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BeckTV Makes City of Austin Control Rooms More Efficient

Ross LCS system provides simplified system to capture and broadcast city council meetings

BeckTV crew began working on the studio redesign in July of 2014 with a complete gutting of the old control room and removal of ATXN’s outdated equipment.

AUSTIN, TEXAS — One of the greatest responsibilities of the media is to serve as a watchdog for the government. In Austin, when it comes to city council meetings, that task falls on City of Austin’s ATXN channel, which records and broadcasts all council meetings.

However, as of January 2014, ATXN was made up of equipment that was around 10 years old, wasn’t HD-capable, and in many cases, had no immediate option for upgrade.

“We had a crazy mix of analog and digital signals,” said Keith Reeves, ATXN’s station manager. “All of our equipment was outdated at that point. We were trying to make it work, and we did, but there weren’t upgrades or support options on most of that equipment, so it really left us in a tight spot. We needed to build a more reliable system and upgrade it to high definition.”

As a result, Reeves and his ATXN team extensively searched for the right system. They eventually found a system they liked in the Ross Video Legislative Control System. But ATXN needed some outside assistance in installing the system along with a complete overhaul of their control rooms and master control, including integration of other equipment to compliment it.

This is where BeckTV came in, a company who specializes in the design and construction of professional TV facilities. The BeckTV crew, led by Project Engineer Abel Sassenhagen, began working on the studio redesign in July of 2014 with a complete gutting of the old control room and removal of ATXN’s outdated equipment.

In addition to the installation of the Ross LCS system, which serves as the de facto hub for controlling much of the other equipment BeckTV brought on, a slew of Ross products were installed to simplify ATXN’s broadcasts. One of the new pieces of gear was the Ross eXtreme router, which features a pair of built-in Carbonite switchers. There is also the Ross DashBoard, a control and monitoring system that is part of the openGear platform, meaning it can control other devices that are part of the openGear, not just Ross. This includes the Ross Xpression graphics system, another new addition.

BeckTV also installed a number of other products to aid in ATXN’s operation. For audio it went with Wheatstone’s E6 mixer; it also installed EditShare’s Flow record servers and Geevs playout servers; as well as Sony 900 and 330 robotic cameras. There was one hold over from ATXN’s previous system, a pair of studio cameras that had HD capability, but were down converted to SD to work with the remainder of ATXN’s system.

All of this new equipment has been deployed into three separate control rooms; one to handle meeting coverage in the council chambers; another for meeting coverage in a boards and commissions room; and a third that serves as a combined studio and media briefing room. Thanks to the Ross LCS’ ability to operate a majority of these systems through its touchscreen, the new system has allowed ATXN to effectively manage its slate of meetings despite its limited staff.

“Basically what we did was take a four-man operation per meeting, or per chamber, and we made it into a one-man operation,” Sassenhagen said. “So a single person can actually run a meeting at the City of Austin.”

While the new system did take some training for the ATXN staff, Reeves was surprised how easy it was for everyone to pick it up: “We anticipated it would take a long time to get our staff trained on it because there was almost 100 percent new equipment in our control rooms. They picked it up pretty quickly and we didn’t have much down time once we launched the new control rooms. We were up and running and televising a lot of meetings.” BeckTV would continue to provide support if new issues did come up; according to Reeves the new system has “been a lot more reliable.”

BeckTV wrapped up ATXN’s new control rooms back in January 2015, concluding a six-month project. “All automation systems take a lot of prep time upfront to get the system vetted and working correctly,” Sassenhagen said. “But once you get the system working it’s very simple to use. LCS is just like that, it’s very simple to use.”

Word of City of Austin’s success with its new facilities has spread, as BeckTV and Sassenhagen are currently installing a similar system for a TV station in San Antonio.