Sarasota Upgrades to HD Production for City Commission Coverage

Making the leap to HD and better workflow
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Making the leap to HD and better workflow
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Miles Larsen, Sarasota’s public broadcasting manager, shows off the city’s Broadcast Pix Granite 2000 integrated production switcher, which is used for coverage of city commission meetings.

BILLERICA, Mass. – Broadcast Pix announced that the city of Sarasota, Fla., has upgraded its City Hall facilities to a native HD infrastructure, anchored by a Granite 2000 integrated production switcher, to produce its city commission meetings for television and the Web.

In 2000, the city upgraded its small production facility in City Hall with an S-video infrastructure. More than a dozen years later, however, the city found it difficult to maintain or replace its outdated equipment. In February, Encore Broadcast Solutions of Tampa, Fla., installed a system-wide upgrade, including an HD-SDI signal path.

“Part of our impetus for doing the upgrade was to upgrade to HD production and adopt a digital workflow,” said Miles Larsen, public broadcasting manager, city of Sarasota.

Coverage of city commission meetings is sent via fiber to master control in a nearby county building for Access Sarasota, a unique government access channel available locally on Comcast Cable and Verizon FiOS that is shared between Sarasota County and the city. Neither Comcast nor Verizon provides an HD channel, so Access Sarasota sends a 4:3 letterbox signal of its meeting coverage to maintain the wide aspect ratio. The city also provides live and on-demand HD meeting coverage on its Web site.

The upgraded system includes three new Panasonic pan/tilt/zoom HD cameras (as well as a previously purchased document camera) in the commission chambers. One camera provides a wide shot of the commission, another shoots close-ups of commission members, and a third is positioned to shoot presenters. The chamber upgrade also included new microphones and an electronic voting system.

In the control room, the Granite system replaced an aging Echolab switcher and PC-based graphics system.

“We were not planning on doing a lot of crazy, elaborate stuff,” Larsen said. “This is a dedicated switcher just for covering meetings. We actually went back to Encore and asked if the Granite was more than what we needed, and they said we’d want room to grow. They were right.”


With 11 SDI inputs, the Granite switcher provides the city commission with enough inputs for all four cameras, as well as DVDs, USB thumb drives and tablets supplied by residents, when necessary. Plus, Encore and Broadcast Pix engineers were able to create an API to allow the switcher to integrate with the AMX control system in the commission chambers, so a staff member can run the production, if necessary.

Granite’s built-in production tools, including the customizable Fluent-View multiview, have also improved workflow during meetings. In particular, the Inscriber CG is a “huge upgrade” from the previous graphics system, which Larsen said was poorly integrated and poorly positioned in the control room.

“Having the CG inside the switcher is so nice,” he said. “There’s no rolling your chair back and forth between workstations, and it’s so much easier to make changes.”

The new system has been in use only since March, but Larsen is already planning to use Granite’s built-in clip store to add roll-ins to open and close meeting coverage.

“We can do things we just couldn’t do before, and we have the freedom to think creatively and improve our production values,” he said. “Every time I sit down in front of the Granite, from the beginning of the meeting to the end of the meeting, I’m more convinced it was the right decision. It makes our productions easier and better.”