In today's multichannel universe, it's not uncommon for satellite and cable networks to monitor dozens or even more than 100 channels. Many television stations are merging the master station control facilities of two or more affiliates — each of which can broadcast several video, audio and Web-based services — in the hopes of streamlining costs.

The total cost of dedicating a high-grade monitor to each of dozens of signals extends beyond the price tag for the equipment. The more complex the installation, the greater the costs related to systems integration, cabling, maintenance and electricity for power and cooling.

In recent years, manufacturers have introduced multiviewers that enable multiple signals to be displayed on a single monitor. The next challenge: multichannel monitoring at large-scale broadcast facilities.

Monitoring and control

The Harris CENTRIO multiviewer unifies signal processing, signal management, integrated monitoring tools, sophisticated alarm measures and just-in-time technical assistance. It helps on-duty operators keep every channel on track, within a single solution and user interface.

Because the multiviewer is designed as a module that resides within the output section of any new or existing Harris Platinum router frame, it can use all the audio and video I/Os, format converters, distribution amplifiers, power supplies and redundancy already built into the router. This integrated architecture promotes a simplified operation that can reduce complexity in test and measurement gear, distribution amplifiers, cabling, and rack space.

Graphical display

The multiviewer's built-in graphics engine enables users to configure multiple displays onto a single large-screen monitor, across multiple monitors or onto video walls — using plasma, LCD, CRT, HDTV, DLP projection systems, or virtually any type of display device. Screens can be oriented horizontally or vertically, with a mix of 16:9 HD and 4:3 SD aspect ratios, and the multiviewer can auto detect the aspect ratios to ensure information isn't lost if the ratios change.

Screen layouts can be changed on the fly, and hundreds of configuration setups can be stored, allowing access to all the layouts without the need for an external computer. Users can decide to make the display of certain channels prominent on the screen, such as a premium pay channel or high-profile sporting event, while others can be kept smaller or scrolled across the screen to view all sources.

Systems management

Leveraging the Platinum signal routing capabilities, CENTRIO can access all of the audio or video inputs in the router frame. The 5RU 72 × 64 router supports up to two multiviewer boards. The 9RU 128 × 128 router supports up to four multiviewers. The 15RU 256 × 256 router supports up to eight multiviewers. And the 28RU 512 × 512 router supports up to 16 multiviewers.

With 16 multiviewer modules installed, the 512-input system can drive up to 32 independent DVI outputs or 64 independent HD-SDI outputs from one chassis. Because CENTRIO feeds the displays directly from the frame, there is no need for standalone distribution amplifiers to feed multiple image processors that would supply the monitors. As a result, installation, maintenance and cabling are all greatly simplified.

Minimizing downtime

When a technical issue arises, the multiviewer alerts the operator in several ways, including sounding an alarm, giving the problematic picture a flashing red border, making it front and center on the display, sending an e-mail, or any number of responses as defined by the user in the multiviewer's Rules Designer.

The Rules Designer, with alarms customization and technical wizards, prevents lost advertising and subscription revenues from undetected failures. The user can define the conditions under which the operator should be alerted. One alarm condition can also be used to trigger several actions, thereby simplifying the communications process and providing greater flexibility to the system.

Quality control

Because the router has the ability to take in embedded audio, as well as discrete audio (not tied to video), the multiviewer can display this stereo or surround-sound audio like any other router input, along with a digital audio meter display, for quality control monitoring.

The multiviewer's built-in test and measurement tools don't require dedicated quality control monitors, and the results of signal analysis can be displayed right on the screen.

While the primary target market for CENTRIO is the multichannel broadcast facility, other applications can also benefit, including HD production trucks and digital signage. The technology can be employed at any venue that uses multichannel, multimedia displays for more efficient communications and greater visual impact.

Mike Garrido is multiviewer product manager for Harris Broadcast Communications.