PBS Reno Completes Station Upgrade

PBS Reno
(Image credit: PBS Reno)

RENO, NV – PBS Reno is an independent, community-owned PBS member station based in Reno, Nevada. The station has more than 124,000 viewers and is seen in more than 85,000 households weekly in northern and central Nevada and northeastern California. PBS Reno is widely known for its award-winning local productions Wild Nevada, ARTEFFECTS, and The Work of Art documentary series. The station continues to produce new episodes of each series while reaching new audiences through its Classical Tahoe series and the station’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the Spotlight Awards and Auction, which celebrates local people, businesses and community groups making a difference in northern Nevada and beyond.

In 2017, PBS Reno was operating with older equipment that had exceeded its life expectancy. The station was inundated with equipment failures and loss of support as systems reach end-of- life. Temporary fixes became the norm; the search for replacement part and the service skills to complete such work dissipated.

Things began to change dramatically in 2019. The technology department, comprised of Vice President of Technology Eli Cavazos, Assistant Chief Engineer Bryan Carr, Building Maintenance Technician Roberto Nerey, along with Production Media Facilitator and Studio Technician Don Alexander, updated PBS Reno’s file management, storage and archival processes with the deployment of a new EditShare asset management system.

The station’s six-member production team now accesses project assets stored on a 75-TB spinning disk raid array securely backed up with a 250-TB LTO-tape library. The station moved to Centralcast for its primary programming execution and formatting. PBS Reno moved its secondary channel, "PBS Reno Create," to HD, leaving behind its legacy SD chain.

As a result, PBS Reno became the first PBS station to broadcast Create in high definition. PBS Reno continues to utilize Protrack, a cloud-based system, for its daily rundown of national and locally-produced content.

With a limited budget, PBS Reno turned to Blackmagic Design for many of its live and live-to-tape production needs. Among its purchases: Blackmagic Design equipment for its master control, production control, and studio areas; a Blackmagic 40x40 router; ATEM production switcher; and Behringer x32 audio console. This equipment allows PBS Reno to produce its Classical Tahoe series, which includes a livestream of the event from North Lake Tahoe and a multi-episode program featuring world-class musicians.

Ironically, the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 provided a window of opportunity for some major changes in the production and master control areas. Though the station had been able to buy state-of-the-art equipment when it made the initial transition to HD, even state-of-the-art equipment has a life cycle. Support was becoming problematic.

“Continuing down the traditional path of relying on high-priced vendor equipment and prohibitively expensive support contracts, with a limited budget, was a direction we couldn’t take,” said Cavazos. “We turned to Blackmagic Design for the latest in TV technology with gear that was easy to install, friendlier for the staff to operate, and just right for the budget. It made sense!”   

The decision was made to replace nearly three full racks of Utah Scientific equipment with less than a half-rack’s worth of Blackmagic Design routing and switching equipment. The core components include two Blackmagic 40x40 routers which also allowed the station to upgrade from a legacy analog audio subsystem to a full HD-SDI plant.

With the changes to much of its master control function transitioning to the Centralcast system, PBS Reno replaced most of the internal switching function to a simpler Blackmagic ATEM Production Studio 4K switcher. Several legacy tape machines used for redundant recordings were moved out and replaced by the Blackmagic Hyperdeck disk recorder/players.

The production side of the station saw several changes as well. A Grass Valley Kahuna switcher and SSL mixer systems had served PBS Reno well for over a decade, so the writing was on the wall. Parts and service were becoming a real challenge.

PBS Reno incorporated the Blackmagic ATEM 4 M/E Broadcast Studio 4K switcher controlled by the ATEM 2 M/E Advanced Panel. The ATEM, complimented by a couple workstation PCs, allowed the station to replace Chyron Lyric and clip servers. Operators are able to quickly and easily manipulate graphics, often directly from Photoshop with Blackmagic’s Photoshop export plug-in.

PBS Reno has also integrated the AJA Ki Pro Rack within the production control room for local recordings. Work is also being planned out to utilize the direct to disk recording function with the EditShare system to enable the operators to create ISO-recordings of each studio camera for later use.

The original audio cabling from the studio to the production control room had been troublesome for some time, so we replaced the standard analog cabling with a pair of Behringer S16 digital snakes, one at each end of the studio. From there, the now-digital signal was routed through to a new Behringer x32 digital mixing console. In addition, the old Telos system was brought current with a new Telos VX Prime+ package to deal with live call-in programs and studio uplink services.

PBS Reno recently wrapped up a weeks-long studio makeover, complete with new paint, floor resurfacing, and overall revamping of its studio look for local productions. The station has upgraded its studio cameras to three JVC studio cameras with FS-900 ProHD Fiber Remote Systems, complete with a 14-headset Clear-Com setup.

PBS Reno is producing award-winning content and reaching more and more children in northern Nevada classrooms and online; none of this would be possible without a talented team of engineers who react to daily technological needs, forecast looming technological changes, and react quickly to ensure all staff can accomplish work throughout the community.

Eli Cavazos is PBS Reno Vice President of Technology