The new equipment was implemented late in 2008, replacing legacy master controls that were routed by means of patch bays. Because the previous master controls had been purchased individually at different times, each worked differently, resulting in a chaotic work environment and making it hard to train new operators. The new system and workspace, in contrast, was designed by Ramar Communications Director of Engineering Tee Thomas to be not only logical and intuitive but aesthetically pleasing.
"We are like a lot of small-market broadcasters in going multicast, and usually the cost of master control systems simply kills the budget," said Thomas. "Utah Scientific is the only company out there that offers a cost-effective solution by integrating routing and master control switching. At the same time, I would say Utah offers real broadcast support. Instead of charging an arm and a leg for support like a lot of companies do, they offer a 10-year free warranty without service contracts and a commitment to long-term support. There were several challenges that made this project distinctive and we were under very tight budgetary constraints. Utah came through for us both in terms of service and affordability."
Ramar Communications, whose flagship station is Lubbock Fox affiliate KJTV, integrated a Utah Scientific MCP-2020 master control panel with eight MC-400 switchers and an embedded UTAH-400 router (V-144R frame, loaded 88x64 3G HD/SDI), enabling any source to be routed to any destination through master control. Besides KJTV, Ramar comprises KMYL, Lubbock; KLCW, Lubbock; KXTQ, Telemundo, Lubbock; KTEL, Telemundo, New Mexico; Fox 34 News Now, Lubbock; and Local 48, a shopping channel for Lubbock.
Two more Utah master control features enabled Ramar to devise a more streamlined, automated system. First, the MC-400 switchers include a logo generator that integrates into commercial playback so that a logo can be pulled up over a live event without the need for external devices. Another plus is the system's ability to network the EAS signal over Ethernet, enabling digital satellite receivers in New Mexico to send the EAS signal back to consolidated master control in Lubbock.
The system also incorporates a standby backup in case of master control failure. The workspace is configured as eight side-by-side computer screens, each representing a different Ramar station plus a spare, across a console facing multiviewer monitoring.
Because the master control switcher is also accessible through a GUI on the Rushworks automation playback computer, a single person can control all eight operations if necessary. The multiple software interfaces afford so much flexibility that an operator can route, switch, and encode all without leaving his or her chair.
"A lot of smaller broadcasters try to get by with less than optimal routing and master control systems because they perceive they can't afford an upgrade," said Tom Harmon, president and CEO of Utah Scientific. "Tee's experience demonstrates that a better way is not only possible, it's affordable and pays off quickly with operational and staffing efficiencies."
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About Ramar Communications Inc.
Ramar Communications is a privately held broadcasting company, headquartered in Lubbock, Texas. It operates television stations, radio stations, and Web sites throughout West Texas, New Mexico, and Southern Colorado.
About Utah Scientific, Inc.
Utah Scientific, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of analog, digital, and HDTV routing switchers, master control switchers, and related products including a full range of software for controlling and managing switching systems. The company has been serving the broadcast industry for 30 years with industry-leading products and best-in-class service and support as recognized by Frost & Sullivan with its 2005 Customer Service Leadership Award and demonstrated by the industry's first 10-year warranty. Additional information about the company can be found at www.utahscientific.com.