London-based post-production house Lightmill began in 2000 as a graphics and effects company. Its main body of work is a mixture of broadcast programs and high-end commercials, with clients ranging from the major UK broadcasters ITV, BBC, Sky, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to luxury brands such as Dior and Aston Martin.
To create a new online and finishing department, the facility employed the Broadcast Videohub router from Blackmagic Design. The router became part of the master control room on a middle floor that distributes video to the suites around the building. When the facility built out its new online and finishing department, it already had 10 Avid Nitris DX units, three Avid Symphony DX online suites, sound dubbing facilities and a Pro Tools sound suite, as well as 3D/Flame graphics workstations, DVD authoring facilities and full color grading capability based on a Quantel Pablo system.
In the past, when the facility expanded and added new pieces of equipment, it had to recable into its existing machine rooms, which were spread over three floors. Because the facility was adding a lot of new equipment, the majority being HD, it needed a new solution to patch existing and new machines together, while ensuring it had the highest quality connections for its HD and SD suites.
Prior to the installation of the Broadcast Videohub, Lightmill had patch panels in the control room that were falling over due to the weight of the facility's expansion. Space was also becoming an issue. For instance, operators often had to go up or downstairs to manually patch the video connection, often to find that someone else had unplugged it by the time they got back to their suite.
Easy setup and operation
The facility was able to set up the router exactly how it wanted it. Many of its suites are constantly changing projects from HD to SD, so it needed a router that could handle both formats with ease; the Broadcast Videohub fits the bill.
The new router is mainly used to interface between the Avid edit suites and the various VTRs. However, it also allows users to connect to the facility's Unity server for the digitizing of media, the Flint for graphics, the color grading suite and the video encoder for Web streaming. The latter is used particularly for client approval of material via the client area on Lightmill's Web site.
The newly installed router has proved its worth. In the short time since its installation, Lightmill already has used 59 of the available 72 positions on the system, connecting suites, monitors, decks, etc., for the whole facility. It has an administration desk on the floor next to the MCR, and the people responsible for managing the suites output the Broadcast Videohub GUI to a large LCD so that they can immediately see at all times what is connected to what. This is a far cry from the old patch panel system.
The router really came into its own during a recent project for Granada Productions called “Warzone,” an eight-part observational documentary of a community in the middle of a desert and the complex logistics of running the gateway to the war in Afghanistan. The series focuses on the Royal Air Force personnel on the airbase, along with the huge support network of 4000 civilians behind the 10,000 troops serving on the front line.
“Warzone” was filmed in HD with a variety of formats. The Broadcast Videohub allowed easy connectivity and workflow between all the suites and the various VTRs. Lightmill even noticed an increase in the speed of bulk digitizing and conform as switching between the formats was faster, thus reducing the cost to the client.
Dan Constantinou is the managing director at Lightmill.