Small market, big technology

From late 1998 until recently, NBC affiliate WNDU-DT in South Bend, Ind., held the title: smallest-market digital TV facility in the U.S. For Chief Engineer George Molnar and Vice President of Operations Greg Giczi, two servers have managed to met their needs so far.

A Newstore video disk recorder from Sun Valley, Calif.-based Spencer Technologies is used exclusively for playing out news clips, a unit that Giczi gives rave reviews. For syndicated programming and spot on-air playback, wndu uses a RapidAccess video server from Salt Lake City-based Vela LP.

Giczi says that, with third- and even fourth-generation servers on the market today, reliability is no longer an issue. In terms of interoperability, redundancy and stacking software, there are lots of choices, as well as lots of freedom.

"The Vela unit comes with its own operating system built in, which is great for us. We have no automation system here," says Giczi. "We shopped long and hard as we prepared to move off our ACR 225. We really like their customer service and the fact that they were quite willing to customize the server to meet our requirements."

Although Vela was presented with a purchase order right after NAB '99, wndu waited until early 2000 to activate the RapidAccess server. Giczi says that Vela provides a lot of server for the money and that it came with 36-GB drives and a total of 0.75 TB of storage.

"We waited until well after the holidays when we see our lightest spot load," Giczi says. "We are not owned by a station group so we have lots of flexibility, and we consider ourselves to be pioneers."

In terms of HD, wndu upconverts everything except The Tonight Show. A Tiernan THE-1 and a Snell & Wilcox HD 5050 are used for encoding and upconverting. Giczi says that he and Molnar are shopping for an HD-compatible still store to replace a 15-year-old Ampex unit.

With wndu's switch to Betacam SX, the VP of operations says that the plan is to edit directly to a nonlinear editor (NLE) and that another server, which ties into the on-air playback server, will be needed. Wndu has a Pro-Bel TX320 master-control switcher with 360 Mb/s output, a GVG 7000 series router and Ikegami HD studio cams.

"The server is not the tough part; the NLE is. That interface concerns us the most. Right now, we are leaning towards Avid, Vibrint or Leitch, although there are others," says Giczi, who notes that any new server has to include MOS and be able to seamlessly re-purpose material for distribution over the Internet.