WTTW-TV public television programming

WTTW-TV has been providing Chicago and its surrounding metropolitan area with locally and nationally produced public television programming for many years. In 1965, a studio facility was constructed on the north side of the city. The WTTW analog master control and associated tape room facility from the 1960s had undergone several rebuilds prompting the query whether to refurbish again or start anew. WTTW re-purposed the old facility for other operations and decided to build a new broadcast facility.

Working with both architectural and interior design firms, a new space was created for a highly functional work environment.

In April 2002, WTTW-DT started broadcasting from the Sears Tower using a combination of upconverted analog WTTW programming, plus high-definition content, both locally produced and from PBS. WTTW decided to use its employees in the electronic maintenance and design group and built the facility without the help of a systems integrator. Engineering managers researched equipment, tactics and budgets and developed an overall system design, while vendors selected equipment and furnished implementation ideas.

WTTW chose the SeaChange Broadcast Media Cluster because its 5-node server provides more than 1800 hours of SD program storage at 12 MB/s. It also has 11 encoders and 15 decoders allowing for multiple channel playout. With the advent of digital multichannel capability, WTTW had to decide how to cost-effectively get multiple channel streams on the air. Sundance Digital's FastBreak Automation system was chosen as the automation vendor because its system provides a user-friendly GUI, traffic and record log conversion capability, and flexible database management.

Several programs make up Sundance Digital's FastBreak Automation system: The Sundance Intelli-Sat program converts record lists generated by the Myers Information Systems ProTrack traffic system and prepares them for automatic recording. Three Sundance prep stations allow for program evaluation and preparation for air as well as a place to examine database information. Sundance SIDON controllers provide RS-422 control to most of the broadcast devices in the system. The Sundance Air Station gets a playlist from ProTrack and provides direct control of a server decoder for playout. The Air Station issues commands to the router, switcher and ancillary equipment through SIDON.

WTTW uses a Sundance ListSync computer to parallel their main Air Station for redundancy. The SalesView program allows individuals not directly connected to the Sundance network infrastructure to query the content database, as well as call-up individual items to stream over an internal house network. In WTTW's case, they directly control a server decoder wired to an RF modulator. The DBOC is centered on Thomson Trinix and Venus routing switchers controlled by the Thomson Jupiter control system. A Thomson Venue AES audio router and four Saturn Master Control switchers are controlled by the Sundance Digital FastBreak automation system.

Design Team

Jerry Hanna,VP-eng.
Fred Engel, dir. eng. ops.
Robert Bruner, sr. eng. elect.
Michael Tompary, const. EIC
Dennis Raymond, sr. eng. ops.
John Oppy, elect. main. tech.
Shaw Saepoung, elect. main. tech.
Alan Skierkiewicz, elect. main. tech.
Ted Szubzda, elect. main. tech.
Robert Wratschko, elect. main. tech.

Sundance Digital
Robert C. Johnson, pres.
Annie Billings, field eng.
Rick Stora, dir. broadcast ops.
Eric Harrington, dir. eng.

Harol Lutz and Associates, architect

Studio Designs Group, interior desgr.

Roscor, primary vendor

Equipment List

SeaChange International Broadcast
Media Cluster

Sencore Stream server

Thomson Trinix video router
Venus audio router
Jupiter control system
Saturn master control switcher

360 Systems Digicart II

Miranda K2 monitors

Sundance Digital FastBreak auto. sys.