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C-SPAN, the Cable-Satellite Public Access Network, is tasked with providing the general public with access to the political process. The primary means by which this objective is achieved is by providing live gavel-to-gavel coverage of the proceedings of the House of Representatives and United States Senate on the C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 cable television channels, respectively. In the past few years, both the House and Senate have upgraded their internal broadcast systems to HD. This availability of the proceedings in HD coincided with C-SPAN’s long-term HD initiative, and in late 2009, C-SPAN began the process of transitioning its operation to HD by upgrading the master control rooms for C-SPAN
and C-SPAN2.

Ascent Media Systems Integration was contracted to do the design and integration work for this exciting project. The most challenging aspect of the design was in creating a new HD island that would operate seamlessly in the existing SD facility and do so in a fashion that would allow the HD capabilities of C-SPAN to grow over time — a challenge faced by many broadcasters today. The elegant technical solution was built around a new 64 x 64 Grass Valley Concerto HD router and Encore control system and a pair of Grass Valley Maestro master control switchers. Native HD sources were brought directly into the Concerto frames while decoder ports on C-SPAN’s Profile video servers were upconverted by Harris X85 frame syncs and also fed to the Concerto. Other SD sources were brought to the Concerto via tie lines from the legacy SD router. These tie lines were managed by the Encore system, and X85s were placed in their path to perform the SD-to-HD conversion. The HD outputs of the room were fed to new Motorola Digicipher HD encoders and also passed through Harris X50 frame syncs to perform the downconversion to SD to feed the legacy router and transmission systems.

Due to the many live aspects of C-SPAN’s programming, C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 operate from independent master control rooms. The Maestro switchers enhanced the overall functionality of these rooms, but other major components, which had been proven through years of use at C-SPAN, were kept in place. The existing Crispin RapidPlay X automation system was developed to allow it to exploit the advanced keying and DVE features available in the Maestro. Existing HD-capable Chyron Duet LEX CGs were also reused and supplemented with new units, giving each room four channels of graphics capability. Physically, both rooms were completely rebuilt from the ground up and now feature monitor walls comprised of four Samsung 55in LED displays, fed by a Miranda Kaleido-X display processor.

Based partially on the success of the first two rooms, the control room used for the C-SPAN3 channel was also upgraded to HD. A second Concerto router, another channel of Maestro and another Kaleido-X system were required to support the third room. These were integrated with the existing systems where needed, and the entire upgrade process for this room, including the physical refit, was performed in roughly six weeks time.

  • New studio technology — HD
    Submitted by Ascent Media Systems IntegrationDesign teamAscent Media: Steve Vitale, proj. mgr.; John Ciulla, sr. design eng.; Aaron Stevens, proj. leader
    C-SPAN: Roxane Kerr, VP technology; Richard Fleeson, chief eng.Technology at workCrispin: RapidPlay X broadcast automation
    Grass Valley: Concerto HD router, Encore control system, Maestro HD MC switcher, modular gear
    Harris: X50 and X85 frame syncs
    Miranda: Kaleido-X multi-image processor
    Motorola: Digicipher HD encoders
    Samsung: UN55B7000 55in LED displays

© 2010 Penton Media, Inc.