KSTP Backs It Up With DNF Controls

KSTP-TV, an ABC affiliate in Minnesota's Twin Cities, has been around almost as long as television itself. With an on-air date of April 27, 1948, it was one of the first stations to transmit a TV signal in the U.S. It was also a pioneer in the transition from black and white to color. The station went digital in late 1999 and broadcasts a digital signal in the Twin Cities metro area on channel 50 and out of state via a translator system.

Recently, KSTP faced a new challenge brought about by the rapidly changing world of television technology. The station installed a new Harris ADC automation system and SeaChange International Broadcast MediaCluster server to control playout for KSTP and its sister channels, KSTC (also Twin Cities) and KSAX in Alexandria, MN. Although this was a complicated process, Station Production Systems Engineering Manager Dave Sherzer and the staff at KSTP were up to the task.

After a decade of engineering at KSTP-TV, Sherzer was intimately familiar with his facility's internal operations and maintenance systems. But even for a veteran, the automation system install presented some unique new challenges. Chief among these was the immediate need to implement a solid backup system, an "insurance policy" that allowed operators to pull commercials off the station's SeaChange International server for playout in the event of a system failure.

Because the station's automation system was computer-controlled, a failure of the underlying system could leave it without the means to direct playout for all three stations. In order to avoid this scenario, Sherzer needed a backup system that could talk to the primary playout machine by reaching right into the Broadcast MediaCluster and taking control of the output ports.

After researching various product offerings, Sherzer decided on a 3040P playlist playout system from DNF Controls. Sherzer linked the 3040P to the video server supporting all three stations via a direct access control port, and the 3040P took on the role of providing redundancy by giving operators direct access to the server.

The 3040P is built on DNF Controls' ST400 controller with LCD display. To draw clips out of the video server, operators at KSTP use the 3040P interface to scroll through and build a list of available clips for individual or list playout, and quickly insert or delete new clips as the playlist is deployed. Up to 50 playlists of 40 clips each, or 2000 elements, can be supported.

The system also allows Sherzer to back up programming playout in several other scenarios. For example, KSTP split its SeaChange server to provide separate storage for programming and commercials. When a commercial is required by a playlist, the Harris system pulls it onto the program server. Because short-term spots and promos are normally loaded directly onto the program server, they would be lost if the program server were to fail. KSTP is using the 3040P-L, also from DNF Controls, to back up unique short-term material that never gets saved to the commercial server.

In the future, KSTP plans to use the 3040P for playout of long-format programming. After recording long-form material, operators use the Harris system to chop the programming into segments. These segments then can be assembled, along with commercials, into a playlist optimized for the DNF 3040P interface.

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