Minnesota Community TV System Goes HD

Large public access system upgrades
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Master control room for Suburban Community Channels

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Suburban Community Channels has been the Community TV and media resource connection for the northeast Minneapolis/St. Paul suburbs for more than 30 years, delivering 17 physical channels from its facility. As the local cable franchise authority for Comcast, the PEG broadcaster delivers eight channels of programming across 12 municipalities, including discrete government channels for each community. Suburban Community Channels populates its remaining channels with a variety of imported and locally produced content, the latter of which includes live broadcasts of high school sports.

Suburban Community Channels relies on a variety of products from Tightrope Media Systems to manage its content. In master control, Tightrope Cablecast server and automation systems cost-efficiently deliver high-quality programming to Comcast viewers, simultaneously serving on-demand content to online viewers. Cablecast has played a significant role for the core master control operation, cost-efficiently transitioning Suburban Community Channels from analog to SDI digital, while establishing an HD-ready future. On July 16, “On Location TV19” will become the first channel in the cluster to transition to HD.

“It was clear we needed to rebuild master control from the day I was hired,” said Michael Simonds, technical lead for Suburban Community Channels. “We had a 25-year-old system based on old analog composite video equipment and relay machine control, along with a massively sized router and automation system. Cablecast quickly and cleanly transitioned us to a digital environment, while introducing a large number of operational efficiencies — not to mention returning real estate to our master control center. Tightrope clearly has the community media market in mind for product development, and understands the challenges we face.”

Many of the new operational efficiencies are tied to centralized workflows. Operators can connect to the central Cablecast server from any location with web access, and schedule programming weeks in advance; or make scheduling changes on the fly. Tightrope's Cablecast also allows Suburban Community Channels to quickly add new channels and applications, the most recent of which was a video-on-demand service that offers city council meetings on the website of its member municipalities.

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Digital signage at Suburban Community Channels

Additionally, Tightrope Carousel digital signage solutions support transitional broadcast feeds, including bulletin boards between programs. The Carousel systems also deliver a lively mix of rotating informational programming for visitors and employees inside its lobby areas, providing an additional public-facing benefit for establishing community connections.

On board its production truck, the broadcaster uses a Tightrope ZePlay solution for slo-mo instant replay of highlights from varsity football and other local high school sporting events.

ZePlay allows production personnel to quickly trigger exciting replays and build highlight packages for viewers who follow local high school sports at home. Adding ZePlay to the system allows the production staff to operate across the workflow with more freedom by eliminating the more labor-intensive replay processes of the past.

“Tightrope makes their equipment very accessible, with no special software or training required to learn their products. The user experience is really much better than competitive products, and that is especially true of ZePlay,” said Simonds. “For live sports production, having four inputs and four outputs means that our operators don’t need to do any more intensive switching. We’re no longer doing the old school method of following the puck or the ball and switching angles in real-time. The ZePlay records every angle, and we can assemble what we need to enhance our sports programming. It has simplified our live productions dramatically—just as Cablecast has simplified our master control operations.”

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