Utah Scientific's UTAH-400/144

In April 2010, Louisville-based station WDRB-TV became the first station in the city to completely convert to an all-HD news operation.

Maintaining technical superiority in a competitive market meant thinking several steps ahead in its choice of production equipment systems and vendors. That is why the station turned to Utah Scientific for routing and master control switching solutions to anchor its new HD operation. The station's latest Utah Scientific acquisition is a UTAH-400/144 digital routing switcher, which provides routing for all incoming and outgoing HD signals supporting WDRB newscasts, as well as those of sister station WMYO, a MyNetworkTV affiliate broadcasting on channel 58.

The fact that the new switcher controls signals for both stations is a real benefit in many key situations. For instance, even though WDRB is still broadcasting live FOX sports at 10 p.m., it is still able to air the WDRB newscast on WMYO. When the sports program has ended on FOX, WDRB engineers simply punch up the “re-entry” of the on-air WMYO switcher on WDRB, and simulcast the news on both stations until the newscast is completed. Weather cut-ins on both stations are a cinch as well.

Back in its analog days, the station purchased two Utah Scientific AVS1-B routers and two MC-500 master control switchers. They were still working the day they were decommissioned. Based on that experience, the station engineers chose the UTAH-400 because they knew the switcher would work — and if it did not for some reason, they knew Utah Scientific would provide support for its product.

Housed in a compact 9RU frame, the switcher provides audio and video frames for up to 144 inputs and outputs — giving the station lots of growing room as its operation expands into the future. In fact, the switcher's unique matrix architecture means it can be scaled easily up to 1152 × 1152 and beyond using a single family of matrix building blocks, while offering reductions in physical space and power consumption requirements.

One feature that station engineers especially appreciate is the signal-presence detectors on all inputs and outputs, which allow the matrix to perform functions ranging from simple alarms to automatic restoration of service on critical signal paths. Also, the switcher's crosspoint redundancy offers a high degree of operational reliability.

The UTAH-400 joins other key pieces of Utah Scientific gear in the station's operation: a GS-4000 graphics station and a two-channel MC-4000 master control switcher controlled by two MCP-2020 master control panels.

For instance, as a FOX affiliate, the station previously had to enter specific GPIs manually with its old automation system. After installing the new MCP-2020 panels, the GPI triggers can be tailored for each button on the switcher — making switching to FOX programming completely automatic. When it installed the new automation system, the station was able to interface it with the master control switcher in less than 15 minutes.

The new suite of routing and master control equipment provides a technology foundation for WDRB's HD operation that will serve the station for years to come — and help ensure a reliable, cost-effective and energy-efficient operation.

Gary Schroder is chief engineer at WDRB.