FOX News updates NY facility

A high level of monitoring is employed in FOX’s production control room. Clarity Lion 67-inch LCD monitors are used in the monitor wall, which is completely routable and reconfigurable.

FOX News realized recently that it was out of space. For more than six years, its broadcast center in midtown Manhattan was able to support the needs of the operation. But the growth of the FOX News channel since its launch in 1996 had stretched the capacity of the broadcast operations center to its limits. As the channel’s daily programming demands continued to swell, it became clear to the engineering department that the broadcast facility was becoming the limiting factor to the capabilities sought by the production department. With all three studios full and more new shows on the way, an expanded facility core and an additional studio cluster were necessary.

Then, a street-level space right in FOX’s own building, located in a high-traffic area on 47th Street, became vacant. The channel determined that the new space provided the best location for an advanced production facility, including a studio that could support a variety of programming. Spectacular 25-foot ceilings and glass on two sides of the building provided an opportunity for the live NYC backdrop the producers sought. Unfortunately, the space also came with enormous structural and logistical concerns that had to be tackled, including the need to bridge the long distance back to the existing technical core.

Project team

With a six-month launch target, the channel needed a project team that could move quickly. Architects from HLW provided space planning, structural analysis and interior design, while Arthur Metzler & Associates (AMA) assessed the expansion of the electrical and mechanical infrastructure required in the new space. The Systems Group (TSG) of Hoboken, NJ, was chosen as integrator for the broadcast systems. The facility’s director of engineering, led the design team in technology directives, operational needs and plant integration.

The design concepts incorporated into the production environment marked a new direction in operational design for the channel. Previous designs and integration had been based on traditional network news models. The new control room required flexibility to support a range of production requirements.

FOX’s audio control room overlooks the production control room. The new audio room is designed around a Calrec Sigma 100 digital audio console.

The control room design included a three-tiered environment with preferred sight lines from all viewing locations. The team selected TBC Consoles to provide production consoles and cabinetry to meet the room’s equipment requirements. The control room needed a large number of LCD displays mounted on movable arms to maintain critical sight lines to the monitor wall. The ability to customize specific console sections was a key benefit in providing the technical director with control of the switching, monitoring and processing required for live news production.

The team selected a Thomson Grass Valley XtenDD 4M/E production switcher, an Accom Dveous DVE and Quantel’s Picturebox still store. Operator positions were supplied with a standard pod of Telex communications panels, routing control, phone systems and flat-panel PC monitors for access to show rundowns and networked office tools including e-mail.

The team undertook an extensive study to analyze the cost and benefits of using a traditional CRT-based system versus the emerging multiviewer technologies. To achieve flexibility early on, the production control room was designed around a multiviewer processor driving a rear-projection display monitor wall controlled by serial tallies from the production switcher, as well as router-driven dynamic tally and source IDs. This allows the TD to change monitoring configurations through snapshot recall between and during shows.

The main monitor wall comprises four Clarity Lion UX 67-inch rear-projection screens fed by four 32-input Miranda Kaleido-K2 multi-image processors. A TSL USC-21 system controller coordinates and tracks the source identification, routing selections, switcher tally and audio level metering of the various sources assigned to the specific displayed images. A bank of six 24-inch LCD monitors mounted above the Clarity systems are fed through an analog monitoring router. Evertz Quattro quad-split imagers support the monitoring of 24 selectable remotes. A bank of traditional 12-inch CRTs, fed from the in-house cable system, were hung from the ceiling to provide an economical solution to traditional competition monitoring within the viewing angle of the second and third decks. Three additional 24-inch LCDs, fed by a mix of multi-imagers, were designed into the audio control room for main system monitoring.

FOX’s street-level studio, with its backdrop of NYC streets, would have been impossible without the removal of an enormous column that supported the building.

The adjacent audio control suite is designed around a Calrec Sigma 100. This hybrid console uses snapshot recall to quickly reconfigure for specific productions. An adjacent rack room located behind the main production monitor wall was built to support the Calrec processor frames and racks of communications equipment, as well as to provide a central point for all PCs required in the control room cluster. By using industrial rack-mount PC chassis and KVM extenders, virtually all fan noise was eliminated in the control rooms. This area also provided a connectivity-demarcation point for the control room.

A local technical support room accommodates 20 racks of broadcast and IT-systems equipment processing and interconnection, as well as the required technical power distribution, filtering and monitoring. The Studio 4 cluster is fully protected with a UPS backed up by a diesel-powered generator. This system was put to the test during the East Coast blackout last summer. The system kicked in appropriately, supporting seamless news reporting throughout the blackout.

Directly underneath this technical operations cluster, new studio production systems include seven Thomson Grass Valley LDK 200 digital cameras. Four of these are equipped with Canon E20X8BIE studio lenses mounted on Vinten Quattro four-stage studio pedestals with Radamec robotic heads. Three cameras are set up with Canon J21ax7.8 lenses, with a seventh camera supplied with a jib for audience shots.

Logistics planning and integration

The new studios are located two stories above the existing technical and production core and just over a breezeway that runs between the two buildings. Tying the studios into the existing network operations required extensive connectivity for communications, camera control, graphics, system reference and centralized routing. To complete the interconnections, a carefully planned design-and-build integration effort was required.

The installation schedule required that the cable pulls and terminations be in place before the facility documentation was completed. Using separate groups of technicians, the wiring began from five separate demarcation points. The wiring between the two buildings was installed in 12 four-inch conduits carrying more than 275 coax and 400 audio pairs. The plan allowed separate groups of technicians each to focus on a different set of cables, knowing that when they reached their demarcation point, another group technicians would be ready for the handoff.

Centralized core facilities

In addition to expanding the crosspoints on the routing and communications systems, the addition of the fourth studio and its camera systems pushed the capacity of the existing video-shading area beyond its limit. To accommodate the expansion, a larger area was required. The team designed a new graphics area into the annex, freeing up valuable space in the technical core. Combining existing and expansion hardware, engineers were able to provide for current and future operational requirements. The team renovated the vacated graphics area to support not only a larger centralized camera area with better robotics and intelligent server controls, but also an expansion of the existing central equipment room and a new, larger area for master control.

FOX News and TSG worked together to complete this addition in four weeks, and the entire project took only six months to complete.

Paul Rogalinski is the director of installation and a senior project manager for the Systems Group.