Like many TV stations, KOMO-TV in Seattle had long been broadcasting using a fully HD-capable master control room. Its production facilities, used many times daily for its newscasts, were capable of 16:9 production, but not HD. That needed to change, said KOMO engineer John Reynolds. "In addition to the need for HD capability, much of our key equipment was reaching end-of-life and would soon not be well supported by its manufacturers," he said.
That, combined with significant stability issues with audio and video equipment, necessitated an upgrade. Sony's ELC newsroom automation system was chosen to streamline the news production workflow, and a Sony MVS-7000X production switcher was selected to handle video control. That left one key need unfilled: audio.
The existing audio console had long been considered rather complicated to operate; KOMO needed a stable, operator-friendly alternative. Several consoles were considered, including Wheatstone's D-8 control surface, but in the end the need for more control flexibility and more mix-minuses led to a different direction. The final choice was Wheatstone's Dimension One, the latest network-based TV audio console from that manufacturer. It seemed to offer the best fit in terms of price, flexibility and power.
Design work on the new control room began in April 2011. Construction began shortly thereafter with the assistance of Advanced Broadcast Solutions, an integrator that handled installation, wire management and documentation. Most of the systems required some configuration and setup, but Reynolds got a pleasant surprise with the Dimension One.
"We were able to unpack it, plug it in and turn it on immediately; the console was ready to go before Wheatstone's commissioning engineer even arrived on site," he said. "No other system was that easy to get running."
The control room went live on Oct. 8, 2011, and the simplicity initially experienced remained a running theme with the Dimension One.
"Our operators found it to be extremely simple and straightforward to work with," Reynolds said, "and it's by far the most incredibly stable console we've worked with." The Sony ELC news production automation system's audio facilities are capable of controlling 48 logical faders, and the Dimension One was ordered to provide that exact number, an important consideration.
"The greatest part of the Wheatstone experience was the simplicity," said Brett Jungbluth, systems engineer. "Because there was so much to do in getting this facility ready for air, we had very little time to spend in training with Wheatstone. The other side of the coin is that the simplicity of the console's operation meant that we actually needed less training."
KOMO's new news production control room is now in full-scale operation. While the facility is occasionally used for commercial production, such sessions are difficult to schedule because of the need to produce newscasts throughout the day. The project's ultimate goal — to produce HD newscasts, important in today's competitive television market — seems to have been well satisfied.