is also willing to upgrade our units to accommodate SDI outputs in the future.
If we had to do it all over again, we would still choose the Hotronic AT-61.
For more information, contact Hotronic (408-378-3883, www.hotronics.com)