Winner of new studio technology — HD


ESPN's 120,000sq ft, all-digital HD digital center in Bristol, CN, is the future of broadcast production. Networking and automating many of the labor-intensive processes has led to reduced errors and continued system reliability. If there is such a thing, this is HD heaven.

A signal distribution and processing system design has been implemented to support nine different TV networks that originate from Bristol. These include all U.S.-based ESPN-distributed channels and are supported by the facility's massive signal routing architecture that feeds more than 19 nonlinear edit rooms, four master control suites and a large sports content ingest screening area. Signal paths can be changed quickly to accommodate new channels and future internal growth.

The facility features resilient, physically dispersed HD SDI and AES signal paths throughout the building, requiring more than 7 million ft of coax and fiber-optic cable to handle a mixture of SD and HD signals.

ESPN distributes its highest-rated programs, including “SportsCenter,” in the 720p HD format. These widescreen telecasts, with multichannel AES audio, are supported by a variety of multiformat broadcast equipment to produce more than 6000 hours of originally produced HD programming annually.

The requirements of ESPN's production infrastructure are handled by multiple racks of HD routing switchers and a dense AES router for audio routing. The video router can handle both SD and HD signals in the same frame. Routers are controlled through a centralized facility control system.

To support its signal distribution paths, the facility has installed hundreds of modular equipment products to route digital audio and video signals to routers, production switchers, audio mixers and other destinations.

There's a large complement of nonlinear editing and media server equipment, including 25 edit systems tied to 68 main media servers to distribute media on and off the SAN that currently includes a capacity of more than 3500 hours (in SD mode).

The facility houses three HD studios, which are home to all ESPN Bristol-based studio shows, including “SportsCenter.” To capture its live shows in widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) 720p, ESPN uses 20 multiformat HD cameras. Fiber-optic transmitters and receivers, in tandem with air-blown fiber between buildings on the Bristol campus, have enabled the facility to network seven studios via more than 1000 fiber-optic circuits.

Runner-up: NBC's SNL


Technology at work: Barco OverView DLP projectors; Calrec Alpha 100 console; Digidesign Pro Tools; Enco Digital audio workstations; Euphonix System 5 console; Evertz 5600MSC reference generator and MVP multi-image viewer; Grass Valley Trinix router and Encore control system; Miranda Densité distribution, Imaging series format conversion, XVP-801 crossconverter; RTS/Telex Adam Intercom Matrix; Sony MVS-8000 HD switcher, HDC-950 cameras and BVM-D monitors; Ward Beck 8200 AES distribution.