Town Square TV
"Now, quality from acquisition, to play out, then ultimately to the subscribers' homes has been brought up a couple of notches."
–Joe Conlon (Town Square TV Engineering
Inver Grove Heights, MN—Stationed less than 10 miles southeast of Minnesota's "Twin Cities," Town Square Television produces seven PEG access channels. With all seven channels being broadcast to seven different communities (a total of 22,000 households), it was important to Town Square TV to provide a modern and professional appearance. To accomplish this, the station needed a digital video solution that integrated into their workflow and decided on a system comprised of four UltraNEXUS-SDI™ video servers from LEIGHTRONIX.
The UltraNEXUS-SDI's all-digital video inputs and outputs use the professional serial digital interface (SDI) standard for accepting and transmitting digital video signals. When integrated with SDI equipment in an all-digital facility, digital signals from the UltraNEXUS-SDI can travel hundreds of feet without any data loss for optimal video resolution.
"SDI was a very important thing we were looking for in a new product as we are able to feed SDI video to our cable company now as they no longer use analog modulators," Engineering Manager Joe Conlon said. "Now, quality from acquisition, to play out, then ultimately to the subscribers' homes has been brought up a couple of notches."
In addition to the upgrade to digital, Town Square TV enjoys many other features associated with the UltraNEXUS-SDI. The station utilizes the graphic/text overlay and Virtual Channels features and enjoys increased storage through the TOTAL SHARE™ networking option.
"We got a lot of broadcast features, but not at a broadcast price with the LEIGHTRONIX UltraNEXUS-SDI," Conlon said.
Conlon added that the station was surprised specifically by the graphic/text overlay feature, a feature they knew they needed but did not expect to find packaged within a video server. The station uses this feature to place station bugs on each channel, adding to their professional look.
"We use the overlay to create custom bugs for each of our channels, and those get put on about every program that plays. It was a great cost savings to us to be able to have a digital output of the server with that bug already on it," Conlon said. "I priced it out and I was probably going to have to spend $3,000 per channel just to add that bug externally to each of our channels and keep it in the digital realm, so that was a great feature that was included in the original cost."
Upfront and Accessible
Conlon added that the original cost was refreshing for him and his station as he found it to be upfront and accessible. The price list is accessible through the LEIGHTRONIX home page and Conlon said he was able to find what was included and how much it would cost.
"It's published on the website, and other companies don't always do that, which is great especially for organizations like our facility or cities that need to budget two or three years down the road for capital for purchases," Conlon said.
"One of the things we liked about the LEIGHTRONIX price list is it's 'here's the price and here are all these features.' It's not 'here's the base product, oh you want this, that's another $1,000, you want that, that's another $2,000,' and so on."
The UltraNEXUS-SDI exceeded the station's expectations with how it is able to handle live meetings. The station has 25 live meetings and programs they broadcast each month, and with the UltraNEXUS-SDI, the station can encode those events and begin playback almost immediately, an ability Conlon calls "a great benefit."
This new ability for the station was highlighted during Election Day.
"On election night we had a three hour live show here in our studio and we could encode that while it was happening very easily and create the resources to have them start replaying right after we finished the show," Conlon said. "We started replaying it again on our channel and we had that with current up-to-date election results so we were very happy with that."
Scheduling and Efficiency
With projects like election specials and other original programs, Town Square TV wants to spend as little time as possible scheduling. The station's master control operator, Mike Davison, has seen a drastic decrease in time spent scheduling since the station purchased the UltraNEXUS-SDI.
With their old solution, the station had to type up a schedule for each application. Now with the UltraNEXUS-SDI, the station can pull from the original schedule without having to retype anything.
"[The man-hours dedicated to scheduling] have decreased quite a lot," Davison said. "With the old system we had to input the schedules at least twice, just to get it to play back and that doesn't include sending it to the newspaper, or website stuff."
Conlon added that the new workflow also decreased the number of errors the station makes while scheduling.
"Only typing the schedule once really saves a lot of errors. It's easy to make a typo when you're typing the same thing four times over, and then something isn't lining up quite right," Conlon said.
In addition to increasing their efficiency in scheduling, the station also improved their efficiency with increased storage. By having more storage, Town Square TV is able to hang on to more programming and reusable videos like promos and public service announcements. The increase in storage was drastic as the station went from being able to store 150 hours of programming to being able to store over 6,000 hours of programming.
With so much of his station's functionality tied up in the four UltraNEXUS-SDIs, Conlon said he is assured by the free 5 year warranty that is included in the purchase.
"The 5 year warranty was very impressive," Conlon said. "And dealing with a company that's been around for 30 years, we know and we can trust that they're going to be there."
For Conlon, LEIGHTRONIX's philosophy and reputation for providing customers with cutting-edge, quality equipment at affordable prices and providing the best in product reliability, versatility, and support, was a major factor when purchasing a video server. Conlon had looked around and found that not only did LEIGHTRONIX offer the best support but their philosophy matched up with Town Square TV's.
"We're very happy with the philosophy of LEIGHTRONIX. It's important that we are able to be on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without failures," Conlon said. "We looked at another product that is made here in the Twin Cities area for video servers, and their philosophy was they didn't really seem to care if there were failures and to me that's not acceptable. The philosophy of the LEIGHTRONIX company and ours mesh very well so we're very happy about that."
Conlon said his experience with the UltraNEXUS-SDI has been so great that he would recommend it to anyone looking for a digital video server.
"I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has it as an option. I'd even recommend doing an SDI infrastructure planning for HD. But if you can only feed analog to your cable company, I'd recommend doing SDI in your playback facility and then just before it gets to the cable company's equipment. . . go analog at that point, planning for the future replacement of that equipment by the cable company. It's a system that doesn't get updated or replaced as often as field cameras and things like that. You want to future proof it by planning for the continuance of digital."
As his station moves forward, Conlon is waiting for their cable provider to give the station an HD channel. When that happens, Colon said LEIGHTRONIX will be the first call he makes.
"We like that LEIGTHRONIX is developing HD products," Conlon said. "We're not ready to do HD because the cable company hasn't given us an HD channel, but as soon as they're willing to give us an HD channel, LEIGHTRONIX will be at the top of our list of companies to look at for an HD server because of all of the great benefits we've seen in working with LEIGHTRONIX in the standard definition SDI product."
As the industry standard shifted to a digital workflow, Town Square TV needed an SDI solution to broadcast seven channels to seven communities.
How It Works
SDI stands for serial digital interface and is the professional standard for accepting and transmitting digital video signals. When integrated with SDI equipment in an all-digital facility, digital signals from the UltraNEXUS-SDI can travel hundreds of feet without any data loss for optimal video resolution.
In Their Words
"We're very happy with the philosophy of LEIGHTRONIX. It's important that we are able to be on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without failures... The philosophy of the LEIGHTRONIX company and ours mesh very well so we're very happy about that."
Town Square TV Engineering Manager
"We got a lot of broadcast features, but not at a broadcast price with the LEIGHTRONIX UltraNEXUS-SDI."
Town Square TV Engineering Manager
At a Glance
- Name: Town Square Television
- Location: Inver Grove Heights, MN
- Seven Cities: Town Square TV serves seven suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota: Grove Heights, Lilydale, Mendota, Mendota Heights, South St. Paul, Sunfish Lake, and West St. Paul.
- Famous Residents:
- Becky Holder (Mendota Heights)–equestrian who competed in Eventing in the 2008 summer Olympics
- Justin Morneau (Mendota Heights)–Minnesota Twins first baseman, 2006 AL MVP
- Matt Birk (Mendota Heights)–Baltimore Ravens center, six-time Pro Bowler
- Doug Woog (South St.Paul)–former Minnesota Golden Gophers and Team USA hockey coach, current broadcaster, member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame
- Richard M Schulze (West St. Paul)–founder of Best Buy
- Harold Stassen (West St. Paul)–perennial Presidential candidate, sought office 12 times
- Joan Kroc (West St. Paul)–wife of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc
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