Posted on January 2, 2014 in ATSC News
After a stellar four-decade career in broadcasting, James Kutzner is retiring from PBS and from the ATSC board next month. As PBS’s Senior Director of Advanced Technology since 2001, Jim’s been responsible for managing engineering and technical projects within PBS.
His broadcasting roots go back to 1972 when he joined Twin Cities Public Television (St. Paul, Minn.) as an entry-level technician, ultimately rising through the ranks to be the station’s Chief Engineer and VP of Operations and Engineering. His career includes several stints with PBS in Alexandria, Va., and serving as Engineering Director at Comark in the late ‘90s.
Outgoing Chairman of TG3 (the ATSC Technology Group 3 working on the development of ATSC 3.0), he earned his Masters degree in Engineering Management from George Washington University and his BSEE degree from the University of Minnesota.
Kutzner says TV broadcasting has evolved steadily over the past 40 years.“When I began my broadcast television career at Twin Cities Public TV in St. Paul, transmitters were all tube designs and much of the older equipment was also still using tubes. The cameras were Plumbicons and Vidicons, and the VTRs were 2-inchquad. Our station didn’t have an automation system and my first job was changing slides, running film and slinging tape. Editing was all manual and linear on the Ampex 2-inch quad machines. The entire plant was analog, even the internal circuitry of much of the equipment was analog or analog designs attempting to perform digital functions,” recalls Kutzner.
“Remote productions were major operations until shoulder-mounted cameras came on the scene. Production styles changed quickly and dramatically, and new operating functions and skills evolved to meet the demand. The field videographer and supporting crew quickly gained prominence along with the support back at the station. The technology and required support changed quickly as the repair technicians put down their soldering irons and picked up the laptops and associated high-end diagnostic tools.”
Helping Twin Cities Public Television make the move to downtown St. Paul was one of Kutzner’s big projects, before he moved up to PBS.
“There are so many good memories including all of the productions that I got to participate in while at TPT. TPT was located on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds where the rent was a buck a year in exchange for production services at State Fair time. Around 1985, after over 25 years at that location, our station president decided that it was finally time to move and downtown St. Paul was chosen as the new location. Preparation for our initial meeting with the architects involved an initial programming of the building. The entire building was first laid out in my Mac Plus and then printed on an Imagewriter II (I still have the vintage Mac Plus and the printer). TPT moved into its new facility in 1989 and I headed for PBS early the following year. Moving from a local station to a network was quite eye-opening and changed my perspective on a number of things. The stage instantly got bigger and the stakes were higher,” said Kutzner.
“Four years later, Twin Cities Public Television convinced me to move back to Minnesota to run the operations and engineering where I got into a number of interesting projects. Along with the expected television station development projects we also brought the Internet into the station, established an early web site, and built and ran 3M TV for 3M, their first nation-wide corporate communications network.
“Buoyed with success but missing the larger stage, I moved back to Washington and joined Mark Richer at Comark Digital Services. In 1997-98 while at CDS I got to drive a project for Globo TV in Brazil where we helped them to bring the 1998 World Cup from Paris to Rio and Sao Paulo live and in high-definition.
“I had the opportunity to return to PBS in 2001 to lead the development of the next-generation distribution system where our small team developed an overall design approach that was adopted by public television.” says Kutzner. A few years later he was appointed Chief Engineer of PBS.
Kutzner and his wife both grew up in the Twin Cities area, where families still reside.
“Consequently, we moved from Washington back to Minnesota two years ago as PBS allowed me to work remotely. My job had evolved into primarily standards work, mostly with the ATSC. We designed and built our dream house on a lake outside of the Twin Cities. Our hobbies include fishing, gardening, reading, some traveling, and an assortment of other interests.”
The Benefits of ATSC Membership
Kutzner says he’s most proud of having the opportunity to work with many talented people at ATSC who are committed to moving technology forward “especially over the past four years with the Next Generation Broadcast Television Planning Team and now with the Technology Group 3 working on ATSC 3.0. A number of people have stepped up to lead various groups and many others and their member organizations have committed their efforts and resources to reaching the goal. I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by these consummate professionals.”
And the most beneficial part of ATSC membership? That’s easy for Jim to answer.
“ATSC members get to participate in the development of the standards that will, in turn, drive the technologies. The members benefit by being in at the ground floor and thus gain first-hand knowledge of the standards, and in many cases get to invest their ideas and concepts into the standards,” Kutzner said.
Looking ahead, Kutzner says he wants to witness when the first ATSC 3.0 station go on the air.
“I’d like to be present when the first stations go on the air. Given the opportunity I’ll put down my fishing pole and help flip the switch — or more likely hit ‘enter’ on some keyboard,” said the respected chief engineer who is about to have a lot more time to fish!
Posted in ATSC News
ATSC is a membership organization with both voting and observer categories. Voting members include corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government entities, and they participate actively in the work of ATSC. Observers are individuals or entities not eligible to be a voting member.
Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc.
1300 I Street NW, Suite 400E
Washington, DC 20005