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Yuma 77 Viewers Notice Audio Upgrade

YUMA, ARIZ.—For more than a decade the station received complaints about the sound.

Yuma 77’s new control room featuring PolyCom’s Vortex and RUSHWORKS’ VDESK II and the A-LIST.

Ever since Yuma 77 began transmitting on May 1, 2000, the Yuma County, Ariz., government channel heard complaints about the audio portion of the broadcast, said Kevin Tunell, the station’s communications director.

Now it gets compliments after the station recently upgraded its broadcast equipment, notably the audio system. The new setup is providing “the best bang for our buck,” he said.

Complaints about audio were not a surprise given that the agreement between Yuma 77 and its cable company saddled the channel with the sound system, Tunell told Government Video.

The problems worsened to the point where feedback would interrupt the County Board of Supervisors meetings, Tunell said. Eventually, the audio system could no longer be tolerated, so Tunell contracted Systems Electronic Group Inc., a Phoenix-based consulting and integration firm that specializes in public, education and government channels, to assess the situation and propose solutions.


However, SEG’s assessment was not what Tunell was hoping to hear. SEG recommended a complete audio rebuild of the auditorium where the board meetings are held, as well as Yuma 77’s control room. That was within neither the station’s financial means nor the time constraints imposed by its broadcast schedule. “We had to keep the taxpayers in mind and not go overboard with building out a studio,” Tunell said.

Mindful of those restrictions, Bob Woodward, the SEG senior engineer who worked with Yuma 77, developed a solution that minimized the station’s equipment problems until a rebuild could take place. Woodward devised “a workaround” that incorporated a few specialized transformers into a custom cable that bypassed most of the failing equipment, thereby keeping the station operational.

Woodward then focused on the task of upgrading the system within Yuma County’s budget. Every aspect of the audio system was scrutinized and the decision was made to replace Yuma 77’s manual audio mixing console with a Polycom Vortex automatic mixing system, which not only handles the mixing requirements of a meeting but also uses filters and digital signal processing that virtually eliminate feedback, according to Woodward.

Although the budget did not allow a major video overhaul, Tunell was able to secure an upgrade of the master control to a RUSHWORKS’ VDESK II.

The VDESK II was selected because it is an alldigital switcher with robotic camera controls, automatic graphics call up, internal clip playback, bugs, crawls and integrated MPEG encoder lets a single operator produce programming. The production switcher was partnered with a new advanced playback server, the A-LIST, also from RUSHWORKS. With features like auto fill, there is never dead air between programs.

New programming is dropped into the “AIR” folder, he said. The A-LIST and the Vortex provide Yuma 77 with “automation, giving us the ability to one-man-band the controller,” Tunell said. “I don’t have need for a sound man, or someone to do CGs or camera control. One person can sit at the helm and complete all those tasks at once, and to have one staffer there, as opposed to three, cuts costs,” he said.