CNBC's new network broadcast operations
On Oct. 13, 2003, the operation of CNBC, NBC network's cable business channel, switched over from its existing Ft. Lee, NJ, broadcast center and went live from a new multimillion-dollar CNBC World Headquarters broadcast facility in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
Main studio at CNBC facility in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. On-air talent pictured includes Ted David and Liz Claman. Photos by Andy Washnik.
Building a new facility from the ground up provided the network with a unique opportunity to rethink traditional operations models and incorporate future-proof technology. CNBC took a close look at all of its production processes and eliminated non-essential steps in order to develop a completely new workflow based on today's need, according to Peter Smith, vice president of advanced technology at the NBC network.
Non-traditional suppliers to the industry provided much of the groundbreaking technology in use at the new 355,000-square-foot facility.
The new CNBC building features an efficient workflow design that includes a massive signal-routing matrix; computer-based, state-of-the-art satellite operations facilities; three fully networked audio/video control rooms; a shared, open, storage-area network for editing and graphics creation; and a comprehensive archiving system. This design offers the flexibility for growth as more NBC properties are launched.
The project team and the plan
The plan for the new center was conceived in June 2000, as the network's Ft. Lee studios outgrew capacity at the height of the stock market boom. Architects HLW International designed the core and shell of the new CNBC global headquarters, while the Phillips Group (in New York City) designed the interiors. Sony Systems Integration and the Systems Group (in Hoboken, NJ) completed the electronic installation from February to October of 2003. All of this was completed under the supervision of Steve Fastook, now vice president of CNBC Technical and Commercial Operations, and the CNBC/NBC project team.
This project team was tasked with determining the innovative technical and ergonomic strategies that could work best for both the facility and the operation. This collaboration produced a document called the “Outline Guide for Design and Construction” (OGDC). It detailed a facility that would house contemporary digital systems that improved workflow, optimized space, and cut production time and costs.
Steve Fastook, vice president of CNBC technical and commercial operations in one of three new production control rooms that include a Sony MVS-8000 switcher and Grass Valley NewsQ Pro system for preview and access to all clips within the facility.
The goal was to build a facility that would foster collaboration among its 300 to 400 employees, optimize productivity, and maintain the familiar and friendly work environment the staff already enjoyed. The new headquarters would also have to accommodate several existing production systems moved over from Ft. Lee.
IT and equipment room
A large 461-rack central equipment room housing video and audio equipment and a vast array of IT gear not only hosts traditional functions such as user data, corporate e-mail, and business applications, but also powers all on-air data applications; including the CNBC news ticker, charts and boards, and the 3-D Bug, all key components of CNBC's channel branding.
The equipment includes CLARiiON and Celerra storage area networks, network-attached-storage products from EMC, and ADIC's i2000 tape library. These are all connected to the production environment via fiber and Gigabit Ethernet networks. Employees have full access to all assets from their edit stations and playback systems (no matter where they reside), which are managed by Thomson's Grass Valley ContentShare and EMC's AvalonIDM software. Leveraging these IT systems enabled the facility to build production clip storage and archival capacity for years' worth of material at a tremendous cost savings.
In the digital news production system, Thomson Grass Valley's Web-based application, NewsBrowse, allows satellite operations and media operations staff to initiate both scheduled and “crash” server recordings on 16 channels of the server.
Video editor Ann Marie Tarabocchia in one of several edit suites outfitted with a Grass Valley NewsEdit nonlinear system.
These 16 channels of ingest are part of a Thomson Grass Valley SAN that connects to eight NewsEdit nonlinear systems. Editors can cut content while recordings are in progress because the NewsBrowse application lets journalists see the material while it's being uploaded into the system. They do cuts-only editing at their desktop and create EDLs for the editors to use.
Thus far in the new building, CNBC has had over 70 users logged on to the application simultaneously and plans to upgrade the system to accommodate more users in the future.
Once a news story is complete, editors transfer their finished files to redundant play-to-air Profile servers, accessible by all the control rooms. These servers use software that is linked to the Avid iNews “rundown.” Archivists move material out of the SAN to an ADIC data tape robotic system that runs MC/Avalon software.
On an average day, the graphics department creates 300 to 400 images for air. In Ft. Lee, this was done using conventional legacy broadcast design hardware and video signal paths. Moving the channel to Englewood Cliffs presented the opportunity to improve the graphics hardware and infrastructure. A robust design environment was conceived that took advantage of a drag-and-drop delivery system.
In the new facility, hardware used for graphics creation changed from proprietary black boxes to desktop PC workstations running Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects. This minimized training and introduced an opportunity for an overall change in the design workflow. It also allowed a reduction in the number of workstations, cut costs and boosted productivity.
Three NBC audio suites use Calrec Sigma 100 digital audio consoles and a Hydra networking system that eliminates the use of cart machines. Pictured: Senior audio engineer John Kerswell.
With this resolution-independent platform, artwork and animation can be created on one workstation. NTSC, PAL, SD and HD (720p, 480p 16:9) images can all exist on one hard drive and be worked on during a single session without reconfiguration or reboots. The end result is a much more efficient process of creating graphic elements.
The new facility has one 7000-square-foot studio that adjoins the newsroom and supports live programming between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Two smaller production studios serve prime-time programming and specials.There are 11 robotic cameras with expansion capability to 16.
Analog and digital video and audio signals that enter the building are immediately converted to SDI and routed through a Thomson Grass Valley Trinix routing switcher, managed by an SMS-7000 control system. A full complement of Grass Valley modular gear is used for conversion, distribution and multiplexing of the various signals, while a series of Leitch Neo frame synchronizers align the incoming remote feeds.
Alex Asaro in the satellite operations center at CNBC, using a custom ILC Maxview control panel and Grass Valley NewsBrowse system to handle dozens of feeds from around the world.
Three digital production control rooms (with expansion space for a fourth) are built around Sony MVS-8000 switchers. Marshall LCD and Sony plasma flat-panel displays — some with built-in TV tuners — to monitor program feeds, available sources and on-air status are the centerpieces of the video system. Sony BVP-950 cameras, DVE systems and CRT monitors; Image Video under-monitor displays; and Hopewell Precision control room shelving round out the equipment ensemble.
Around the corner are two mini-control rooms, one for the CNBC World channel and another to feed the Panasonic AstroVision large-screen color monitor located in the middle of Times Square.
The new facility is the first installation to network three Calrec Sigma 100 digital-audio consoles operating on Calrec's Hydra networking system, according to Jim Starzynski, principal engineer for NBC.
The audio control rooms share inputs and outputs among the consoles and the three studios. This maximizes production flexibility and efficiency and minimizes setup time, traditional cable runs and source distribution such as mic splitters and DAs.
In the audio rooms, a Miranda Kaleido-K2 video processor displays multiple images of cameras and remotes from snapshots on a Sony 42-inch 16:9 plasma screen. Throughout the facility, audio is monitored on dozens of Genelec loudspeakers. A Systems Wireless 48-channel RF microphone system, with independent distribution, feeds talent audio to all three rooms.
The trend to share audio assets between NBC and its cable channel led to the company's first installation of a shared on-air digital audio storage system. An Enco central file server and three workstations replace individual cart machines. Browse capability is provided so staff can preview audio clips from their desktops. This allows producers anywhere in the company to use their PC speakers to preview audio clips for use in their edit packages, via the company's secure wide-area network. Once they've identified the desired clip, editors can drag and drop these files to their stories.
The backbone of the satellite operations control center is a PC/server-based system with no buttons to push or knobs to turn. ILC was contracted to design and implement a customized version of their standard Maxview product to control up to 200 live remotes a day.
All of these remotes are handled from a simple ILC GUI on a Dell PC workstation. This user interface sends messages to 18 satellite receivers, 62 frame syncs, the 512x1024 Trinix router and more, from seven workstations via a private LAN. The system is open-ended, requiring minimal programming to add features or new equipment.
Video, audio, time of day and signal identification are monitored on four high-resolution 67-inch Clarity Digital projectors fed by four Kaleido-K2 multi-imagers. This video wall can switch from its default 64 images to four full-frame 62-inch images, or anything in between.
Michael Grotticelli regularly reports on the professional video and broadcast technology industry.
Sony Systems Integration
The Systems Group
Craig Diana, CD Management group
Peter Smith, VP, Advanced Technology
Steve Fastook, VP, CNBC Technical and Commercial Operations
Jim Starzynski, PE, NBC Adv. Tech.
Eric Pohl, VP, NBC Engineering
Pat Twomey, mgr., graphics Tech, CNBC
Tony Alicea, dir. of IT on-air broadcast op., CNBC
ADIC i2000 tape library
Thomson Grass Valley
Trinix router w/SMS-7000 control system
CLARiiON and Celerra storage area networks
Leitch Neo frame synchronizers
Avid iNEWS newsroom system
Image Video under-monitor displays
Adobe Photoshop and AfterEffects
MVS-8000 production switchers
BVP 950 studio cameras
DVE systems and CRT monitors
Pinnacle Systems FX Deko
Hopewell Precision control room shelving
Marshall LCD and Sony plasma flat-panel displays Calrec
Sigma 100 digital consoles
Hydra Networking system
Enco central file server with DADPro32 Workstations
Systems Wireless 48-channel mics
ILC Maxview control System
Clarity Digital projectors
Miranda Kaleido-K2 multi-imagers