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Twin Cities Public Television’s high channel count calls for powerful automation

Station automation

Twin Cities Public Television’s high channel count calls for powerful automation

Delivering seven distinct services to more than 2 million households requires a powerful infrastructure. So when Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) went from two analog channels to an SD/HD mix of seven program streams with five locally-programmed channels, engineering recognized the need for a serious automation, server and traffic upgrade.

The station is a duopoly with two licenses in a single market. It serves its audience with full-time HD programming and a rich mix of analog and multicast programming, including more than 100 locally-produced programs each year.

TPT’s unusually high number of local channels demanded a master control overhaul to include a multifaceted and expandable automation solution with enough flexibility and power to drive the equipment and systems associated with a five channel station. In April 2005, the facility went on-air with Sundance Digital’s scalable Titan system comprising the heart of the configuration.

Titan can handle hundreds of channels in a single facility or manage channels at multiple remote locations. The station’s new automation system controls two Omneon servers, one production and one broadcast, numerous tape machines, the facility’s emergency alert system, switchers, branding equipment, character generators and audio carts for all five channels. It also includes a breakthrough level of integration between Myers ProTrack traffic software and Sundance Archive Manager (SAM). All of this is interfaced with Masstech’s MassStore archive application storing to a Spectralogic 120-cassette archive with 10,000 hours capacity. The Titan configuration includes three Media Prep stations to handle the vast amount of content being ingested and reviewed, TitanSync for auto-failover redundancy and Intelli-Sat broadcast manager to schedule and record satellite feeds.

Titan wears many hats at the facility. In addition to its traditional role of driving playout devices, it seamlessly links with the ProTrack traffic software for heightened functionality and comprehensive exchange of data. The integration goes far beyond the traditional recordlist, playlist and as-run communication common to most traffic/automation system interfaces.

ProTrack also transmits metadata to Titan describing the nearly 100 interstitial promos, billboards and IDs to be created each week. Rather than a laborious process of editing to tape and ingesting from tape into the broadcast server, the editors simply export each batch of clips to the Telestream FlipFactory, which transcodes them into Omneon MPEG-2 format. Titan then matches each clip to metadata and alerts the operator to perform a quick quality check. The confirmed time for all ingested clips is instantly communicated back to ProTrack, insuring that the logged duration of each element is correct.

This system has allowed the video promotions department to eliminate tape and redirect countless staff hours to more creative work. With so many channels dependent on local content, system redundancy is critical. This is provided by a completely redundant Omneon server, driven by Sundance’s TitanSync redundant playlist management. It remains synced to the primary Titan system and can take over at any time upon automation or operator command. In the event of archive system service or upgrades, another traffic/automation interface comes into play.

This combination of new technology supporting four SD and one HD local channels puts the TPT operation at the top of the industry.

Design TeamTechnology at Work Twin Cities Public Television: Sundance Digital: Bruce Jacobs, chief technologist Titan automation Tim Mortenson, op. mgr Intelli-Sat archive manager Scott Rivers, eng. mgr TitanSync Jerry Gonerka, traffic specialist Telestream FlipFactory transcoding and proxy generation Don Heppelmann, automation Ken Hillstrom, server and archive specialist Mike Merrick, broadcast op. eng. Sundance Digital: Robert C. Johnson, president Kurt Caruthers, dir. of salesfont> Eric Harrington, dir. of eng. Chad Hughes, proj. mgr Chad Hughes, proj. mgr Mike Lynch, broadcast sys.eng. Annie Billings, dir. of training
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