Irvine Expands, Goes Digital

The Southern California city of Irvine's ICTV has been broadcasting for less than 10 years.
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Tom Macduff at the controls of ICTV. Photo by Tim Knight The Southern California city of Irvine's ICTV has been broadcasting for less than 10 years. In that time, it has gone from six part-time freelancers broadcasting city council meetings, a monthly news show and outside programs to a 24/7 government access station that employs three full-timers and 25 part-time freelancers.

In 2004, Senior Media Services Coordinator Tom Macduff was hired as ICTV's first full-time employee and given the objective to produce more Irvine centric programming. Towards that end, the ICTV staff produces, writes, shoots and edits bi-weekly news shows, police department programs, live events in the City Council Chamber and around the city and other special programs. In addition to its government access Channel 30, it streams live 24/7 via the city's Website, where ICTV productions are archived and, said Macduff, "available now through eternity."

Most of the programming requires shooting in field, but the 210-seat City Council Chamber gets plenty of use for concerts, film screenings and plays. Recently, in order to improve live broadcasts, the multi-purpose Chamber received a complete digital upgrade. "We kept a few things like some decks and the Panasonic digital cameras, but all in all we have very little legacy equipment," said Macduff.

While he has been envisioning this upgrade since he started at ICTV, it wasn't until 2007 that consultations began with the integrator Digital Networks Group and the Project Consultant Darren Doershel. The upgrade would not have been possible without funding through a Cox Communications franchise agreement.

The upgrade took place during the three-and-a-half weeks when the Chamber is dark during the New Year holidays. "Everything was dismantled in a couple of hours and we were left with a pile of wires," said Macduff. "I was scared, but we got there. Our drop-dead finish date was a broadcast of a City Council meeting. We were debugging things until 10 minutes before the meeting, but it went without a hitch."

A Media Control Systems Tightrope is in the control room, along with a Ross Video Vision 1 control panel, CG control and media cache for global store. There are also Tektronix signal generators and a Compix Media CG. "We expanded capabilities with this upgrade and now have more graphics, including more fly-ins and animation-type stuff," Macduff said.

The control room is also outfitted with an Evertz fiber-optic receiver and transmitter and Compu-Video analog waveform/vectorscope combo, plus a variety of Sony and JVC recorders. AV equipment includes an Avitech four-input command center, CSI scan converter, and Extron SDI video scaler. Lastly, Middle Atlantic Racks built custom racks for the digital and analog routing stations and Laguna Designs designed a custom console with monitor mounting.

While the upgrade was completed in early January, it took until April before the project had its final closeout.

"Getting up and running was stressful, but that was the easy part. We've had to deal with the little problems of learning the software, switcher, and playback system," said Macduff. "The contractors have been amazing. The system we ended up with is ten times better than what I had envisioned."

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