Applied Technology: BTSI's renovation of KTYO-TV

Many stations, large and small, offer resistance to change based on incorrect assumptions.
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BTSI’s renovation of KTYO-TV

By Peter Douglas


Prior to the re-build, KTYO was a manual operation using ¾” tape machines. The challenge was to completely empty the existing MC and rebuild, while keeping the station outage time to a minimum.

Many stations, large and small, offer resistance to change based on incorrect assumptions. In smaller stations this is often brought on by the idea that if the larger stations are doing something technology-wise, it must be too expensive for the small station to afford. This belief makes small stations less likely to seek to use digital solutions for automation and multichannel operations, but these stations may be able to afford these solutions after all.

This fall, Broadcast Technical Services and Burst Communications worked together to complete renovation of KTYO-TV in El Paso, TX. This is a Telemundo affiliate owned by Council Tree Communications. Prior to the rebuild, the station was a manual operation using ¾” tape machines. The salvage pile required to keep these machines going was a sight to behold. The most modern piece of equipment was a four-year-old server system used for net delay that took up almost a full rack. The requirements for the station’s new system included file server commercial playback, two-channel operations, automation, modern digital tape format and an SDI-based system. Their budget was less than $350,000. Sound impossible? Not so!

The station is located on the fringe of the El Paso Airport in an industrial area. Like many stations, it had grown in a hodgepodge manner over the years. Master control consisted of a room 21 feet by 11 feet with a dropped ceiling and four 20A AC circuits.

The challenge was to completely empty the existing MC and rebuild, while keeping the station outage time to a minimum.

The decision was made to move the existing equipment and racks to a temporary location in the adjacent studio for the duration of the work. Two six-hour sign-off periods were requested and granted. Prior to these, the station engineer had arranged for power to be provided in the temporary location and, as soon as the old room was emptied, for 14 20A circuits and a new distribution panel to be installed.

At midnight on Nov. 28, the station signed off the air and the team began moving gear. The primary reason for the sign-off was the fact that the net delay, STL/fiber transmitter and transmitter remote needed to be moved. Complicating the sign-off was the weather. Cold weather had moved in and we were reluctant to leave the liquid-cooled transmitter off the air for too long, since it was not protected against freezing. The STL was quickly moved and a bar generator hooked up to it so that the transmitter could be put on air as soon as the control computer was moved. The transmitter was up in less than an hour. All went well with the move and the station went back on the air at 6 a.m. the following morning.


The requirements for the station’s new system included file server commercial playback, two-channel operations, automation, modern digital tape format and an SDI-based system. Using a router for primary operations allows stations to rebuild for less.

The next day the old room was cleaned out and racks and equipment were moved into the MC. The video cables had been pre-cut and assembled using CAD information, and the entire router/patch harness was re-wired. Audio was pre-cut and connectorized using multipair cable.

The system consisted of a router-based MC utilizing SDI and analog audio. The router is used for on-air switching as well as dubs and other station operations. Downstream SDI keyers were installed for mixing and fading keys and bugs.

A two-channel server was installed for commercial playback. Tape consisted of three DVCPRO machines and two BetaSP decks for legacy playback.

Two output channels were provided for to allow separate feeding of an additional channel covering a separate license area. Simultaneous operation is accomplished either manually or via the automation system. Full patching, as well as redundant power supplies, converters and console systems were installed to ensure reliability and operability.

The system is contained in 10 racks with a six-rack counter top and was installed and put on the air in just under two weeks. The final price was $318,000 for the full installation including training. This is the third system of this type BTSI has designed and installed for Council Tree. The message here is that even small stations can afford to rebuild and modernize their master control operations.

Broadcast Technical Services has been designing routers for use in primary operations since 1994, when it put a multichannel SDI-based system on the air for Encore Media. Using routers for primary operations can be a reliable and cost-effective solution for smaller stations.

Peter Douglas is the president of Broadcast Technical Services.

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