Minnesota Public Access Network Automates Local HD/SD PEG Channels with Tightrope Cablecast

Edina Community Channel 16 in Minnesota recently became the state’s first Public Access-Educational-Government (PEG) channel to broadcast in HD on Comcast cable systems, with technology from Tightrope Media Systems supporting the transition and new production workflow.

tightrope_lowrezRun by City of Edina’s Communications and Technology Services Department, the Emmy-Award winning station, known as EDINA 16, produces multiple HD/SD PEG channels.  Content is stored on four Tightrope Cablecast SX server and automation systems, with programs like the biweekly Agenda: Edina news program and Beyond the Badge, a monthly show about public safety in Edina, playing to air according to the station’s schedule.

EDINA 16’s mission is ambitious, featuring live coverage of the City of Edina’s City Council and Planning Commission meetings mixed with news and public affairs programs.  Local residents can access programming on Comcast Channel 813 (HD) and Channel 16 (SD).

“Our Cablecast SX systems are the lynchpin of our operation,” said Scott Denfeld, video production coordinator for Edina Channel 16.  “They enable us to schedule and deliver professional broadcast quality channels with a very lean staff and limited budget.  It allows us to keep our citizens informed and engaged in their local government and community.”

The staff gets a lot of mileage out of their Cablecast systems.  The City of Edina bought two HD and two SD Cablecast SX systems last summer when Comcast decided to entrust them with the public access and educational channels of this franchise’s PEG initiative — known as Southwest Community TV.  Responsibility for government channels within that initiative was assumed by each of the respective municipalities.  However, the nearby community of Eden Prairie asked Edina to produce its local government channel.

The EDINA 16 operation has grown bigger as a result.  In addition to Eden Prairie’s HD government access channel, the staff also produces Public Access Channel 15 and Educational Channel 14 serving five Minneapolis suburban communities — viewable live on their local Comcast cable systems.  Government content produced for EDINA 16 is also available on-demand at The City of Edina’s website and YouTube channel.

Denfeld stresses that all of this expansion would not have been possible without the flexibility and reliability of Cablecast.

“Cablecast’s ease of use and operation includes automation software to schedule live and repeat shows with drag and drop ease, and its Front Door user interface gives us Web-browser based remote monitoring and control of all four Cablecast servers,” Denfeld added.  “With 4 TB of storage and support for popular formats like H.264, MPEG 2/4, QuickTime, AVI, and WMV, we’re able to schedule and playout shows to our broadcast and web outlets in a reliable, streamlined workflow.”

According to Denfeld, Edina’s City Manager Scott Neal and Communications and Technology Services Director Jennifer Bennerotte have “a big creative vision” for this local Public Access/Education/Government initiative.  As Chair of the Southwest Cable Commission, which oversees the franchise area’s PEG programs such as EDINA 16, Neal also played a key role in the selection of the Tightrope Cablecast system and supporting gear.

The four Cablecast systems reside in two seven-foot tall equipment racks in a refurbished storage room in Edina City Hall.  The modest facility includes multiple cameras and a portable video production system with green-screen backdrop that can be set up in the Council Chambers.

“Tightrope’s Cablecast has helped us turn a City Hall storage room into a fully functioning, multi-channel HD/SD broadcast television facility complete with automated scheduling and web-based remote access,” Denfeld said.

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