By Brian Galante
Special to Weekly Tech Roundup
MILFORD, N.H. — Committed to the creation of quality programming, local company Granite Town Media made a conscious effort to outfit their facilities with the latest production and distribution technologies.
Upgrading their long-serving automation and playout system in preparation for HD broadcasting, the station purchased a new Cablecast VIO multi-format video server with version 7.0 of the Cablecast broadcast automation software to efficiently bring content to both cable and cord-cutting audiences.
Named after the Town of Milford’s historical nickname – it was once home to numerous quarries where most granite in the U.S. was mined – Granite Town Media delivers community access programming over cable television, live web streaming, social media, and OTT channels. Expecting to get its first HD cable channel early this year, the station set out in 2019 to convert its legacy analog infrastructure and equipment to high-definition SDI.
Having successfully used a Cablecast SX4 server for over eight years, it was natural that they would stay with the Cablecast Community Media platform for their next playout and scheduling system. Station media manager Chris Gentry had worked with the more recent Cablecast Flex family during his tenure at another PEG facility, but chose to wait for the newest-generation Cablecast VIO before upgrading in July.
“I liked Cablecast Flex, but Cablecast VIO had some compelling features that would create new opportunities for us, such as expanded support for IP-based remote contribution that we can use for sports and bringing in other towns’ feeds,” Gentry explained. “It also made sense to go for the newest hardware platform to give us the longest lifecycle.”
Granite Town Media chose a Cablecast VIO 4 playout server, configured as three playout channels – one each for their Public, Education and Government offerings – and one recording input. Cablecast Live and Cablecast Pro VOD servers power the station’s live streams and on-demand video library, with the cloud-based Cablecast Reflect service providing reliable stream delivery to an unlimited number of viewers. Meanwhile, Cablecast Screenweave brings their live and on-demand content to Roku and Apple TV devices.
Having previously run the station’s bulletin board on a tightly integrated but physically separate Tightrope Carousel system, Gentry praises Cablecast VIO’s ability to run multiple instances of the broadcast-optimized Cablecast CG software – still based on the Carousel engine – within a single unit. “Running our playout automation and three bulletin boards all on one Cablecast VIO server simplifies routing and makes everything more robust,” said Gentry. “We also produce audio podcasts, and are adding them into our bulletin board rotation. The audio of the podcasts is played over the bulletin visuals, which is a great way to bring podcasts into our television mix.”
Gentry is also a big fan of Cablecast VIO’s new squeeze-backs and expanded channel branding capabilities. “They definitely enhance the look and feel of our channels, making them look cleaner and more professional,” he explained.
Beyond the improvements visible to Granite Town Media’s audience, Cablecast VIO and its accompanying version 7.0 automation software have delivered significant operational benefits and time savings behind the scenes. “I absolutely love being able to upload media files remotely through the web interface without needing to be in front of the system,” Gentry praised. “I’m based at Town Hall, but the server is located three miles away at the local high school. Rather than needing to use FTP or VNC, or worrying about firewall permissions, I can just hit ‘upload’. This makes a huge difference for me, saving me a lot of time.”
The software’s new confidence monitoring feature has similarly freed Gentry from his facility’s walls. “I was at a meeting out of town, and I was able to pull up my station and see exactly what was playing out,” he recalled. “If there’s anything incorrect, I can see and fix it right away.”
Gentry also praises the Cablecast software’s batch scheduling functions – such as the Auto-Scheduler for rule-based population of recurring time slots – as significant time-savers.
“I’ve seen quite a few jumps forward that Cablecast has made over the years, and Cablecast VIO is another big one,” concluded Gentry. “Previous generations were great, but Cablecast VIO is saving me even more time by streamlining and letting me automate even more. I’m a one-person show here, so anything I can automate gives me more time to focus on providing quality programming and exceptional service for the public, our local government and our school district.”