Low-power small-market station sets big-market goals
PALM SPRINGS, CALIF.
Talk about a Cinderella story. Until this September, KPSP was a low-rated, low-power TV station in the 160th market with marginal programming and no cable carriage, a big deal in an area with 94 percent cable penetration.
• Panasonic DVCPRO50 AJ-D910W & AJ-D955 camcorders
• Thomson LDK6000 HD cameras
• Canon XJ25x6.8 HD studio lens
• Canon XJ12x7.8 ENG lens
• Thomson Grass Valley NewsEdit
• Thomson Grass Valley Profile PVS 1100
• Pinnacle Thunder DVE
• Pinnacle FX Deko II
• Panasonic TH-50PHD3U 50-inch 16:9 plasma screens
• Zandar Fusion Pro virtual monitor wall
• Ikegami TM14-17SRM
• Ikegami TM9-1 9-inch monitors
• Studer 928 analog audio console
• JBL Control 5 loudspeakers Auratone USCSTD
• Telex Adam CS
• Evertz X1202H
• Evertz HD9625LG HD logo generator
• Snell & Wilcox HD 5200
• Sundance Digital Fastbreak
But under the aegis of a new owner, the Palm Springs station, while remaining low-power, was transformed into a CBS affiliate, the first new CBS affiliate in about 34 years, moved into new digital facilities and obtained prime cable carriage, bumping the network's Los Angeles O&O, KCBS, from the coveted cable Channel 2 position.
On top of that, KPSP provides an HD channel to the cable system even though, as a low-power station, it doesn't transmit DTV terrestrially. KPSP also broadcasts four hours a day of local news.
How did all this come about?
Bob Hoffman, executive broadcast consultant to the new owner of KPSP, Jackie Lee Houston, said that the station was purchased in October 2000 for the "stick and license."
"The existing analog technology was usable but old," Hoffman said, but any move to upgrade was held off until he concluded negotiations with CBS for affiliation. Palm Springs already has had local ABC and NBC affiliates for the past 25 years or so, Hoffman said, and Jackie Lee and her husband Jim Houston felt it was time for a local CBS presence in the Coachella Valley.
"On Sept. 10, 2001, we were in New York to sign the contract [with CBS]," Hoffman said. "We started planning [the new facility] in October 2001."
Then the fast track began.
TO THE WAREHOUSE
Hoffman said that it was an easy decision to build a facility from scratch, rather than try to renovate the existing one. "We found a 25,000-square-foot plumbing warehouse with the size and dimensions ideal for building a TV station," he said, adding that the weak economy was a boon for the station. Construction on the building began in May.
Hoffman brought facilities engineer and Weyercliffe-Century owner Tom Mann onboard to flesh out the engineering design. "We did all the schematics and hired an architect to refine the design," Hoffman said. "Once that was done, we looked at integration companies and chose Digital System Technologies."
Dwight Crumb, vice president of engineering at DST, described just how fast-track the project was.
"This is a project that would normally take eight to nine months, but we did it in four-and-a-half," he said.
"On the Sunday before NAB2002 we met with the station and then looked at equipment at NAB, and made decisions on the prime pieces of hardware," Crumb continued. "We then started the design in mid-April, right after NAB."
Equipment was installed in racks and pre-wired in DST's Irwindale, Calif., facility in May and June and delivered July 8. The system was online for training Aug. 1 and on the air Sept. 2.
One of the major design goals was to provide a local news presence as a CBS affiliate, but with a different kind of local news.
"For the Houstons, this is their only broadcast property," Hoffman explained. "Like many of their friends, they were dissatisfied with the [other] local affiliate news. They wanted a better product than 'if it bleeds, it leads.'"
The result is major coverage of health, cultural and environment issues, "a news product that is a reflection of the community, not just all its crime," Hoffman said.
As staffing would be tight, the newsroom had to be efficient.
"Once tape footage comes in the building, the news environment is all tapeless," Crumb said.
Tape acquisition is on Panasonic equipment. Newsroom automation is handled by a Thomson Grass Valley Group NewsQ Pro system that interfaces with an AP ENPS newsroom system, other Thomson and Pinnacle equipment. With this system, edited pieces are transferred via Fibre Channel to a six-channel news Profile PVS 1100 (one record, five play) for playout to air. Crumb said that in a pinch, the piece can also be played directly from a NewsEdit's local hard drive.
Aiding the news production are two ENG trucks, supplied by DST and built by subcontractor E-N-G Mobile. Each truck is outfitted for both analog and COFDM digital.
Back inside the building, a 1,500-square-foot production studio is next to the 2,200-square-foot newsroom. The 450-square-foot production control room houses a Thomson Grass Valley Group Kalypso digital video switcher, control panels for the Pinnacle gear and NewsQ Pro stations.
Automation was a key element of the station design not just for the newsroom but for on-air control as well. KPSP chose Sundance Digital's FastBreak Automation, which controls 12 channels on two Thomson Grass Valley Group Profile PVS 1100 video servers configured in a Media Area Network (MAN), a Thomson Grass Valley Group M2100 master control switcher, a Thomson Grass Valley Group Trinix routing switcher (128 square in a 256 square chassis) plus an Evertz X1202H clean switch for the HD feed, among other equipment.
The Sundance system also included two media prep stations for tape ingest and an Intelsat Broadcast Recording Manager for satellite dish and receiver control and recording plus a MediaCacher for creation of low-resolution copies of ingested material for viewing on a PC.
"KPSP's leap from a ground-up startup operation to a full CBS affiliate with full high-definition and standard-definition capacity provided an ideal opportunity to illustrate Sundance Digital's capabilities," said Sundance President Robert C. Johnson. And the system "offered a short learning curve that was critical because the personnel were virtually all new hires."
The master control room itself houses the Thomson Grass Valley Group Master 2100 switcher, 360 Systems networkable DigiCart/E Ethernet audio recorders, and a Panasonic 50-inch plasma screen fed by a Zandar Fusion Pro.
KPSP has two production edit rooms and two commercial, each outfitted with Macintosh G4 computers running Final Cut Pro. The production edit rooms also each have a DigiCart/E and a dual CD player/recorder. All the DigiCarts in the plant are connected to their own Ethernet audio server, and all the Final Cut Pro systems have their own common storage (SAN) as well.
A 1,600-square foot main equipment room houses 60 racks, mounted with the backs facing each other and the rear space closed off on the sides of the rows with doors. "Cold, clean air from the air-conditioning system literally pours down the backs of the racks, and then out the front," Crumb explained. "Snell & Wilcox went so far as to get UL approval to reverse the fans in its equipment so the air flowed from back to front."
This way, Crumb explained, the equipment stays cold, but the people in the room don't freeze.
The racks house the routing switcher, as well as other switcher and graphics frames, Snell & Wilcox IQ series terminal gear, Leitch DPS575 frame sync, HD support equipment and the CBS rack plus patching and microwave receivers.
Control got a bit complex due to the marriage of Thomson and GVG equipment. As Crumb explained, "The Kalypso talks to Encore control system, which communicates with the Jupiter control system, which talks to the Trinix and routes signals to Kalypso. In addition, TSL [Television Systems Ltd.] is listening in and updates the UMDs and also handles tallies."
The TSL system was chosen for tally and under monitor display control; It also interfaces to the Zandar system and TSL UMDs.
KVM computer keyboard, monitor, mouse switches allow one control surface to communicate with any number of computers. For example, a KVM switch in master control can control the computers associated with the news server, the Pinnacle FX Deko and Thunder, air servers 1 and 2, and several more Profile server computers.
Crumb noted that the station is wired for HD and major pieces of equipment can be converted to HD. All this may sound like a lot for a station in the 160th market, but, Crumb noted, "KPSP is a small-market station with big-market goals."
"This was one of those perfect business plans broadcasters dream about," Hoffman said. "We have the first position of the dial, all the latest technology and 77 skilled employees selected from 1,700 outstanding applicants from all over the country. It's a guaranteed winner."
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