Rebuild at WINK-TV enhances operations and streamlines hurricane/emergency information

Making a station ready for the future of broadcasting is challenging enough without having to work around hurricanes, but as it turned out, the total upgrade of WINK-TV in Fort Myers was proved by the nasty Florida weather of the past two years.

The station, which serves a six-county area in southwest Florida, was in the midst of a building and operations expansion while transitioning to digital and HD technology, with Professional Communications Systems (PCS) as the designated systems integrator. As the project got under way, disaster first struck with Hurricane Charlie. WINK remained on-air without interruption while the weather raged around them, but the major overhaul to its broadcasting centers was delayed.

After construction resumed, the station focused on its goal —keeping WINK-TV at the technological forefront. The digital upgrade plan called for the ability to simultaneously broadcast in SD and HD, both on-air and to cable, and the ability to accommodate another SD channel in the future.

The installation streamlines operations and ensures that WINK-TV will continue to serve the Fort Myers/Naples TV market as a vital communications center should their area be impacted again by a major emergency.

A Grass Valley master control 2100 switcher improves speed, ease and error-avoidance in multiple source management and feeds. A Miranda Kaleido virtual monitor wall subdivides large screens into programmed designs of many smaller images, reducing problems associated with rows and columns of individual monitors, including heat-production. Two 50in Panasonic plasma screens are integrated into the Kaleido monitor wall.

Signal upconversion is provided by a Snell & Wilcox HD6300 upconverter. Encoding of signals is accomplished through a TANDBERG 4:2:0 HD encoder base, 60Hz HD encoder and SD encoder.

Leitch provided its Logomotion storage and distribution system, which enables different logos for separate simultaneous programming outputs and notifications, such as weather updates and Amber Alerts, along with synchronizer processors that intake any signal format and provide for outputting in any format, and a bypass system that allows broadcast continuity when a source is lost.

The upgrade has enabled the station to record both SD and HD feeds from CBS. The HD feed is provided over the air and is fed, via fiber-optic cable with backup, to the Fort Myers/Naples cable systems market. Seventy percent of prime-time HD is in Dolby 5.1.

The capabilities of the new system were put to the test when, shortly after the upgrade and construction were completed, the area was struck by hurricane, Wilma. This time, adversity provided the ultimate test for the new equipment and operations, offering a direct comparison of old vs. new. WINK-TV was recognized by the FCC for its extraordinary efforts under great duress. During the weather interruptions, WINK put all efforts into providing and keeping emergency information on its feeds.

Automation has been a key factor in the success of the upgrade and the transition to digital. In addition to increased capacity, the station no longer has to deal with cumbersome workarounds, routing sources are more efficient, and workflow is improved.

It was a long process during which hurricanes, delays and crises caused roadblocks, but the end result has been successful. The rebuild has allowed WINK-TV to continue honoring its commitment to the Fort Myers community to be at the forefront of programming and technology, and to provide better, faster news.

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