The days of unpredictable power interruptions, local SD production and being forced to adapt to the limitations of a set rather than having the set meet its needs are in the rearview mirror for KTLM, Telemundo 40, in McAllen, Texas.
Since June 25, the station has been operating from its new 23,000-square-foot Telemundo 40 Studios on the second floor of building near downtown McAllen and the community’s city hall.
There, it produces 14 hours of news a week as well as other local programming in 1080i HD from a modern, adaptable set designed by John Casey Production Design in New York City and built by Blackwalnut in Valley Cottage, N.Y., says Jose Flores, president and GM of the station.
The driving force behind the project was NBCUniversal-Telemundo’s acquisition of KTLM in January 2014, he says. The new studio is the fifth state-of-the-art broadcast facility NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations has rolled out since 2013.
“The station had been on the air for 17 years, and had done a tremendous job, but the equipment was really antiquated,” says Flores.
With the acquisition, a lot of attention was given to positioning the station for future growth, he says.
“We were limited with space, and we wanted to make sure that the market here had the latest technology,” he says.
To ensure seamless operation, KTLM continued operations at its old facility while work began on the new space, says Matt Varney, VP of technology with NBCU’s KXAS Dallas, and the person with overall responsibility for technology at all group stations in Texas.
“I think the biggest lift of this project was the timeline,” he says. “We did not receive that space on the second floor of our new facility until Jan. 10, and we did complete construction, integration, training, testing and rehearsals on-air in about six months and 10 days.”
At the core of the project is a standalone infrastructure for power and cooling not dependent on the building’s systems.
This was important to the station because of the problems it often experienced in its old facility.
“We would lose power continually at the old building,” says Flores. “If we do at the new building, we have a generator that can keep us on the air for a day [24 hours].”
Supplemental cooling is an important ingredient. “We have redundant cooling in our critical tech spaces that are not tied to the building’s chilled water system,” says Varney. “They are independent, all protected by our own generator, and, of course, the whole facility is UPS-protected.”
Automation plays a key role at the new facility, touching production control, studio camera control, graphics and audio.
KTLM’s new control room is based on a Ross Video Acuity production switcher with Ross OverDrive automated production control. A Ross Xpression generates news graphics, and a Yamaha DM Series console is used for mixing. A Grass Valley Kaleido provides multiviewer monitoring, Varney says.
On the set, Hitachi cameras mounted on pan-tilt-zoom heads operate under OverDrive control.
The set features three different monitor arrays made up of a mix of Samsung UD and LG professional monitors. Lighting, including the LED studio lighting and RGB wall lighting, runs under DMX control, says Varney.
One monitor array is behind the main news desk and used to display pre-recorded shots from around the city and nearby communities as well as graphics, says Flores.
Another is used in the weather center, and the third, a two-monitor setup, is behind the sports desk, a new feature that was not part of the old set.
“Everything is generally built with 55-inch monitors,” explains Varney. “There are a couple of 75-inch monitors in the weather center.”
The station places a special focus on weather and how it affects the McAllen community, says Flores. “We built a weather center that is very versatile and can accommodate both weather anchors at once.”
The design allows both weather anchors to access the station’s WSI (now The Weather Co.) weather computer from their desks while on air.
“They have a background where they can display various shots from around the market, or they can also display graphics from their computer,” he says, adding that a chromakey area is located next to the weather center.
“It’s a very versatile setup and gives us the ability to get on the air very quickly with minimal staff,” adds Flores.
The set also includes a standup position for reporters to introduce their stories, says Flores. Wall-to-wall wireless internet connectivity allows reporters, and anyone else in the studio, to work from anywhere in the new facility.
One of the things Flores likes best about the station’s new set is the flexibility it gives KTLM in how it produces other local programs.
Locally produced entertainment productions take advantage of the monitor walls on the set. Some of the monitors are mounted on rails so they can be extended to increase the size of the background, which comes in handy for acts by large groups of singers or dancers, says Flores.
News production at KTLM starts with a newsroom workflow based on the Avid iNews newsroom computer system. Video is edited within GV Stratus using Edius editing software, says Varney.
In the field, news photographers shoot stories with Panasonic AJ-PX380 and AJ-PX270 P2 camcorders.
Live shots and other field footage are contributed via bonded cellular units, including Dejero LIVE+ 20/20 transmitters and LiveU LU500 backpacks.
Flores points out that the station has never had an ENG microwave truck, but rather has relied exclusively on IP newsgathering as a cost-effective alternative.
Not everything is new at the station, however. KTLM migrated its master control, including Crispin master control automation, from its old space as well as its traffic and back office, says Flores.
Aside from the new news set, the most obvious component to viewers of the move and makeover is production of KTLM newscasts and other local programming in high definition.
“We brought them forward 25 years overnight,” says Varney. “It looks fantastic.”