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WISC-TV’s new automation system is the core of a technology upgrade

Station automation

WISC-TV’s new automation system is the core of a technology upgrade

On March 7, 2005, there were a lot of frayed nerves at WISC-TV in Madison, WI. The 50-year old facility was preparing to flashcut on March 8 from its old analog technical core to a new digital SDI infrastructure capable of handling multiple program streams.

The station reaches nearly 30 counties in southern Wisconsin and extends into Illinois and Iowa. As the station evolves into the premier news source for the 21st century, it continually seeks to add improvements and enhancements to keep it at the top of its game.

The upgrade packed as much power as possible into a new master control with three tightly integrated key systems, including as much automation as the station could afford. Easily expandable and built to accommodate a mix of analog and digital, a four-channel, fully redundant Sundance Digital Titan automation solution is at the heart of the station’s new technical core and currently operates two channels: a CBS affiliate as its primary stream and a UPN affiliate as a second service. The third channel is used as a utility and the fourth for live-to-tape productions, such as sports or public affairs programs with open promos and commercials inserted for future airing.

Sundance Digital’s Titan allowed the station to stay flexible in its equipment choices. The automation system, capable of controlling hundreds of playout channels within a single facility or playlists at multiple remote locations, drives the second key element, an Omneon Spectrum media server system, which can accommodate the growing quantity of material for playout.

Because most of the station’s content is delivered via satellite, WISC’s automation package includes Sundance Digital’s Intelli-Sat broadcast manager to schedule and record feeds at the station’s complex satellite receive center. Intelli-Sat’s schedule drives the RF matrix, tunes the receivers, aims the satellite dishes and records feeds directly into the server.

Telestream’s FlipFactory, the third vital element of the new system, facilitates ingest of program, spot content and metadata. Integrating tightly with Titan, it transfers the material automatically from five edge servers located throughout the facility into the Omneon server and Titan’s database with only point and click operator intervention. The Sundance Digital Delivery Management System (DDMS) serves as a single management point for staff to view all the material residing on the cache servers and select which clips are to be transferred.

In addition, Titan ingests the station’s electronic playlist from Wide Orbit’s traffic system, produces the on-air playlist with imbedded secondary events and inserts and triggers voiceovers through the 360 Digicart/E audio server. Automation macros switch the HD station on and off when there are HD feeds from the network and automatically insert graphic bugs over programming.

Titan is built to keep pace with the station’s growth. As WISC acquires new program streams, it can easily add playlists to the automation system. It was that flexibility, along with Titan’s ease of operation and adaptability to the station’s specific needs that made the system so appealing. Training and debugging commenced long before March 8, which made for a much smoother transition to the new technical core. The station never lost any airtime.

The station, still in its digital infancy, is discovering new features of its three key systems and learning how to take advantage of them. It’s a growing process!

Design TeamTechnology at Work WISC-TV: 360 Digicart/E audio server Leonard Charles, dir. of eng. Omneon Spectrum media server system Steve Paugh, proj. eng. NVISION Kevin Ruppert, eng. maint. sup. NV5128-MC MC switchers Sundance Digital NV8256 digital routing system Robert C. Johnson, president Sundance Digital: Kurt Caruthers, dir. of sales Titan automation Eric Harrington, dir. of eng. Intelli-Sat broadcast manager Chad Hughes, proj. mgr. Digital Delivery Management System (DDMS) Casey Thi, broadcast sys. eng. Telestream FlipFactory
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