Systems Design Showcase: KVEA-TV/KWHY-TV: updated news operations

KVEA-TV, Channel 52, is part of the Telemundo Television Network and has been on the air in Los Angeles since 1985. Los Angeles is a fiercely competitive market — the largest Spanish-speaking television market in the United States. KVEA-TV competes with a dozen or more stations, including all of the major network O&Os and some independents, as well as other Hispanic stations. To improve its position in the market, KVEA decided to go from two half-hour daily newscasts per week to 17 hours of news coverage per week.

KVEA-TV was a small UHF station that had evolved over its 17 years of operation without any long-term planning. The station utilized a mix of old broadcast and consumer equipment to bring programming to air. Add-on fixes and operational patches had become unwieldy to operate and maintain. It became necessary to consider a rebuild of the entire facility in order to maintain an appealing look and feel for KVEA-TV’s programming. The expansion of its news presence was within the station’s technical abilities, and KVEA-TV was on the air with the expanded news format by Jan. 15.

Design considerations

In a little over a year, KVEA-TV has gone from an NTSC facility that was last updated about 10 to 12 years ago, to a modern state-of-the-art digital facility that not only houses KVEA-TV, but its newly acquired sister station, KWHY-TV. KVEA-TV remained on the air throughout the entire rebuild.

Nearly every area of the station had to be addressed: master control, production, editing and ENG. There was virtually no documentation and minimal spare equipment. There was no redundancy in the critical path to air, so any failure put the station in danger of going off the air. The STL up to Mt. Wilson was a 15-year-old system that wasn’t up to the standard of performance needed for digital.

Another 40 percent of building A was remodeled to accommodate office space, a maintenance shop, a new equipment room, master control and an “edit bullpen” housing Grass Valley Group’s Vibrint editors and GVG Profile XP ingest, edit and playback servers. The remaining portion of the building, including the old master control, equipment room and stage, remained in service until the new master control was completed.

KVEA-TV started to build the new equipment room and master control room in April, using the old control room until the end of July, and went online at the end of August. KVEA-TV then moved all production, including the news and sports set and the robotic cameras, to the unused stage in building B to allow the old master control, equipment room and stage area to be remodeled.

A 30 kW emergency generator covered only the critical path to air, so if the station lost commercial power, only master control and the tape room were still up and running. The rest of the facility went dark until power was restored. With California’s energy problems, for all practical purposes, the station didn’t have backup power. To eliminate this trap, KVEA-TV chose a Caterpillar 500 kWH generator with the Cat UPS package, which uses flywheel technology and is capable of sustaining 300 kWH for 60 seconds after a power interruption.

As the remodeling project progressed, the technical facilities, such as master control, the tape room, equipment room, edit stations, computer room and networks, assignment desk, and phone system, were backed up with emergency power.

The transmitter didn’t have backup power either, so the station purchased a used 300 kWH Detroit generator and installed it at the transmitter site.

To accommodate the planned digital infrastructure, the BTS router and master control switcher had to be replaced. The master control operation used older JPEG Profiles and didn’t have machine control so the air log was transferred to a pair of Leitch servers for commercial playback. They replaced the master control switcher with a Grass Valley Group MC2100 SDI switcher that has squeezeback. The BTS router was replaced with a GVG 7500 SDI series wideband router (128x128). It was populated 96x64 and will be expanded to its full 128x128 in 2002.

A Clear-Com system was purchased and installed to improve production communications. KVEA-TV’s tape format was a mix of Beta SP and SX. News stories were put together in one of five cuts-only cubicles with control panel editing. One Sony ES7 nonlinear system was added to handle news specials.

In addition to expanding news coverage, it was decided to improve the on-air look with linear keys and other effects. As an interim measure, KVEA-TV rented a GVG 250 to work with the station’s old workhorse GVG 1600 switcher, which was fed by a Spencer still store and a Chyron Winfinite CG.

Two Shook ENG microwave vans were in use with one ENG microwave receive point located on Mt. Wilson at the transmitter site and a TSL to get the signal back to the studio.

KVEA-TV added three complete ENG field packages to enable better news gathering in the field, including a Sony SX camera and lens, RF microphones, Sony SX laptop editors, a light kit, and the necessary batteries and tripods.

The station also added ENG receive sites on Santiago Peak to the south and Oat Mountain to the northwest. To increase its field capabilities, the station ordered two additional Ford Explorers for ENG, supplemented its existing Ford Explorers with portable 2 GHz microwave transmitters and purchased an ENG Corp. news gathering van with 2 GHz and 6 GHz microwave systems. KVEA-TV is licensed on 6 GHz, and shares a 2 GHz channel with another Los Angeles television station, KCOP-TV. The additions gave them a total of nine ENG field units, three with microwave and laptop editing.

Audio mixers and waveform monitors were added to the existing edit rooms in the studio. Two Collage graphic workstations from Pixel Power were installed to enhance production graphics.

To get the studio news operation up and running, four Sony studio cameras were purchased — three 950s and one 750, all with Vinten 2000 robotic pedestals. They were in operation by January 2001. The station also added a Leitch Logomation, GPS receiver time of day and time code distribution system.

As things were well underway with the upgrades at KVEA-TV, Telemundo announced in March 2001 the purchase of Los Angeles station KWHY-TV, Channel 22. Both operations had to be consolidated in the KVEA-TV plant in Glendale, CA, in time for the beginning of the fall schedule.

Teklogic Systems, a local integrator, was hired to help the station move forward with the plant upgrade and co-location issues in a timely fashion while addressing the day-to-day needs of the station. Preliminary work began, and the stations were on their way toward a dual operation.

A quick inventory of KWHY-TV’s equipment in Hollywood determined that they would bring over their M Cast automation system, their Pinnacle server and NVision router, the DTV system fed from the Pinnacle server and four Vibrint nonlinear editors. The team decided to co-locate the two master controls in the same room, as mirror images of each other. This necessitated the purchase of an additional GVG MC2100 switcher with squeezeback. The two stations also now share a common ingest workstation where commercials are transferred to both the Leitch and Pinnacle video servers.

Teklogic Systems designed, documented and installed the KWHY-TV gear for master control and the news edit systems — Vibrint nonlinear edit with Profile XP video servers for acquisition and play to air. KWHY-TV also moved its news set to stage B, where both news broadcasts are done with robotic cameras through the temporary production truck. This will go on until the new control room and stage in building A are finished.

Richard Lahti is director of engineering for KVEA-TV/KWHY-TV, Los Angeles.

Design team


John Joannou, project management and systems design

Debra Vos-Reyna, operations director

Nicole Tafralian, project documentation manager and systems design

Esteban Ortega, systems design

Paul Dietrich, implementation manager


Brian Edwards, project engineer

Equipment list

GVG MC2100 SDI switcher

GVG 7500 SDI series wideband router (128x128)

Caterpillar 500 kWH generator

Cat UPS package

Sony ES7 nonlinear editor

Pixel Power Collage

Sony 950 and 750 studio cameras

Vinten 2000 robotic pedestals

Leitch Logomation

GVG Profile XP video servers

Vibrint nonlinear editors