HOW PROGRAMS WERE DELIVERED TO FBN STATIONS
As we mentioned in the opening above some programming was provided on film or videotape. The programs were shipped into the station typically by UPS. Remember, Federal Express was just beginning. We have mentioned on our web site that programs were delivered to stations in a “bicycle” fashion and here is how that worked. If a program producer was going to air a program on forty stations they could make forty copies of the program and send one to each station. This, however, would be costly as forty copies of the program, film or videotape, would have to be made and individually shipped. As an alternative to this, assuming the program material didn’t require immediate airing, programs would be sent to a station and, once it aired, then be shipped to the next station and so on. This was called a “bicycle route.” In our example above with forty stations the program producer may make ten copies of a program and send them on ten bicycle routes around the country with each route made up of four stations.
KEEPING ON TIME
A special clock was installed at the KHOF-TV transmitter site that was synchronized with the clock at the studio. The pulses used to keep the clocks in perfect synchronization were also carried on a special channel available on the microwave link that interconnected Faith Center to the TV transmitter site. In fact, this same clock signal was available at the KHOF-FM transmitter and was broadcast on a special sub-channel on the radio station that could only be received by a specialized tuner. This was done when Faith Center owned KIFM, and FM radio station, in Bakersfield, CA. Since programming on KIFM also originated from KHOF-FM the clock provided a precise means to facilitate switching programming from the KIFM studios to that coming from KHOF-FM.
Here is an interesting side note. If things were not perfectly aligned you could sometimes faintly hear the clock signal in the background audio of the radio station. The sound can be best described as sounding like a “tweedly–burp” once a second.
To deal with programming originating from the television station’s main studio, typically located in an urban area and some distance away from the transmitter, the station would establish an audio/video link between the studio and transmitter called a “Studio to Transmitter Link” (STL). This was accomplished by either leasing a rather expensive coaxial cable connection from the telephone company (called a Telco video and audio “VANDA” Loop) or a station owned radio link that operated in the microwave frequency band.
A Telco connection is what the networks (e.g. ABC, CBS and NBC) used to connect the network origination point to its affiliates spanning the country from New York to Los Angeles. In consisted of a combination of transcontinental microwave and coaxial cable links. This was before the adoption of satellite transmissions that replaced Telco circuits in the early 1980’s.
On the local level, not many stations had a Telco connection from their studio to their transmitter. To do so would have involved an expensive construction cost plus a long term contract commitment. For KHOF-TV a Telco connection was not even an option as no Telco television service was available to Sunset Ridge. To facilitate playing programming occasionally from the Glendale studio and for live productions a microwave radio STL was installed.
From its beginning KHOF-FM delivered its radio programming from the radio studios to the KHOF-FM transmitter by using a high quality Telco audio circuit. Fortunately, the point to point distance between the studio and transmitter was not that great making the circuit affordable. We will explain why this was mentioned in a moment.
THE LAST FRONTIER FOR INTERCONNECTION - WHCT, HARTFORD, CT
Individual connectivity to WHCT in Hartford, Connecticut, never occurred. In the 1980’s satellite transmission was gaining popularity and becoming more affordable. In later years the new leadership at FBN constructed a satellite uplink at Faith Center which could beam programming to the entire United States as well as to the FBN TV stations.
CONNECTING THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF DOWNEY, CA
Back on the subject of getting live programming aired on KHOF-TV, circa 1972 the First Baptist Church of Downey, California, contracted with KHOF-TV to carry its Sunday service live. Dr. Harold Adams was the pastor at that time. Again, a Telco interconnect was not available and constructing one would have been cost prohibitive, therefore, making microwave radio the logical solution.
Fortunately, the path from the church at 3rd and Dolan in Downey was a clear shot to the KHOF-TV transmitter on Sunset Ridge. A dish style antenna was mounted at the transmitter site on the tower and aimed towards the church. A dish style antenna was mounted on the roof of a Sunday school building. KHOF-TV technical staff also assisted in installing cameras and switching equipment purchased by the church for their television ministry.
In 1975 Chief Engineer, Bernie Marston, left for vacation and left a note asking this author to look into an occasional “hissing sound” that would occur in the KHOF-FM audio. As a fairly new engineer I tried a couple of things including changing out some components in the microwave radio transmitter and receiver, but to no avail. After further investigation it was determined that the microwave signal was undergoing some kind of fading condition causing the signal to get low enough to where background noise would build. The question was what was getting into the path to interfere with the signal. While standing on the roof above the microwave antenna at Faith Center and looking towards the reflector on the Bekins building it was noticed that a rather large tree directly across Eulalia Street was in full bloom. Thinking that could indeed be a problem I approached the property owner in hopes he would agree to do a little tree trimming. To my surprise, he was more than willing to accommodate and before long put his saw into action and gave that tree a good trimming, much more than I expected. It worked! The signal came back to normal with no more swishing noise in the background.
On the subject of fades, we would experience fades from time to time of the signal going from the KHOF-FM transmitter to the KHOF-TV transmitter. These fades manifested as “snow” or grain in the picture with the hissing sound in the audio. These would typically occur in the early morning or evening hours. This was due to the microwave radio signal originating at KHOF-FM, which is close to sea level, shooting to Sunset Ridge 30 miles away which was 5400 feet above sea level. During certain times of the year temperature differences of the altitudes would cause the microwave beam to diffract and bend, basically overshooting the receive antenna. Fortunately, these fades did not last long nor were they sever enough to interrupt programming for an extended time.
Burt Lehman recalls another incident that caused hiss in the audio. “Another event in the STL interference occurred after the plumbicon tubes in the sanctuary cameras that pickup the image started aging. At a couple thousand bucks apiece, we didn't replace them just because they had a little green fuzz showing in a corner of the picture. We finally realized that the high green signal was overmodulating the microwave, and causing interference in the audio channel used by the FM station. I'm not sure of the chronology, but I think the FM station went to its own STL link after that. [Editor’s note: Burt is referring to when we converted KHOF-FM to stereo and we had to use stereo Telco circuits to get the stereo programming to the transmitter.]
KHOF-TV signed on the air in 1969 with the goal of being able to broadcast some of the church services live from Faith Center. As mentioned earlier getting a Telco video loop to the KHOF-TV transmitter site 32 miles away was not an option and, therefore, would have to be accomplished using a microwave radio STL.
For microwave radio links to work line-of-sight was required between the origination and destination end points. In other words, a person had to be able to stand at the origination point, in this case the Faith Center studio, and if looking through “super high powered binoculars” on a cloudless, haze free and smog-less Los Angeles day (a near impossibility) be able to see the destination point, the KHOF-TV transmitter site atop Sunset Ridge 32 miles away. This was required to avoid obstructions such as hills, mountains and buildings from blocking the radio signal. Unfortunately, line-of-site was not the case between Faith Center studios and the KHOF-TV transmitter. A rather large obstruction existed between the two and was located across the street. It was the hill of Forest Lawn!
CONNECTING THE PRODUCTION CENTER
Once the television production center was completed it became necessary to interconnect it with both the radio and television station. The easiest and most economical way to accomplish this was with a microwave radio link.
Interconnecting the production center with Faith Center gave the highest flexibility since programs originating at the production center could be sent to Faith Center and be aired on KHOF-FM by simply selecting the production center audio channel. Television programs could simply be patched into the original microwave path mentioned earlier and sent to the KHOF-TV transmitter for airing. The path between the production center and Faith Center was, fortunately, a clear path with no building or terrain obstructions to block the signal with a path length of only 1.4 miles as the crow flies.
In the late 1970’s Bernie Marston was charged with task of devising a way to get live programming from the FBN Production Center to the FBN station in San Francisco, KVOF. The distance between the production center and KVOF transmitter was over 320 miles as the crow flies! Due to the earth’s bulge the average microwave path is 30 to 50 miles depending on a number of factors. Overall, it would have taken at least 6 microwave paths to get the signal between the two locations. Building this number of paths would not have only involved purchasing equipment but also purchasing and leasing land and/or towers. Additionally, maintaining these links would have been solely on the backs of the FBN engineering staff. This clearly was not an inexpensive or practical solution.
Bernie Marston, however, was able to find a company that was constructing a CAble television Relay Service (CARS) to carry cable television programming between Los Angeles and San Francisco. As part of their construction of microwave links to carry other video programming they could easily “piggyback” radios on to their facilities to carry FBN programming. Bernie was able to negotiate an attractive deal with the CARS communications company. The only link Bernie needed to provide was one to get from the production center into the telecom’s network. Bernie placed a microwave dish style antenna at the KHOF-FM site and aimed it towards a receive antenna on Oat Mountain where the signal was coupled into the network and sent to San Francisco. Doing it this way not only provided a way to get programs from the Production Center to San Francisco but also for any programs originating from Faith Center.
Programs aired on KHOF-TV and other FBN stations required getting the program, whether produced live, on film or videotape, from the studio or program originator/distributor to the transmitter for airing. What we present here are the details on how programming was delivered to stations. Today programming can be easily delivered via satellite or the Internet. In the 70’s satellite delivery of television programming was in its infancy and, of course, the Internet as we know it today did not exist. While we will cover some technical details of program delivery methods used back then we hope that the less technically inclined will find it interesting and informative.
In the 1970’s microwave radio was the primary means of transporting live audio/video programming between the program origination point and the television transmitter. Bicycling of videotape and film material for non-live programming continued until the mid-1980’s when delivery of programming was accomplished through the use of satellite delivery. Nowadays delivery of program content occurs via satellite, fiber optic networks and the Internet.
We trust you have found this page on how programming was delivered to a television station both informational and educational. The technology of today gives a lot more options for the delivering of programming in a very cost effective manner.
The next option that was explored was to see if a clear path could be established from Faith Center to some intermediate point where the signal could then be relayed on another clear path to the KHOF-TV transmitter site. The ideal intermediate point was the KHOF-FM transmitter site located in the northeast part of Glendale since Faith Center owned the property and tower to which antennas could be mounted. There was another advantage of using the FM radio site as an intermediate point. The KHOF-FM radio programming could be delivered to the transmitter via the private microwave thereby eliminating the need of a high quality Telco audio loop. This would eliminate the monthly recurring charge from the telephone company.
Unfortunately, it was not line-of-sight from the Faith Center building to the FM transmitter. Again, the direct path was obstructed by the hills of Forest Lawn. However, as Pastor Schoch used to say, “But God!”
Map showing the direct path from Faith Center to the KHOF-TV transmitter atop Sunset Ridge
A close up of the Faith Center end of the path showing the terrain obstruction, displayed by the closely spaced brown contour lines, of Forest Lawn just to the east of the Faith Center label
Bernie Marston figured out a way to “bend” the radio signal around the hills to get it to the KHOF-FM transmitter. He found that way which involved using space on a Bekins Moving and Storage warehouse located at 929 S. Brand Blvd. on the corner of Brand Boulevard and Acacia Avenue. Bernie mounted a passive microwave repeater (reflector) to the elevator penthouse atop of the 7 story building. This device is a very flat and smooth piece of aluminum that looks like a signboard. To microwave frequencies it acts like a mirror reflecting the microwave signal towards another location.
Map showing the direct path from Faith Center to the KHOF-FM transmitter. Similar to the previous map, note the terrain obstructions of Forest Lawn and other hills between the path end points.
Bernie mounted a 4 foot parabolic microwave dish style antenna on the north side of the Faith Center auditorium under the eve of the west end of the building. This antenna was aimed towards the reflector atop of the Bekins building. The signal bounced off the reflector towards the KHOF-FM transmitter. Two dish style antennas were mounted on the KHOF-FM tower. One of the antennas received the signal being bounced from the Bekins building. The FM stations audio signal was recovered and sent into the KHOF-FM transmitter and transmitted on 99.5 MHz from the antenna on top of the tower. The received signal from the Bekins building was also sent into another microwave transmitter connected to the second dish type antenna mounted on the tower. That antenna was aimed towards the KHOF-TV transmitter some 30 plus miles away.
Bernie adds these comments regarding the design and construction. “The Sunset Ridge
MW [microwave] installation was definitely some time after Ch. 30 sign-on, probably
in 1970. I did the path calculations and [FCC] applications with help from Lenkurt's
field engineer. The original idea was for a live repeater [a dedicated microwave
receiver and transmitter] on the Bekins building and I had negotiated a lease that
included equipment space, electricity and 24 hour access. I just happened to read
an article on passive reflectors and a light switched on (in me). The Lenkurt repeater
equipment was already on order along with the equipment for Faith Center, the FM
site and Sunset Ridge. I canceled the Bekins equipment and dealt with Microflect
on the redesign and purchase of the passive reflector. Installation of the reflector
deserves its own story. I also had to re-do the FCC application. I don't remember
the cost of the system. I remember that I did some renegotiation with Bekins on the
rent and having Floy Davis [Faith Center Bookkeeper] send them a check a time or
two but they forgot to bill us and we forgot to pay them all the rest of the time
we used it. There were some other negotiations when Angeles [a latter KHOF-TV interim
licensee] wanted to re-activate the link but I am having difficulty remembering the
details. Some wise guy had readjusted the reflector to see if it was in use. Bekins
had sold the building by then.
On the right is a picture of the installation of the passive repeater on top of the Bekins building. Standing on the roof facing the camera is Paul Calentine. Marcus Lehman has his back to the camera. To the left of the ladder and in the air is Burt Lehman. Byron Mobus is seen peeking over the reflector to the left of Burt. The person behind the ladder is Bernie Marston.
The Bekins building is a 7 story building seen on the left of the photo above. This photo was taken in 2012.
A closer view of the Bekins building. The passive repeater is the gray looking “signboard” on the roof to the immediate right of the palm tree.
There was a dish type antenna mounted on the KHOF-TV tower aimed towards the KHOF-FM tower that received the microwave signal from the dish style antenna mounted on that tower.
A photo taken in 2012 showing the 4 foot microwave antenna at Faith Center on the north side of the auditorium. The antenna is aimed at the Bekins building.
The microwave link was now complete. Both radio and television programming could be produced at the KHOF-FM-TV studios and sent by microwave radio to the respective transmitter sites without incurring any monthly connection charges from the telephone company. Live programming could now be aired on KHOF-TV. As the programming day expanded programs would be played alternately between the studio and transmitter site. Doing this reduced the amount of film and videotapes that had to be transported to the TV transmitter site.
Photos taken circa 1970 of the 10 foot dish style microwave antenna installation at the KHOF-TV transmitter on Sunset Ridge. Burt Lehman is at the top of the antenna. The father of KHOF-TV engineer, Fred Hoehn, is one of the two individuals below Burt. While we are unsure of the third person on the tower it was most likely Byron Mobus.
Above is a picture showing the completed installation of the large round 10 foot dish antenna that receives the signal from the antenna mounted on the KHOF-FM tower over 30 miles away. The smaller antenna mounted just below it is a 6 foot antenna used to receive a signal from the First Baptist Church of Downey. More on the Downey microwave link later.
Above is a map showing the paths from Faith Center to Bekins and Bekins to the KHOF-FM transmitter. Note how the signal has been “bent” around the hills that obstructed a direct path. The Bekins passive repeater was virtually a giant mirror reflecting the signal around the hills.
Joe Snelson is standing next to some of the old Lenkurt microwave radio equipment. This gear was removed from service and stored at the KHOF-TV transmitter site. The photo was taken in 1998.
This photo was taken in the early 1970’s. Bruce Braun is checking meter readings on the Lenkurt microwave system that received signals from the Bekins reflector then transmitted them to KHOF-TV. The equipment to the right of the microwave rack is the KHOF-FM transmitter.
While the bicycle delivery method worked it was imperative for each station in the bicycle to receive the program, air it at the committed time then ship it on to the next station. For FBN station KHOF-TV the program would be received at the production center and checked in by the station traffic department. It would then be sent to the transmitter in the station’s 4-wheel drive truck along with other programs to be aired. The program would be aired from the transmitter site atop Sunset Ridge on either a film projector of videotape machine depending on the format in which it was received. After the last airing the program would be sent down to the production center in the truck. The traffic person would check the tape in and then send it on to the next station in line for airing.
In the example above for KHOF-TV it required equipment to be located at the transmitter in order to play programming. While this worked for recorded programs it did not address programs originating live and away from the transmitter site. For example, it was not possible to perform a live church service from the KHOF-TV transmitter site atop Sunset Ridge.
Burt Lehman submitted this rather funny story about videotape shipping. “As you well remember, the 2" videotapes were heavy. I believe we shipped out around ten per day. This was a bit of a chore for the UPS driver as he had to lug them out to his truck from the second floor shipping area. He would carry a half-dozen or so at a time. More than once I watched him throw his hands out wide and let them bounce to the ground. Since they were pretty well encased in shipping containers, I didn't make mention of these incidents. One day Paul Calentine, the station manager, got a visit from the UPS supervisor informing him that the shipping weights per carton were being incorrectly marked in the manifest. Paul said we would do our best to be sure they were weighed and recorded correctly. Then he turned the table and told the supervisor about the driver's antics on the mishandling of the video tapes. Touché! End of story.”
The 4-wheel drive truck used to transport personnel, film and videotape to the KHOF-TV transmitter. Note the open tool bin behind the cab that held the programming.
This author recalls some of the challenges of the installation at the church. The installation of the antenna was fairly straight forward ensuring the antenna could withstand wind gusts without moving. The microwave transmitter was a little more challenging. We installed it in a small store room above a Sunday school classroom. On the wall of a classroom was a straight vertical ladder made of wood and attached to the wall of the classroom. At the top of the ladder was this small access door, maybe two foot square. We squeezed through that opening into a small area which, as I recall, had little headroom. So, standing was not possible. We somehow wrestled a small equipment rack frame into that area where we mounted the microwave transmitter and an Intermatic “Little Gray Box” time clock. I believe the connection between the transmitter and antenna was accomplished using a vent hole that was in that space.
For those of you wondering why a time clock was installed here is why. The link was typically only to be used on Sunday’s for the morning service. This meant the rest of the time the link would be serving no purpose to be on. We set the time clock to turn on the transmitter early Sunday morning and to shut off mid-afternoon. At the transmitter site the operator would see the monitor “light up” indicating that the unit was on and ready for the Sunday telecast.
Another timer was used for turning on the high-power TV lights on Sunday. Bruce Braun adds this comment, “It [the Sunday program] aired LIVE except for when the timer the deacons installed on the lights (to save money :<) occasionally turned the lights out before the service ended.” This was particularly a problem during the transition to and from Daylight Saving Time. The lights would either turn on late or turn off before the program ended, without intervention.
The author well remembers taping the church’s annual Living Christmas Tree for subsequent editing and airing. We simply switched the microwave receiver into the 2” videotape machine and recorded the program. Downey First Baptist Church aired its program for several years on KHOF-TV.
FBN part time cameraman, Max Balchowsky, was the first director for the Downey church program and submitted his comments, “Yes, that's where I started my career in live television. It was live, with 3 Shibaden cameras that were the size of a shoe box. The zoom and focus was a rod that pulled, pushed for zoom and turned for focus. Bruce Braun directed the first few shows.”
A map showing the microwave path from The First Baptist Church of Downey on the corner of 3rd. And Dolan to the KHOF-TV transmitter on Sunset Ridge. The path was around 30 miles in length and, fortunately, unobstructed
The small white antenna behind the flying wire is a microwave antenna aimed towards Faith Center
Bernie Marston placed a microwave dish style antenna on the roof of the Faith Center and production center building, applied to the FCC for the necessary license and connectivity was established.
Map showing the path from the Production Center to Faith Center at 1615 S. Glendale Ave.
Some years later Joe Shackleford interconnected the Production Center, Faith Center and the former United Artist Theater in downtown Los Angeles with a full duplex microwave system that allowed two-way communication between all of the facilities.
Bernie adds these comments about constructing the Oat Mountain link:
“I don't remember the name of the CARS Band licensee that I contracted with for the KVOF intercity system. The Oat Mountain installation was a link from Eagle Rock [KHOF-FM transmitter site] to Oat Mountain where we tied onto their system. I do remember buying and installing the Andrew stuff [Microwave antennas] and the Microwave Associates equipment [Transmitter and receiver]. I don't remember who helped me with the installation. We did not have to furnish anything at San Francisco but I don't remember the details.”
As Bernie mentioned the CARS communications company had a receive point on the same mountain where the KVOF transmitter was located and provided a direct feed into the KVOF switching equipment at the transmitter site. It was now possible to originate live programming from the production center or Faith Center and send it live to KHOF-FM-TV and KVOF! The west coast FBN stations were networked.
Map showing the path from KHOF-FM to Oat Mountain
FBN Engineer, Burt Lehman, adds these comments: “I was not present, but Byron told me that the repeater at the FM station was an afterthought when he, Bernie, and the Lenkurt engineer went up to the Bekins rooftop to shoot the path from Bekins to Sunset Ridge by transit. Byron said that the Lenkurt guy probably had never used a transit before, and Byron set it up for him. Once they set the angles correctly, the transit scope revealed the hillside of Eagle Rock hill just below the FM tower. After redoing their setups a couple times, they realized it was not going to be a straight shot to Sunset Ridge. Later the Lenkurt engineer admitted that they had not factored in Eagle Rock hill in the path profile. The equipment ordered for Bekins was reconfigured to strip off the audio channel for the FM station and repeat the rest to Sunset Ridge. This change also picked up a few db of headroom in the path loss to Sunset Ridge.”
Byron Mobus submitted his remembrance of the event. “With my responsibilities as CE of FM and, eventually, GM, I didn't have a lot of time to help with the development of the TV but got in a few licks working with Bernie on the transmitter, both at his shop and up on the hill. I did a lot of the electrical at the transmitter site also.
After the station was "on-the-air" and being supplied with programming every day with the Jeep and Toyota making trips daily, it became apparent to Bernie that an STL was needed from the studios at Faith Center to Sunset Ridge. I had worked at Lenkurt in San Carlos for a couple years when I got out of the Air Force. I was involved with the development of their microwave equipment as their main product was multiplex (mux) equipment for telephone companies. When Bernie brought up the STL, I suggested Lenkurt. (As a side light, the name Lenkurt was the joining of the names of Len Erickson and Kurt Appert)
If my memory is correct, it was always the intention to use a two hop system from the studios to the transmitter with a repeater on Eagle Rock where the FM transmitter was located. The order to Lenkurt was for a video link and two mux channels for the audio, one for the FM and one for the TV. At the time, the FM was monaural so only one mux channel was needed for Eagle Rock. It also minimized the cost of the equipment. I don't remember if the system even had an order wire channel for communications between the sites as the system was one way without a return set of equipment. The order was placed with Lenkurt.
Lenkurt sent out an "engineer" who was shown the sites and went back to design the system. When the path information was sent to us, I went up on the roof of the sanctuary and the insurance building with my trusty Boy Scout compass to check the directions of the paths and to see where we might locate the dish. Every time I looked at the azimuth for the first hop, I was looking right into the side of the hill across the street in Forest Lawn Cemetery. I got a set of topographical maps and laid out the paths for the system and confirmed that the first hop went right thru the hill.
Bernie scouted Glendale and found the Bekins building in a location that would dogleg the path around the hill. Bernie contacted Lenkurt and they supplied the Microflect passive reflector free of charge. (Another miracle in a series of miracles) He also made the agreement with Bekins to put it on the building and to mount it on the elevator penthouse so that it was not visible from the street. We agreed to mount the reflector as we had also agreed to install the microwave equipment to save expenses.
We raised the reflector to the top of the Bekins building using ropes and snatch blocks to raise it, using the Jeep pulling the rope across the parking lot next to the building. We raised it to the parapet and man handled it over and up on the roof, then over to the penthouse where we mounted it to the concrete wall.
We installed the equipment, waveguide and dishes at the three sites and fired it up. The dishes and reflector were zeroed in and the path was established. I don't remember the amount of the fade margin but guess that it was probably in the 30 db range. This would maintain the path when various losses occurred, due to weather and atmospherics.
© 2013 Joe Snelson