Customer Success Story | Arlington Community Media

ACMi creatively leverages Journey to extend their production capabilities

Prominent community TV station combines Journey and the townwide VLAN for at-home production and transmission of football games, elections, and other town events

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> The Challenge

Arlington Community Media Inc. (ACMi) is known as one of the most successful and forward-thinking community media stations in Massachusetts. The station has a close working relationship with the town’s IT department, and enjoys access to the town’s VLAN for transmitting production traffic, with drops located in strategic locations throughout the community.

Even so, the station faced a unique challenge in their production of the town’s extremely popular high school football games. While the football field had VLAN connectivity for transmission, they were rapidly running out of space in the press box to accommodate the increasingly sophisticated level of production they were looking to do. ACMi had a secondary facility across the street known as “Studio B” with extensive control room capabilities; however, Studio B was not on the VLAN. To produce football games, the staff resorted to pulling gear out of Studio B, bringing it over to the high school, wiring it all up for the games, then taking it all back to Studio B at the end of the day.

Jeff Munro, ACMi’s Operations Manager, describes their challenge as, “Let's make this easier for us because our time is not well spent just moving gear, and then engineering it. We have limited engineering expertise. We're doing our best to cover the basics, but the technology changes too fast.” ACMi considered SDI-to-fiber solutions, but they were all expensive, limited in the number of video channels, and required the installation of additional fiber lines.

 

> The Solution

When we used Journey, it looked gorgeous, the quality was awesome, and we could add a program return, which we could never do with any of our other network encoders.
— Jeff Munro, ACMi Operations Manager

After seeing how well Journey works for at-home production on similar projects for other clients, ACMi decided to implement it for their football games. They installed an RF point-to-point IP link between the high school and Studio B, and used it for Journey signal transport between the two locations. By doing this, they were able to produce their football games out of the existing Studio B control room, leaving it intact and efficiently leveraging all of their equipment. Not only could they switch a multi-camera game, but with Journey they could also incorporate PL, scoreboard data, and return video into their production. The final program video was then sent via Journey back to the station’s master control for broadcast.

Journey provides concierge-level transmission booking and management service to the majority of our clients. However, some clients like ACMi prefer to use our self-service booking interface to quickly and easily book and manage their own feeds. The self-service booking process is so straightforward that Jeff was able to give the responsibility to a high school volunteer. “He has taken it on himself to understand the equipment, understand why it's working, how it's working,” Jeff says. “And I was able to put that responsibility on a high school student to manage it.”

But even for self-service clients, that concierge-level support is there when needed. “We've gone so far as to call the NOC during a show to say, ‘We're having issues with XYZ,’ and they can tell us "‘Oh, your booking was wrong’ and explain to us what was wrong and how to avoid that next time,” says Jeff. “The support, training, and helping us understand the equipment, not just throwing it at us, was pretty great.”

Building on their success with their football coverage, ACMi decided to put Journey to work on their live election coverage. They created a production workflow that integrated their main control room with an auxiliary control room at Arlington Town Hall. The introduction of 2-way audio, video, and PL feeds between the studios greatly enhanced their election coverage. “We could now have a conversation back and forth between the two studios. We've never done that before. It was always one-way communication,” Jeff says. By easily integrating the two studios, they were able to include better sets and better graphics into the resulting production.

 

> The Results

Jeff Munro, ACMi Operations Manager

Jeff Munro, ACMi Operations Manager

Because they were working with a network with unpredictable bandwidth availability, ACMi appreciated that they could change Journey’s bandwidth usage to meet current network conditions. Jeff says, “We learned that on Fridays, the school is pushing all their data traffic and the town is pushing their end of the week data traffic. We learned about our network, and what was working and not working through Journey staff at the NOC. They would say, ‘You have a problem between here and there,’ and they could pinpoint exactly where the problems were. So that assistance was amazing.”

For ACMi, one of the key benefits of working with Journey is the availability of network engineering expertise without the need or expense of an on-staff hire. “It opened up the door into the future where we all want to be, but it just seemed like we weren’t going to get there because we don't have the technology,” Jeff acknowledges. “Journey has the know-how and expertise on-staff to get over the hurdles of network configurations for encoding multiple channels and being able to identify network issues. We don't have those tools. So this relationship with Journey has really kind of opened my eyes to the possibilities and to the dependability of hardware and software solutions that were beyond our knowledge base or skill set.”

ACMi is excited about the new potential for production that Journey gives them, and they are eagerly looking at producing live concerts from the high school auditorium and many other projects.

All of a sudden you’re thinking way outside the box, you’re thinking growth, not the opposite. That, and having everything in one place like you guys have in Journey is unprecedented.
— Jeff Munro, ACMi Operations Manager
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Located in Arlington, MA, Arlington Community Media is dedicated to providing an electronic forum for the free exchange of information and ideas which reflect the talents, skills, interests, concerns, and diversity of the Arlington community. ACMi has come to be regarded as a leader in community access technology and innovation in Massachusetts.