Vista Systems' Spyder

CNN International's Atlanta and London studios use the on-air video walls.
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When CNN International designed new sets for its Atlanta headquarters and London studios, the cable network needed a widescreen set solution that would enable it to create widescreen pixel spaces easily and efficiently in a live environment. All of CNN International's Atlanta and London programming comes from the new sets, which are distinguished by large, seamless, rear-projection screens. The programming produced at the studios includes “Your World Today,” “Insight,” “CNN Today,” “Business International,” “World Business Today” and “World Sport.”

News broadcasters today are challenged to craft innovative electronic sets that stand out from the competition. The need for a lot of media on the set is a given, and it requires a system that can handle a mix of sources and react quickly in the live arena of news.

The solution

CNN selected Vista Systems' Spyder image processor as its solution. One major reason for choosing this system was because it is designed for use in live environments and excels at creating widescreen pixel spaces.

Another reason for choosing it was because the network had previous success with the system when it was used for on-air, broadcast news applications at CNN New York, where “Anderson Cooper 360” and “Paula Zahn Now” originate.


Spyder offers the flexibility to mix sources in multiple windows, greater signal processing clarity, seamless widescreen displays and real-time compositing for high-resolution applications in a modular, scalable package. It can be deployed alone or combined, like building blocks, to accommodate applications using a single plasma screen or multiple screens.

All of the system's inputs allow any input to operate as native high-resolution channels, scaled PIP, scaled background or key channels. Inputs can also be switched easily from any of the modes during normal operation. The system's resolution independence allows multiple projectors to be used to increase pixel space and resolution beyond what a single display device can handle. The image processor offers up to 6.5 million pixel display capacity from a single frame, up to 2048 × 1200 resolution on each input and output, 12-bit scaling for the highest quality images, and aspect ratio correction.

Any output can be an operator's monitor, displaying preview and program for a given pixel space simultaneously on a single output. The image processor provides a fully integrated test pattern generator on each input, output and pixel space, as well as powerful frame-stacking capability, with the expansion option, which allows I/Os from other Spyder systems to contribute and view a single pixel space.

Given these capabilities, the system was the perfect solution to permit CNN International to take in digital and analog sources with different resolutions, formats and aspect ratios, and display them at any size, anywhere on the large pixel canvas presented by the seamless rear-projection screens. The image processor also provides a scalable solution that can grow along with CNN International's needs.

Proving its worth

The image processor had already proved itself live with its support of various types of display devices for high-profile news and sports programs. It supports an LED wall for “NFL on CBS,” projection cubes for “NBC Sunday Night Football,” and a combination of plasma monitors, LED walls and rear-projection screens for “The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.”

The system can also be paired with innovative peripherals to aid the technical directors who are responsible for both switching the cameras on shows and controlling the image processor. In this kind of configuration, the technical directors can simplify their workflow and react quickly to changes during the show.

Spyder's ability to create widescreen pixel spaces, its intuitive software, scalability, on-air track record and ability to combine with other products to streamline the workflow all contributed to making the image processor the ideal choice for CNN International's Atlanta and London studios. McCann Systems provided the install and integration for both locations. Currently, the system works with Christie 1400 × 1050 three-chip DLP projectors and DNF controllers to produce a two-projector blend in London and a three-projector blend in Atlanta across the screens' seamless surfaces.

Victor Vettorello is the director, application engineering, for Vista Systems.