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WCBD-TV protects against severe storms

WCBD-TV Channel 2 was operating with equipment seriously in need of updating when its parent company Media General decided to build an entirely new facility for the station, directly adjacent to their old building and tower.


WCBD’s master control room provides a good example of the integrated automation and switching systems utilized throughout the new facility. These systems, including an M2100 switcher from Thomson Grass Valley, enable a relatively small staff to handle station operations. Photos courtesy PCS.

Although it was unlikely WCBD would ever originate HD programming, Media General did want the new station to be a fully SDI plant, capable of switching and pass-through of HD.

Weathering the storm

The region’s frequent and severe storms were a major factor in the design and construction of the new facility. When Hurricane Hugo swept through South Carolina in 1989, it destroyed the station’s newsroom and rendered its outdoor generator virtually useless. The new facility had to be able to withstand such severe storms and still remain on the air.

The new building’s first floor sits 13 feet above sea level. The broadcast studio, training room, reception area and remote camera storage are all located on this level, along with a covered garage for the station’s news vehicles and staff parking. If the studio is threatened by floodwaters, television cameras can be popped off their tripods and installed in a second-floor newsroom.


A Thomson Grass Valley four-M/E Kalypso switcher and new Pinnacle graphics equipment work together to help WCBD achieve a large-market look.

Master control, production control, edit suites, audio rooms, rack rooms, and the news, marketing and sales departments are all located on the second floor, at 24 feet above sea level, with technical gear including UPS and transmission racks another two feet higher. The station’s transmitter was installed at a separate location. If the station is cut off from outside power, it can switch to its 750kva generator, equipped with a 4000-gallon fuel tank.

Designing the facility

Professional Communications Systems (PCS) was chosen as the systems integrator, and set out to deliver a large-market station on a mid-market budget. They adopted engineering practices to utilize 100 percent of each piece of equipment, and took the operator’s perspective to design everything for efficient use by a minimal staff.

Most of the equipment can be operated at multiple points, and individual operator positions have access to most control panels for graphics, CG, automation and ingest. An Avocent KVM router allows control of any graphics or automation systems, the Miranda iControl, and numerous other systems from several designated locations. So, when a graphics operator is not on duty, the TD can control the graphics. During breaking news the MCR operator can control the graphics equipment. Use of the router also reduced the clutter at workstations responsible for the control of several pieces of equipment. System flow and equipment layout were designed around a core infrastructure that can be expanded with minimal cost and effort. To maximize control and monitoring compatibility and redundancy, different equipment platforms were kept to a minimum.


A main project goal was ensuring that the station would stay on the air in the event of a storm. To that end, rack rooms are located on the second floor — at 24 feet above sea level.

Miranda iControl was used for the station’s distribution and conversion requirements. The system allows operational positions to adjust any parameter of the video and audio signals within the complex.

Mixing old and new

WCBD wanted to transition existing equipment to the new facility, so PCS adjusted the operation of the old facility to allow removal of designated equipment at specific turnover points.

Prior to the switch to the new facility, commercial playout and automation had to be simultaneous in both buildings. Provision for multiple feeds to both the new and old buildings also had to be made for services such as satellite feeds and microwaves. The project team planned for redundancy so equipment removal wouldn’t affect operations.

Making news

Media General chose Panasonic DVCPRO as the tape format for all of its stations, and 25Mb/s DVC is used for all acquisition and playback at the station, with a mixture of linear and nonlinear editing suites. All external news feeds via satellite, microwave or IP are recorded in the feeds room.

A Thomson Grass Valley four-M/E Kalypso switcher was chosen for production control due to its built-in DVE and still stores, remote control of serial connected devices and its bypass capability, which allows redundant backup via the router in case of switcher failure.

The Kalypso, used with Pinnacle graphics equipment, give news programs a large-market look with strong, distinctive branding. The switcher was also configured for control of all videotape players in the feed area as well as serial control of the moving graphics, which reduced staffing demands.


The new studio utilizes Ikegami HL-45 digital cameras, and makes extensive use of large plasma screens for news and weather.

The system ties in well with the station’s new 7500 series router and Encore control system. The Encore system maximizes the features of the extensive Image Video UMD and tally systems, which draw information from the routing system to keep the UMD updated. Active UMD and tallies indicate when the switcher is live to air.

The station chose to use analog audio in its new facility since most of the external feeds into the station were still analog, and the net gain in quality was not enough to justify the additional expense of using AES digital.

A Calrec S2 audio console was chosen for its ability to deal with the varying uses encountered in production control. The console also has extensive intercom capabilities for IFBs and multi-way working, essential for handling the number of live satellite and ENG feeds in use every day.

The facility’s new studio is equipped with Ikegami HL-45 digital cameras, and large plasma screens are used for both news presentations and weather, giving newscasts a distinctive look. Flat panels are used for all preview monitoring for the talent.

Pinnacle MediaStream spot servers, 50Mb/s DVCPRO tape and Avid AirSPACE program servers are used for acquisition and playback, with each server mirrored for redundancy. Spot servers are one-in, two-out, with one output for monitoring. Program servers are three-in, three-out with one output for monitoring.

WCBD had a small Florical automation system in its old facility, and it made sense to expand on that system. For the transition, PCS moved part of the system over to the new facility, and then used one of the new program servers as a spot server. This meant program and spot redundancy had to be provided by tape machines. After the transition, the system was migrated such that the station had the two old Pinnacle servers for spot playback and the two new Avid servers for program playback. Staying within the Thomson Grass Valley platform, the team chose an M2100 switcher for master control.

Meeting a tight deadline

When the system pre-build began at PCS’ Tampa facility, on-site installation was scheduled for just three months later. PCS met the target date, reconstructing the system starting from the core and working out – rack room to master control to production. Today, WCBD’s new building is a fully SDI facility, designed and built with the ability to expand and grow easily.

Pete Rightmire is a writer with 25 years experience in the video industry.



Equipment Team Thomson Grass Valley Kalypso and M2100 switchers, 7500 series routers and Concerto router Encore control system Ikegami HL-45 studio cameras Avid AirSPACE servers Pinnacle MediaStream servers, FXDeko, Thunder LT Lightning Miranda Densité audio and video DAs Design Team Media General: Ardell Hill, sr. vp WCBD: Richard Fordham, GM Jack Becknell, CE Professional Communications Systems (PCS): Glenn Thomason, DE, Rich Merriam, sr. designer, Ed Kothera, sales engineer, C.T. Stellwag & Associates, building engineering consultant Rosser International, architect

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