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Starfish Promotes Non-Profits with Ensemble Designs

Midvale, Utah – 13 Aug 2007

By Mark Shattuck, VP Production & Engineering, The Starfish Television Network

The Starfish Television Network went on the air April 18th of this year with a new idea in television – to give exposure to non-profit organizations such as Children’s Miracle Network, Rotary Club, Operation Smile, and Mothers Without Borders. Delivery of our 24/7 signal literally depends on Ensemble Designs products.

At Starfish we have installed an SDI with embedded audio signal chain that relies heavily on Ensemble Avenue. All of our national network feed goes through the Avenue frame. Client tapes are ingested into the 360 Systems MAXX server. The 360 server broadcast signal as well as a secondary signal path are both routed to an Avenue 5160 bypass protection switch. The secondary/backup feed into the 5160 is a Chyron ChyTV unit with a loop of graphics and music. The 5160 monitors audio presence, video threshold and video freeze. If the primary incoming signal drops below any of the parameters, the 5160 automatically selects the ChyTV as a secondary feed. When the 5160 makes a switch to the secondary feed it also sends an email to a number of our Starfish employees. The 5160 will also send an email when it switches back to the primary signal source. That way we know exactly when a clip did not play out of the server. And we also know when the system is back to a normal status. This email feature has been a great benefit in trouble shooting.

The output of the 5150 bypass switch goes into the Avenue 5420 logo inserter for station ID branding. Finally the signal goes through the Avenue 5470 legalizer for video shaping. When the signal goes to air I know it’s right.

Andy Carleton, our new Production Engineer, selected all of the equipment including the Ensemble Designs Avenue for signal processing. Knowing the reputation of Ensemble Designs and the caliber of their products, I didn’t think twice about depending on their products. Together, Andy and I designed the facility and hired Greg Campbell from 3CI as the integrator to assist with installation.

With the help of Dale Rhodes from D&D Engineering we installed a new C-Band uplink dish. We use a Scopus encoder and we’re on Galaxy 11 so EchoStar/Dish Network and cable companies across the country can easily receive our broadcast. Currently The Starfish Television Network is available on Dish Network channel 9408. We are also on a few cable systems and continue to get picked up as more discover us. We can also be viewed online 24/7 thanks to vdc.com carriage.

Ensemble’s customer support has always been “Grass Valley” style. If Grass Valley Group set the bar, then Ensemble exceeded it. Andy Carleton and I both had past experience with Ensemble. I’d used Ensemble gear at my post facility near San Francisco and had always been happy with the gear and the service. Whether I had easy or difficult questions Ensemble was great to deal with.

All of our broadcast is comprised of existing programs on video tape or DVD. Expect for a few programs that we have just starting to produce ourselves, most of our programming comes from our clients ready to air. We accept all formats including HDCAM, Digital Betacam, BetacamSP, DVD, Mini DV, and even 1”, and 3/4”. We use two Avid suites to do our own bumpers and interstitials.

We also use the Avenue 5400 as our main sync pulse generator for the plant. Ensemble Designs’ Avenue is 3RU and holds up to 10 modules. In addition to sync pulse generators and protection switches, there are HD up-converters, audio embedders and several other modules useful for broadcast. The touch screen control panel and Avenue PC software offer control, monitoring and alarms with Ethernet and SNMP.

We transfer all of the shows to DVCAM tape as our house format. At that point we make necessary audio and video adjustments. The DVCAM tapes are then ingested into our server. Final quality control happens during ingest. We use the Nverzion suite of automation software. After ingest the DVCAM tapes are archived.

In some ways we do 2-3 times the programming of other national networks. Since most of our programs are under 10 minutes it takes 5 or more titles to fill every hour. We include PSAs in between programs at the top and bottom of each hour. Every day we receive, transfer and ingest an average of about 2 hours of programming.

We are currently working on a number of original programs produced by our staff. For example we are putting together an entertainment highlights form the early years of the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon. Much of the footage has only been seen once. We will create new programs from the 25 years of musical numbers and entertainment segments.

We are making plans to build a new HD facility. It will be easy to cut and paste our SD-SDI plans and repeat everything in HD. We’ll continue to rely on Ensemble as we make the move to HD.

The Starfish Television Network is a 501(C)3 nonprofit public charity. Its mission is to tell the stories of the nation’s non-profit organizations and deliver timely, accurate information and news about charitable and other worthy causes to educate, empower and entertain its viewers. More info can be found at: www.starfishtv.org.

Based in Grass Valley, California, Ensemble Designs is a leading provider of signal processing and infrastructure products to the professional broadcast industry. More than half of Ensemble’s revenues are from outside the U.S. Key customers include CBS News, Sky, CNN and RAI. More info can be found at: www.ensembledesigns.com.