Most times, when a broadcaster calls in a systems integrator for help, it calls in a local company that is easily accessible and readily available. Yet, earlier this year when Albritton Communications wanted to upgrade its local cable news channel (NewsChannel 8, watched in more than 1.1 million homes), it contracted with The Systems Group (TSG), located in Hoboken, NJ (more than 200mi away.)
Selecting TSG was not a stretch, as the two companies have worked together since 2002, when TSG relocated WJLA and NewsChannel 8 from separate facilities in Washington D.C. and Virginia to a consolidated facility at their current home in Arlington, VA. This HD upgrade project is the third integration to be completed by TSG since the original WJLA installation.
The challenge to this latest project was that it had to be completed quickly (in just three months to meet a contractual agreement with Verizon, a local cable system operator) without adversely affecting on-air operations. Simply put, there could be no down time while TSG performed the triage required directly adjacent to the current operations.
TSG was given four distinct tasks during this project. First was to replace aging monitor walls in five news and operations control rooms with an Evertz MVP multiviewer system and new Samsung LCD panels. Second was to construct a new QAM in-house cable headend of more than 60 channels to replace a decades-old NTSC system. Third and most recognizable to the viewers at home was upgrading all technical infrastructure for NewsChannel 8 to full HD operations, including its master control and production control room. Master control for NewsChannel 8 now includes a Harris IconMaster system, while the production control room features a new Ross Video Vision (3.5M/E) switcher and Hitachi cameras. Harris signal processing equipment provided the "glue" to complete the HD infrastructure. The final (and most daunting) task for TSG was the intricate process of working with station engineering to ensure that all existing production systems continued operating properly as the HD equipment was brought online.
After a few months of frenetic activity, and virtually unbeknownst to the viewing public, the installation project was finished, the equipment tested and the staff trained. The cable channel went HD in November.
Everyone involved is pleased with the fast, reliable, cost-effective and technically sound results.