New studio technology - HD
NBC’s SNL moves to a new HD studio
NBC’s Saturday Night Live (SNL) kicked off its 31st season from its newly rebuilt Studio 8H control room.
NBC chose The Systems Group (TSG) to help design the new studio. To meet the tight deadline, the new control room was built adjacent to the old, in a space previously occupied by wardrobe and props. To achieve the requirements for the new rooms, the facility had to be gutted and rebuilt. TSG had less than three months for installation, wiring and configuration.
The three-tier main production control room was designed to be flexible. NBC wanted to create a space that could be used for any show, rather then tailoring it specifically to SNL’s needs. Extra communication gear and sources were added to support large news-style broadcasts. The control room support systems were tied together to allow single-button snapshot recalls. The facility didn’t want to be limited to using this functionality only for reconfiguration between shows. This allowed the director to switch monitor wall layouts between sketches to ensure that the technology supports the creative process rather then becoming an obstacle to it.
Tight integration between the Grass Valley Encore router control system, four-frame Evertz MVP system and the 12 Barco DLP projectors allowed the presets to be recalled instantly and transparently. A secondary MVP system feeds Sony LCDs in the graphics and audio rooms to allow flexibility. The video control room was designed to support 12 CCUs, eight VTRs, four DDRs and a wealth of conversion gear.
The graphics room operators control a Pinnacle Thunder XL and Deko 1000. Existing SD graphics hardware was temporarily reused pending NBC’s migration to an HD graphics platform. All sources feed into a local 256x256 Grass Valley Trinix router, which supports the entire production operation. The facility is also fed by a new 1024x1024 core router, which provides inbound feeds and other playback sources.
A Calrec Alpha 100 with 128 digital inputs and 224 analog inputs in the audio room is used to mix microphones and incoming audio. Both a 5.1 and L/R audio mix are distributed throughout the building to facilitate different monitoring scenarios in a variety of locations. A 124-input Euphonix System 5 console in a separate sound effects room is sourced by an array of samplers and digital audio workstations.
One of NBC’s goals was to move to a fully embedded HD SDI audio plant. Miranda modular products embed and process audio and metadata as it comes up from the core and leaves the complex. While this adds complexity to the source and air chains, it avoids latency issues in downstream processing. It also allows a single-cable to carry the entire air-ready signal out of the facility.