Systems Design Showcase: KTVU-TV's and KICU-TV's dual-station master control center

KTVU-TV's and KICU-TV's dual-station master control center

By Dwight Crumb

Digital System Technology (DST) recently integrated a new master control into one Cox Broadcasting-owned station to form a dual-station master control center. KICU-TV, an independent station previously operating in its own San Jose, CA, facility, was relocated to the KTVU-TV facility in Oakland, CA. As of Jan. 1, 2002, the two stations now operate under one roof on a 24-hour dual-station operation schedule.

The main control area of the new dual master control center at KTVU/KICU is a “supervisor console” located in the back of the room. The Sony HDTV monitor wall features Evertz custom quad splits for 960i signals. A full-size Grass Valley M2100 control panel allows one person to monitor and control both stations during less active time periods. Photo courtesy DST.

The driving force behind the move was to maximize efficiency in local operations for Cox Broadcasting. Following the acquisition of KICU, it was determined that its cost of operations in San Jose no longer justified its existence as a stand-alone station. With all of its commercials loaded onto a server, most of its programming did not require much attention. Loading tapes for programming was the brunt of its operation, and these tasks could be easily performed through a dual-station master control. Relocating KICU’s operations to the KTVU facility has resulted in considerable savings in labor costs.

Integrating master control for both stations creates two additional benefits. One, the facility is designed so that one person can control operations of both stations most of the time. KTVU and KICU can be easily split into two operations during peak hours, when operators are required for both stations.

Ken Manley, director of engineering at KTVU, contacted DST in September 2001 to discuss initial plans of merging the stations and possibly including several more in the future. This requirement involved making room for multiple program streams out of the master control room to accommodate multicasting and centralcasting scenarios.

DST began the project in October 2001, with a Dec. 31, 2001, target date for completion. Due to the timeline, on-site preparations were handled by KTVU. The station team determined where the expanded master control center would be located and moved an edit suite to make room. The two parties considered a number of layout options before coming to a final decision.

DST selected and specified the equipment in a joint effort with KTVU. The result was an equipment package that meets the needs of the expanded facility and functions well with existing equipment.

Master control center

Three Grass Valley M2100 switchers serve as the heart of the dual master control center. The facility was designed as an N+1, which translates to the number of stations within the facility plus one backup for full redundancy. This design is more cost efficient: Four switchers would be required for full redundancy in separate facilities. Since both stations now share the same backup switcher, the cost of backup equipment is cut in half.

The switcher system features mini-control panels installed along a secondary “live event” operational console. The main control area, located at a supervisor console in the back of the room, features a full-size control panel. This workstation allows one person to monitor and control both stations during less active time periods.

Figure 1. Operators at any of the control panels can control any of the M2100 switchers. The signals generated are fed via a Leitch 16x16 switcher into the on-air paths. All frame outputs are available for each final output path.

The stations are equipped with Louth automation, the capacity of which was nearly doubled with the addition of KICU. In the event of an automation equipment failure, the operation can be run in complete manual mode. The switching system enables the control of any of the three switching frames via any one of the three control panels, allowing any switcher to be assigned where the operator wishes (see Figure 1).

When an operator elects to use a different switcher, the automation list remains intact. KTVU developed a unique approach where all sources are available to each of the three switchers. Once operations switch to the backup, primary sources are immediately available and only a simple re-route of the secondary signals is required. The system controls each switcher in the same way, eliminating the need for extensive reprogramming of the automation system.

For further backup of on-air operations, a Leitch 16x16 switcher is situated at the point of final output. The signals generated from the M2100s are fed via the Leitch switcher into the on-air paths.

Four different versions of each program stream were designed so the stations can feed the most suitable version of their programs to six satellite and cable companies, as well as to their NTSC and DTV transmitters.

A Leitch Panel Mapper system displays sources and destinations in a matrix. In addition, in the unlikely event that all three M2100s fail simultaneously, sources can be routed directly to the Leitch switcher and put on the air for uninterrupted programming.

Monitor wall

The monitor layout of the master control center is the visual cornerstone of the room. The stations use high-quality, 1080i HDTV-ready consumer televisions for the monitor wall and feed them with Evertz Quattro units to generate native high-definition quad split displays. A total of 12, 32-inch flat monitors were installed, giving the monitor wall the look of a flat wall of glass. This layout provides the master control with a futuristic look, especially in comparison to the rows of equipment racks that traditionally encase monitors in master control rooms.

However, this unique setup proved to be challenging. The monitors, though advertised as 1080i, appear to be 960i models (480p doubled). This means that when a true 1080i signal is fed into the monitor, it is displayed in the 960i format, cutting off the top and bottom 60 lines of the image. In the end, 12 percent of the image is lost. When this issue was discovered, the monitors’ top and bottom blanking were adjusted to minimize the problem.

The Quattro system was initially designed to take in four SDI signals with embedded audio and provide one 1080i output. However, as the monitors seemed to be 960i, the system did not function properly. To solve this problem, Evertz wrote custom 960i software for the monitors.

The software is a vital aspect of the master control center. It takes in the SDI signal and provides quad splits in high resolution, with audio leveling and error checking. It also monitors numerous automated source parameters, which will alert the operator of a particular problem in any signal path. With a normal quad split device, the displays are one quarter of their normal resolution.

However, because the monitors and the software produce high resolution, the quad splits retain their original standard resolution on the monitors. In addition, the inputs of the quad split generators are 601 formatted and then converted into 960i for the monitors.

Tape floor

Outside of master control, there were also changes in both the tape floor island and the “cold room.” The tape floor was one of the biggest challenges, as integration work was taking place in the middle of the day. Operators were preparing broadcast materials while DST was building the appropriate media ingest stations. Four ingest stations consisting of Digital Beta machines, analog Beta machines, one-inch machines and terminals for the servers were installed in the existing space.

The cold room houses the support terminal gear and electronics for the entire facility. KTVU already had a lot of Miranda gear, and they elected to stay within that product line when purchasing terminal gear.

All of the electronics for the M2100 frames, or “brains” of the switchers, also live in this room. The equipment is set up in three racks: System A (KTVU), System B (backup) and System C (KICU). All equipment in racks A and C is assigned to its specific station, and everything housed in the middle rack is used by the two other systems. The main digital SD and HD router is an existing ADC/Nvision system that was expanded to 64x48.

Another challenge was that satellite sources are evolving from analog to digital transmission. Sixteen analog satellite feeds are taken in, along with seven digital sources. To convert all 16 to digital and embed audio would be expensive, so DST employed a 16x8 analog pre-router feeding into eight Leitch DPS-475 frame synchronizers. Any eight analog feeds can be brought into the plant via the frame synchronizers. The DPS-475s handle audio embedding and provide an upgrade path for digital. As the satellite feeds become digital SDI signals, the frame synchronizers can be switched over to their digital inputs. All the while, the Louth automation system controls which of the 16 satellites are fed into the frame synchronizers, the master control switchers and the main ADC/Nvision router.

There is also a newly installed analog 12x1 switcher and Videotek VTM-200 at the supervisor’s console. In addition to performing high-definition monitoring throughout master control, operators have a means to monitor the NTSC signals being sent to the analog transmitters and cable companies.

The timeline of the project was a challenge for the stations as well as DST. Decisions were made mainly on-site, and there was little time to step back and look things over. This was truly a team effort between DST and KTVU, and a successful one at that.

Dwight Crumb is vice president of engineering for Digital System Technology.

Design teamEquipment list DST: Grass Valley Group M2100 switchers Lan Merrill, Lead Project Manager Dwight Crumb, design engineer Leitch RCP-16x16 routing system Garrick Huey, regional sales manager Leitch 16x8VA2 ingest router Bill Hodson, project manager/lead installer Leitch Panel Mapper system Simon Shepherd, project manager/installer Leitch DPS-475 frame synchronizers Andre Pappas, CAD engineer Evertz 7700PS quad split and signal monitoring Janet Crumb, project manager/CAD engineer Evertz 8085 CC translator Donna Gramlich, director of purchasing Videotek VTM-200 KTVU: RDL audio level controls Ken Manley, director of engineering Wohler MC satellite meters Jim Wagner, technical services supervisor Genelec 1029 APM and 1030 APM speakers Ken Dixon, Dan Calaway and George Craig, senior engineers Miranda Symphonie-PS redundant power supply Ed Cosci, director of technical operations Bittree patch cords

Do you have a comment about this article? To tell us your thoughts, click here.

Back to the top

Return to Broadcast Engineering