When civic leaders from Bethlehem, PA, decided to redevelop the old Bethlehem Steel mill into a new community center (complete with art galleries, a multiplex movie theater, outdoor stages, retail outlets and restaurants), it provided the town with a sorely needed reclamation project to boost the local economy. The new "Steel Stacks" arts and cultural campus also provided a new home for WLVT, the local PBS affiliate (channel 39), which would bring it closer to the local community and increase ratings for its local HD newscasts.
The project was critical to WLVT's future, as it had been renting space across town at Lehigh University and wanted to expand and update its production infrastructure. Station management called in veteran system integrators The Systems Group (TSG) from Hoboken, NJ, to help it migrate from mostly tape-based SD operations to an IT-centric HD production and distribution environment.
A new two-story 29,000sq-ft building was constructed from the ground up, giving the station a chance to start from scratch and implement an end-to-end, file-based workflow (using XDCAM HD as the house format). Once construction began in June 2010, it took 15 months to acquire, implement and test the new equipment and systems. (A grand opening celebration was held in
September 2011.) The architectural firm of URS provided the station with an open and airy space, featuring lots of glass windows and open internal sightlines that facilitate easy collaboration among the production staff.
Working with the WLVT engineering team, TSG designed and implemented two HD-SDI production studios ("A" and "B"), a master control room, one production control room, an audio control room, six edit rooms (including three with Apple's Final Cut Pro and three featuring Avid Media Composers), a central equipment room and a technical expansion area (where an insert studio with a green-screen set and other equipment will be installed at a later date). All are fully networked together to ensure easy access to every signal in the building from any desktop.
The new master control suite overlooks the street level of the new complex, where there's a large Panasonic LED display (15.54ft by 9.45ft) outside the building that shows WLVT programming, announces community upcoming events and is a live feed when production is going on in the studios. The building also features extra space, in the form of an Educational & Cultural Center, which is open to outside clients to rent space and produce interviews in the production studio and distribute them via a 4.9m satellite dish on the roof (to transmit and receive programs to and from any satellite). Clients can also finish programs in the FCP and Avid suites.
For the local community, the new building is a welcome addition, and the station's newscasts ratings are sure to get a bit more competitive.