KMBC-TV, KCWE-TV offer HD local news from new studios

Sometimes an organization needs a nudge before it can make progress. That was the case with our stations, KMBC-TV and KCWE-TV, located in Kansas City, MO, owned and operated by Hearst-Argyle. The nudge that caused us to design and build a new technical and studio facility was the expiration of our lease on the Lyric Opera House, the historic structure in which KMBC, the local ABC affiliate, had been located since it began broadcasting more than 60 years ago. It was also where KCWE-TV, a CW network affiliate, joined us in 1996.

Although the Lyric was home for all those years, it was not the ideal location for a television station. Our studio was beneath the opera stage, which is still used for performances, and the technical and business functions were situated on various other fragmented floors in the building, as well as in office spaces in a building across the street. It was not only the facilities' layout that was less than optimal, but also our equipment over time had naturally become outdated. We recognized that the equipment and systems needed to be upgraded to support our transition to high definition.

New digs

In 2002, our team at KMBC/KCWE began working with architects Rees Associates of Oklahoma City, OK, to identify a new location and design a facility that would improve efficiency, provide us a better platform from which to seize opportunities such as those afforded by the Web, and position us for HD operation. Broadcast Building Company handled construction management, and Beck Associates performed the systems integration. Our new purpose-built facility, located in an office park in southeast Kansas City, went on the air in August 2007.

From the new building, KMBC/KCWE now broadcasts three television and two Web channels, including five-and-a-half hours of locally produced HD news each day along with a 24-hour weather channel, quickcasts and other content for the Web sites. All programming is simulcast in SD and HD. We are proud that KMBC was the first to broadcast its news in HD in Kansas City, which is the No. 31 U.S. television market.

Physically, the layout is approximately 52,000sq ft comprised of two stories. One unusual feature that visitors remember is that the second floor is a mezzanine that overlooks the studio and newsroom. This floor houses the sales, traffic, programming, community affairs, business and executive offices.

The departments directly involved with producing local programming — news, engineering and creative services — are efficiently located on the first floor, where our 4500sq-ft studio flows into the 9000sq-ft newsroom. About 90 percent of the newsroom and all of the technical areas sit on an 18in raised computer floor. The technical core is 841sq ft and currently contains 40 36in-deep racks, with expansion space for an additional eight racks. Production control and audio take up a total of 865 sq ft, and master control and live ops require about the same amount of space, 861sq ft.

Technical infrastructure

The technical infrastructure of KMBC/KCWE's broadcast facility is built around routing switchers from Utah Scientific — a UTAH-400 (V-288 frame, loaded 3G, HD 176 × 144) and a UTAH-200 (VAA-16 frame analog video and stereo audio 16 × 16). The routers are wrapped with ADC patch panels and Harris DAs. IP connectivity throughout the facility is certified 1Gb/s and is carried over Cat 6E cable. The 10Gb/s backbone connecting the Cisco routers in various IDF rooms is carried over fiber.

Harris ADC automation manages program and interstitial playout through two Utah Scientific MC-2020 master control processors. Both stations are run from a single master control room; program streams are switched using Utah Scientific MC-400 master control panels and electronics. In the course of the design process, chief engineer Ed King and I recognized it would be advantageous to have a master control panel that would optimize flexibility for the operator during breaking news stories. In response, Utah developed the MC-400 panel, which makes it easy for a user to bypass automation control when necessary. Because it's so flexible, we use an MC-400 master control panel as a low-cost emergency backup for our production switcher.

Syndicated programming is received via satellite either directly from the syndicator, through Pathfire or from HATSAT, which is Hearst Argyle's program feed center in Orlando, FL. We have a dish farm installed at the station by EASi, consisting of two 7.3m, six 4.5m and four 3.8m dishes. All feeds from the dishes come into the building via Evertz fiber equipment and then are routed to the receivers using an Evertz L-Band router under CompuSat control.

Content is transcoded by a Masstech MassMedia Box and then pushed to Harris NEXIO 4000 series servers and a two-frame SAN with about 460 hours of SD storage. HD playback is through a Harris NEXIO 3600 series server, all under the direction of Harris automation. We are using Harmonic MV500 and MV100 encoders for both HD and SD channels. Once the video is encoded, it is routed to ProStream multiplexers via an IP connection. Presently, most of our broadcasts are in SD, so KMBC and KCWE use an SD master control switcher that enables automated routing of the HD channels. However, that will change to HD-only air paths early in 2009.

Currently, the system generates a combined ASI stream that is sent over an MRC digital microwave and demultiplexed at the transmitter site. This ASI stream is simultaneously sent via fiber to the transmitter as a backup STL. The TSL equipment for returning ENG and city cams to the studio from the tower uses Harmonic MV45 encoders with a ProStream mux combination, and the signal is decoded at the studio using Harmonic 6050 IRDs.

In the studio, we shoot our local news broadcasts in HD 16:9 on five Sony HDC-1400 cameras with Canon HJ22×7.6 lenses and Autoscript teleprompters. Three of the cameras are supported by Vinten Radamec Fusion robotic pedestals, while the other two are stationary pedestals supporting Vitec 105 pan/tilt heads. Camera system control is centered in production control next to the technical director position. A 64-input Sony MVS-8000G HD production switcher and a two-channel MVE800A digital multi-effects processor handle news switching.

News content is shot in the field on Sony SD-XD cameras in 16:9 format. Once at the station, it is ingested by Avid NewsCutters and AirSpeeds through Interplay into a Unity ISIS system. As the stories are edited, they are pushed to AirSpeed DDRs, configured for 1+1 redundancy, for playback to air. Some content is edited in the field, also with NewsCutters, and sent back to the station via microwave. It is then checked into Interplay, stored on the ISIS and pushed to AirSpeed.

For now, all archiving is done on DVCPRO tape, which also provides us with a backup for the news playback system. The KMBC newsroom has six edit cubicles alongside two enclosed Avid edit rooms. Also important to the newsroom, and indeed throughout the station, is a Cisco VoIP phone system managed by a centralized Hearst NOC. The phones are GigE-capable and provide connectivity for the computers and workstations in the newsroom and business cubicle areas. This saved on wiring costs.

Our creative services department also has three Avid NewsCutters with Adrenaline that are connected to the ISIS system. An additional NewsCutter edit station located in the newsroom is used exclusively for news promotion, which is also shot on Sony XD cameras.

In the studio, we have a wide range of monitors, everything from typical XVGA screens to Panasonic 42in plasmas that use either HD or SD input cards, depending on where they are located on the set. For projection, we have one Panasonic RSP positioned in a corner of the studio with a 114in diagonal screen using a Da-Lite Millennium mirror system. Studio lighting consists of a combination of DeSisti florescent and tungsten fixtures. Some of the fixtures are equipped with SeaChange color engines. The dimmer console and electronics are ETC.

Moving to the production control room, the monitor wall consists of six NEC 46in LCD displays driven by an Evertz MVP system that incorporates both SD and HD inputs. One monitor is for the audio booth, while the other five are in production control. An Evertz VIP system provides redundancy in case of a monitor failure. For audio, we are using a 24-fader Wheatstone D-10 console with three remote analog/digital cage routers.

Power from the local utility comes through a 1600 A main; the entire building is supported by an 800kW Caterpillar generator. A Powerware 180kVA UPS supplies all the power for the tech side, including a clean power drop at all workstations in the newsroom, sales, traffic, executive and engineering offices. To effectively test the generator, we switch the entire building's electrical load over to it at least once a month.

A multi-unit, chilled water system moderates Kansas City's notoriously humid summer temperatures for personnel as well as our equipment. The system offers redundancy or additional cooling when it's required. The air handler unit that services the second floor has been designed so that it can redirect its flow to the tech core in case of an air handler failure.


It seems almost inevitable that you start a project with what seems like plenty of lead time, but in the end there's a rush to the finish. As the end of the lease on the Lyric Opera House loomed in the spring and summer of 2007, crews worked 12- to 14-hour days to ensure that we could vacate the old building and be up and running well before the start of the fall ratings period.

With all hands on deck, we made our deadline, and we continue to be proud of the results. We are confident that our new facility, besides being beautiful to employees and visitors, as well as functional right now, will also have the flexibility to meet our needs well into the future.

Jerry Agresti is director of engineering for KMBC/KCWE-TV.

Technology at work

ADC patch panels

Autoscript teleprompters

AirSpeed ingest and playout servers
Interplay asset management
NewsCutter video editing software
NewsCutters with Adrenaline
Unity ISIS file system

Canon HJ22×7.6 lenses

Caterpillar generator

VoIP phone system

CompuSat automation

Da-Lite Millennium mirror system

DeSisti lighting

EASi satellite dishes

ETC dimmer console and electronics

Fiber equipment
L-Band router
MVP multi-image display processor
VIP multi-image display and monitoring

6050 IRDs
MV45, MV500 and MV100 encoders
ProStream multiplexers

ADC automation
NEXIO 3600 series server
NEXIO 4000 series servers

Hearst-Argyle Television HATSAT satellite system

Masstech MassMedia Box digital file ingest

MRC digital microwave

NEC LCD displays

RSP projector

Pathfire digital media management

Powerware 180kVA UPS

SeaChange color engines

HDC-1400 cameras
MVE800A digital multi-effects processor
MVS-8000G HD production switcher
SD-XD cameras

Utah Scientific
MC-2020 master control processor
MC-40 master control panel
UTAH-200 routing switcher
UTAH-400 routing switcher

105 pan/tilt heads
Vinten Radamec Fusion robotic pedestals

Wheatstone D-10 console

Design team

BBC Construction Management

Beck Associates

FX Group

Gates Service Group

Martin Faubell, VP of eng. Hearst-Argyle Television
Wayne Godsey, president and general mgr., KMBC-TV
Jerry Agresti, dir. of eng.
Edward King, chief eng.
Hank Palmer, IT mgr.
Jeff Maloney, eng. supervisor

Rees Associates