KVAL automates with MicroFirst

As its old server neared retirement age, KVAL chose MicroFirst's Digital Automation system to provide increased functionality.

KVAL-TV phased in centralized programming with its first Media Pool multichannel video server in 1995. By 2000, it was feeding five zones covering most of western Oregon from one control room. All station breaks are fed from the central location's video server, as are hourly five-minute news cut-ins on a cable news channel and a time-shift with different commercial content for the evening news on a different channel.

As its old server neared retirement age, the station considered modern automation solutions.

With a high volume of daily local spots and live programming and a commitment to serving advertisers promptly with last-minute traffic changes, the station opted to remain a mostly hands-on operation, and automate only those areas where there was a significant advantage.

KVAL approached MicroFirst for operator-assist functions for a new Omneon server. The station needed to be able to start playing each server source instantly from independent GPIs, as well as re-cue from GPI in case of a false start. Other needs included end-of-station-break GPI outputs, the ability to place comment text in a playlist, and an automatic refresh of durations and titles if clips were replaced.

Because the manual control room “take” switch is the break cue (with no preroll), there was concern about avoiding dead air while waiting for the server to respond. Automation usually starts events at the top of the second; however, the station wanted to start immediately from the cue and have tight back-to-back play. The MicroFirst system offers an immediate start feature to keep the station looking clean on air, even through tight network breaks and cut-ins.

Several of MicroFirst's features helped to improve workflow, especially the ability to switch directly between current air schedules and plain text files, and the ability to filter imported schedules to a specific time. When coping with a late-running event, it's easy to delete individual spots, drag and drop individual commercials or entire breaks for make-goods, and skip forward in the schedule to any point. The interface can display four schedules tiled vertically. In edit mode, an edit panel occupies the lower part of the screen. The user interface was easy to learn because of its Windows-like drag-and-drop functionality.

The MicroFirst Media Editor program displays the server's database with faster and easier to use sort-and-filter options than the station's old system. The station also can export the database to a text file to share on the intranet with remote traffic and sales departments. It takes only a few clicks to copy a clip, and users can easily trim clips by clicking “trim clip” to load a clip in the dub/trim window. Also, with multiple stations and departments responsible for managing server inventory, building, importing and executing a single daily clip deletion list saves the staff from mind-numbing and error-prone one-at-a-time deletions.

After dealing with huge numbers of playlist changes during the 2000 election season, the station knew it had to streamline that process. The operator now simply uses the time-filter function to import changes directly into the on-air schedule. This lets the staff respond to advertiser's needs with error-free control.

Initially KVAL was not concerned with the ability to automate a recording schedule, but with about 2500 spots in active inventory, it would have taken an operator working full time a month to record them all to the new server manually. MicroFirst recommended using a recording schedule with GPI control to roll a matching playlist on the old server. Transferring the entire inventory took about 20 hours.

Steve Nordby is software projects coordinator for KVAL-TV.