Nine Network Gets New Switcher

We built our new on-air control room plus a smaller pre-production control room in January, 2011, to support our live newscasts and our “A Current Affair ” magazine-style news show. Since these are the most popular programs on the network, we knew that the new facilities would include a Grass Valley production switcher.

Our live, half-hour newscast airs seven days a week, at 6:00 pm, immediately followed by our live, half-hour “A Current Affair” magazine program at 6:30pm, Monday through Friday – from the same control room. The equipment we installed has to stand up to this demanding, back-to-back schedule and never miss a beat.

For all the years that I have sat behind a Grass Valley switcher making television, I have always felt confident that the equipment would never let me down. From the robust feel of the buttons and the classic Grass Valley T-bar faders to the ease of use and reliability, I have always enjoyed using Grass Valley switchers.

That being said, before making any decisions on our new switcher, we conducted due diligence researching four other manufacturers’ products, just to be sure we were making the right decision.

We had played with the new Kayenne at several trade shows and it had instant visual appeal for us. With its RGB buttons, OLED displays, and ergonomic design, it looked ready to take on the 21st century. The main control room’s output would be live to air using a technical director (although in Australia we call them “switcher directors”), so we needed something reliable and user friendly.

Now that we’ve used the Kayenne in live production for several months, we couldn’t be happier. The majority of the inputs passing through the Kayenne are HD. However we are also using the switcher’s “SetDef” feature, which allows us to work with a mix of video formats within the same production, and to feed two auxiliary outputs for standard-definition studio floor monitors.

Faced with the need to switch between two live news programs without a break – and with both programs wanting to maintain flexibility – we use the Kayenne’s internal “Panel Memory” with multiple Macro displays. The ability to clearly label Macro buttons and switch between Panel Memories means that our TDs are able to concentrate on the product output rather than what needs to be done with the switcher. For us, the task defined the tool – the tool didn’t define the task.

With the Kayenne, we can now easily switch to a completely different panel setup of fully programmed mnemonics, macros, and E-MEMs over the course of a very short bumper and station ID break to match the on-air requirements of the next program.

Among the many new features that the Kayenne contains, the one that has made a big difference to our operations is having multiple levels of macro OLED displays and saving them as Panel E-MEMs. This means that as the TD selects macros during the first program, he is also setting the macro display for the next program.

Another important factor for us was ease of use and the minimal amount of training required once we installed the Kayenne. We currently have five TDs using the Kayenne. These TDs each have varying experience, from two to 24 years. All five took very little time to become comfortable using the Kayenne.

In fact, three of our TDs attended a five-day training course that was conducted by Grass Valley personnel. It was fantastic being able to obtain hands on training with the Kayenne and to set it up as we would be using it. Having Grass Valley on site to lead us through the process and offer other alternatives was great. All of us enjoyed the week and are now more confident in using the Kayenne.

As I mentioned, I have been switching TV for 24 years and have used a few different Grass Valley switchers over the course of that time. I started using the Model 1600, and then spent many years on the 300 producing our news programs. In 1994, we installed a Grass Valley 4000 switcher in our main control room and I spent many hours a week sitting behind that desk until it was decommissioned 15 years later, in 2009. The 4000 was a very reliable switcher for us and we pushed it to its limits on many occasions.

Now, with the new Kayenne, we feel like the production possibilities are limitless. We foresee doing a number of new types of shows in the future and the production values for our current programs has improved significantly. Due to its intuitive layout and reliability, I am confident our new Kayenne will continue to serve us well for many years.

Gary Newnham has been a Switcher Director at Nine Network Australia since 1987.