Thursday, August 28, 2014
 
 
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The City of Pocatello Upgrades to SDI Workflow
Providing Community with Hands On Access to State of the Art Public Access Television Facility

Pocatello, Idaho's Public Access Television department isn't like those of other cities. In addition to offering its residents, as well as those of neighboring Chubbuck, the opportunity to use its production facilities, linear and non linear editing facilities and field equipment all free of charge, Pocatello's Public Access department also holds free studio, camera and editing workshops and welcomes volunteers of all ages and abilities to help produce shows in the studio.

To some, this may seem like quite an undertaking when coupled with the fact that the department only has three full time employees. Ken Wilson, the production manager, is also responsible for all elements of the department's regularly scheduled productions. For the past 15 years, Ken has directed, filmed and edited productions for Pocatello's two public access channels. He's also trained volunteers on how to use cameras, direct multi camera shoots and edit footage, as well as maintained the station's computer network.

Just ask Ken, and he'll tell you the secret to making it all work: reliable and easy to use equipment that does not require a tremendous amount of maintenance. With this in mind, Ken uses a Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher, two Blackmagic Design DeckLink SDI capture and playback cards and three Mini Converters HDMI to SDI.

This Blackmagic Design gear was a key part in the building of a new SDI based onsite and portable studio to support every part of Pocatello's public access capabilities.

 

Versatility is Paramount
According to Ken, the portable studio was built around the Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher, which was chosen for its SDI capability at an affordable price. Working within a budget, versatility is paramount for Ken.

"The ATEM 1 M/E does everything that we need it to do. We mostly run in SD, but occasionally we run in HD, so the ATEM's flexibility to switch between the two is very handy," said Ken. "It also saves me time with graphics, as I can build graphics in Photo Shop and drop them right into the ATEM as well as improve the quality of the graphics and even build them out for the next year."

The ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher is a broadcast quality SDI switcher with HD and SD switching capabilities, as well as a full range of effects and graphics. It comes in a two rack units size and includes eight total inputs (four SDI and four HDMI) and SDI, HDMI and analog outputs including down converted SDI output and USB 3.0.

"It's very handy for me to not have to spend a couple thousand dollars on a separate piece of gear in order to put up title graphics and lower thirds for live productions in the field," continued Ken. "I'm looking forward to some upcoming opportunities to use the media players for motion graphics."

Ken also cites features such as the ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher's button mapping and the multi viewer as increasing ease of use. Button mapping allows Ken to customize his configuration and assign inputs to certain buttons on the control surface, as well as the ability to name the inputs and customize the multi viewer.

Upgrading to an SDI Workflow
When the department decided to upgrade to an SDI workflow, it required a capture and playback device that could get the job done on a Public Access budget. The device also had to be easy to use, as many of the volunteers do not have technical backgrounds or previous experience in television.

"I chose the DeckLink SDI capture and playback card, and it fits all our requirements and works like a charm," said Ken. "It allows for an easy and reliable workflow, working seamlessly with our Sony Vegas editing system, and we don't have to capture and import through other software. The DeckLink card actually ended up saving us time, as we're now able to capture straight through to our editing suite in the main studio. This is huge from a troubleshooting and quality control perspective. We also use one in our portable studio."

Averaging 35 to 40 field shoots a year, Ken relies on the portable studio and three or more cameras to record local events, such as concerts, dance recitals and school board meetings. Ken uses the DeckLink SDI in a rack mount computer used specifically for capture. Via the DeckLink SDI, the feed is recorded to an external RAID drive.

"We need to capture to an external drive so we can move the content to our edit suites without having to assemble the whole portable unit back at the main studio," explained Ken. "We also needed a RAID array in order to get the throughput required to capture an HD video stream."

Local Government and Public Access
With a permanent setup in the city council chambers, Ken covers Pocatello City Council meetings.

"We're slowly migrating that system to SDI, but we're not quite there yet. We went with a lower end camera that had HDMI out," said Ken. "With our budget in mind, it was better for us to buy smaller but still adequate cameras along with three Blackmagic Design HDMI to SDI Mini Converters that take care of converting the feeds to SDI for us."

"Currently our city council chambers' equipment is a mix of analog and digital, but we fully intend to make it an all SDI path, and when we do, we will definitely be looking to Blackmagic Design," concluded Ken.

 


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