WEFS-TV is a non-commercial educational station, licensed to Eastern Florida State College. Since 1988, WEFS-TV has offered a variety of nationally and locally produced original programming on its main channel (and three other channels).
With a market viewership of approximately three and a half million, WEFS-TV has an extremely large community to serve. WEFS-TV also provides professional broadcast television production services for both internal and external customers in the region.
WEFS-TV had done a few local productions over the years, but felt it was time to take the next step. The college president wanted to promote their school through their sports program and sports broadcasts became the obvious method to achieve this goal. Phil Wallace, Station Manager for WEFS-TV told us, “That was the motivation to not only get HD/digital equipment, but to go beyond the minimum standard. Because we’re a community college, we don’t have the financial resources that commercial production companies might have. So we wanted to make the best use of the funds allocated for this project.”
WEFS-TV was working with SD/analog equipment. “We had two equipment racks on wheels, that we would throw in the trailer, wheel onsite, and plug together” explained Phil. John Bober, Chief Director at WEFS-TV elaborated on their vision:
“We spoke with an outside systems integrator – Blackwater – on our original small package and what we were trying to achieve. I myself am familiar with Ross switchers, so I wanted to look at one from the start. When our project got the approval to go bigger, that’s when we looked into getting a fully integrated Ross package. Our engineer Mark Speer and I attended the NAB Show in Las Vegas to see the XPression graphics system”
“The first thing is, I’m an old Avid Deko user,” continued John. “So I was able to interface the Deko to do automated election results. At NAB that’s the first thing I wanted to confirm XPression could do. When I saw how much could be done on one channel and layers, I was sold on XPression right then and there. It was also recommended we go tapeless in our new unit, so it was recommended to look at the BlackStorm video server.”
“I’m Tech Director for the college here, and I have to integrate everything together. With the Ross Talk functionality, it made it incredibly easy for us to get everything integrated. Mark, our engineer was on board with it and we finished our bundle with the Ross NK router. We ultimately worked in a partnership with Blackwater and Enlighten Digital on this project. Blackwater acted as our integrator, while Enlighten facilitated all the training, demonstrations, and purchases for all the gear that we were interested in.”
WEFS-TV’s first production with their new mobile unit was a political forum. Since then, their productions have primarily been for sporting events. With a truck filled with state-of-the-art gear and a crew of professionals who can make magic with it, WEFS-TV has gotten rave feedback on their productions. John confessed, “other colleges have seen our broadcasts, called our athletics director, and asked who was doing our productions for us. They had never seen college sports done that professionally, unless they were watching it on Fox, ESPN, or one of the other major networks.” Phil added, “Our greatest benefit has been getting the image and name of our college out there in the community – in a very big way. Some students have enrolled because of the college sports programs and our president sees our sports productions as a huge asset.”
From a production standpoint, DashBoard has made life a lot easier for the crew at WEFS-TV. Mark commented, “One of the greatest things has to be the automation. We no longer need as many operators on the job, and with DashBoard, we’ve built custom panels that make life easier for the graphics operator.” John added:
“Graphics operators have been in short supply. But with the interface we use on DashBoard it’s very simple for an individual with low-skill to operate our graphics board. We’ve made our own custom interfaces for all the sports we do: Baseball, tennis, basketball, soccer etc. I also have to mention the RossTalk functionality, because it makes our show’s open a brainless execution – from the countdown to the kick-off, it’s all been built with the custom controls. You’re simply waiting on cues from the talent. It’s just so automated and easy.”
The gentlemen at WEFS-TV also had a few words on their stellar ongoing experience with Ross Tech Support. John told us about the commissioning and training they received:
“We were actually invited to be there for the commissioning, which was a great advantage. We were able to see Ross commission all the gear. Then, about a month later, we received training from Ross – which was outstanding. We had a problem with our switcher-soft panel and didn’t even know about it. On the second day of training we had a new switcher softpanel installed! The trainer noticed there was some configuration problems with it, immediately put in a request to replace it, and installed it while he was doing the training!”
Mark added, “Ross has really backed up their product. Whenever we’ve had a problem, they’ve been great at taking care of us and sending us the parts we need to get it resolved. We haven’t had to worry too much.” John concluded, “With Ross gear, I’m not going to six different places – I’m simply going to one. The total ease of integration of every piece of we have, just makes my workflow easy. If I have a problem, there’s no time to get the support I need from six different places.”