City Channel Upgrades Routing

New Utah Scientific routers prepare municipal station for the future
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For several years here at City Channel Pittsburgh, we knew we needed to upgrade our facility to digital operations. But because the city had other budget priorities, we had to wait.

by Robert Means

By the time we finally replaced our 20-year-old analog router earlier this year, it was so worn out we were doing signal transfers via patch bay. I felt like an old telephone operator.

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Today, with a new routing system based on a Utah Scientific UTAH-300 routing switcher for audio and a UTAH-200 router for video, the difference is more than night and day. Besides having a reliable, high-quality router, the Utah Scientific system, which also includes SC-400 control loaded onto a laptop, is easy to reconfigure—no patch bay required.

City Channel Pittsburgh was one of the first municipal broadcasters in the country, having got its start more than 30 years ago. Today, we have two channels. City Channel Pittsburgh is for citizens of the city and televises, for example, live and replayed city council hearings. We also produce informative programs for city departments.

Our second channel is Government Access Programming, and its purpose is to educate and inform the city’s 3,000-plus employees. Most of the programs are geared toward public safety, produced elsewhere and acquired via satellite.

We operate lean and mean with just four employees: two technicians and two videographers. Luckily, we are all television veterans and, of necessity, jacks of all trades. In spite of a small budget, we keep very busy putting out a top-quality product.

The need for a digital upgrade and, in particular, a router was clear to us some time ago, but the actual shopping, purchase and RFP process took six years. This gave us plenty of time to clarify exactly what we wanted in a routing system.

First and foremost, it had to be flexible enough to handle analog, digital or hybrid signals. This mattered because we knew the renovation would be a slow process and that legacy equipment like this would be in use for a long time.

Second, we wanted reliable equipment that would last and be easy to upgrade when the time came. Finally, we hoped to find a company that would work with us to develop a system we could afford that also met our needs.

Utah Scientific qualified on all counts. Both the UTAH-300 and the UTAH-200 were designed for applications that use both analog and digital signals. Currently, we remain an analog shop, but we will be moving to digital step-by-step.

It was also easy for us to establish the quality and reliability of their equipment because several local television stations have Utah Scientific routers in place. As for affordability over the long-term, we found that Utah Scientific offers something unique—a 10-year, no-fee warranty.

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As of now, our new routing system has been operating great for several months. All the signals from the edit suites, control room, and playback system are going into it. We have tape decks in our control room, and we can route the signal as needed into them whether it’s an ISO of a camera, or a control room feed, or a split feed. We can also route whatever is needed into the modulators for the cable companies.

Currently, we have no digital signals, but when we are ready to add them, we can acquire the digital cards. The easy upgrade path for the future was one reason we chose Utah Scientific.

Robert Means is the senior technician at City Channel Pittsburgh.