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San Jose's NBC11 and Telemundo 48 go all-digital

NBC11 anchors T.J. Holmes and Sandy Casteblanco deliver the 5 p.m. newscast from the new set. Each studio is equipped with Sony BVP900 cameras and Vinten robotic systems. Bottom left: KNTV control room circa 1961.

With the flip of a switch on Jan. 1, 2002, San Jose-based KNTV went from a small independent station serving the Salinas-Monterey market to NBC11, the NBC network affiliate in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Digital from lens to living room

The station's facility, built in 1955 by the Sun-Lite Bakery, was far too small to handle the demands of a large-market television station. The building could not accommodate the larger staff, and the technical infrastructure was strained by the production of five hours of news each week-day. KNTV required a more capable control room, studio facilities to support robotic cameras and a technical plant that would perform to today's digital standards. The station needed the ability to handle the large number of live microwave, satellite and helicopter feeds that an area as large and geographically diverse as the Bay Area required.

Because NBC owns both KNTV and Telemundo sister station KSTS (T48), the new broadcast center needed to accommodate the operations of both stations while providing employees with an enjoyable, efficient and secure work environment.

The stations' new broadcast center totals 81,000sq ft, about twice as large as the stations' previous spaces combined. Through the new equipment that was installed, the new facility preserves the pure digital quality of the studio and field images.

From the moment an image enters the camera lens, the picture is in a digital environment. The facility has three studios — a news studio for KSTS, a news studio for KNTV and a production studio for commercial production and local programming. Each studio is equipped with Sony BVP900 cameras and Vinten robotic systems.

In the KNTV control room, the stations’ iNews newsroom computer system drives a Deko MOS interface so CG and graphic insertion can be controlled straight from the desktop.

In the field, news crews shoot on Sony Betacam SX. Local production and promotion uses Sony Digital Betacam field production. Live trucks are equipped with Beta SX field editing. The 13 ENG and two SNG trucks are in the process of being equipped with COFDM transmitters.

The new nearly tapeless facility uses a Thomson routing switcher with an Encore control system (digital routing), media file server systems, and nonlinear video editing systems to produce news and local programs in a digital environment, resulting in the highest video and sound quality.

The stations use Thomson's Grass Valley News Edit systems for news editing. For promotion, commercial and local program production, the stations use Avid Symphonys, Adrenalines and ProTools, which are tied to an Avid Unity server. All Avid and Pro Tools systems are based on Windows NT or XP operating systems. Telestream's Flip Factory performs file conversions between the GV news servers and Unity server. When the production and promotion team finally archives to tape, they use Sony IMX decks.

The new media server and patch panel provide the facility with 300 hours of news video with redundant backup.

In the control room, the stations' iNews newsroom computer system drives a Deko MOS interface so character generation and graphic insertion can be controlled straight from the desktop. Graphics are created on Pinnacle Deko-FX systems. Audio is mixed using Calrec Sigma consoles, and Sony 8000 switchers tie everything together.

Virtual newsroom

Communications throughout the plant are handled by a Telex Adam Intercom IFB system supplemented by HME wireless microphones, PL and IFB.

Because the San Francisco Bay Area is so spread out, both stations have a news bureau and sales office in San Francisco and another news bureau in Oakland. Fiber-optic networks connect NBC11 and T48's San Francisco news bureau with their San Jose newsroom. This, combined with the Avid iNews system and GVG NewsEdit media file server integration, allows reporters and editors separated by more than 50mi to work with video and audio as though side by side.

NBC11's new tower

NBC11 and T48 are also employing VoIP systems between San Francisco, the new building in San Jose and NBC headquarters in New York. Even building management is high-tech, with systems controlling all lighting, heating, cooling and security systems.

The facility has three studios, each of which is equipped with Sony BVP900 cameras and Vinten robotic systems.

Because KNTV was built to serve the Monterrey/Salinas market to the south of San Jose, the station's transmitter is located on a mountaintop at the extreme southern end of the San Jose area. Though most Bay Area viewers watch the station over cable or satellite (more than 90 percent of the market's homes subscribe to one service or the other), there are several thousand viewers in the northern and eastern portions of the market who cannot receive KNTV's over-the-air signal. This problem will be remedied later in 2005, when NBC11 relocates its analog and digital transmitter to San Bruno Mountain, located just south of the San Francisco city limits. The San Bruno location will allow a dramatically better signal to reach about 400,000 additional viewers throughout the Bay Area while still delivering a strong signal to San Jose.

The location will house two Thales solid-state transmitters to deliver NBC11's digital and analog transmission signals. The analog transmitter/antenna combination will operate at an estimated 316kW, while the digital transmitter, broadcasting on digital 12, will deliver 101.3kW. Microwave Radio Digital STLs will tie the new studio to the San Bruno site, further preserving the digital quality of the stations' signal paths.

KSTS will maintain its transmitter location on Mt. Allison in the hills to the east of the San Francisco Bay.

KNTV began as a small television station serving the largely rural communities of Monterrey, Salinas and San Jose, and it has grown to provide news to one of the country's biggest television markets.

Richard Swank is the vice president of engineering for NBC11/KNTV.

Equipment List:

Unity shared-media environment
iNews newsroom computer system
Symphony finishing system
Adrenaline editing system
Pro Tools post-production system

Calrec Sigma audio consoles

Pinnacle Deko-FX systems

BVP900 cameras
8000 production switchers

Telex Adam Intercom IFB system

Thomson Grass Valley:
MAN news system
News Browse
Profile playback
NewsEdit editing
Routing switcher with Encore control system Vinten robotic system

Design Team:

Linda Sullivan, president and general mgr., KNTV
Eddie Dominguez, vp and general mgr., KSTS
Buddy Young, sr. project mgr., NBC Universal
Paul Russell, dir. of tech., NBC Television Stations Division

Architects/general contractor:
Gensler, architect/design firm
Turner Construction, general contractor

System integrator:
AF Associates