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Inside mediahouse

For millions of people around the globe, television is the only arena in which they can see their favorite athletes and events. TWI is the television arm of IMG, which represents many of the world's most prominent athletes, celebrities and events. With production centers in Hong Kong, London, New Delhi and New York, as well as 20 offices worldwide, TWI annually produces and distributes more than 6000 hours of original programming to more than 200 territories.

TWI negotiates television rights and distributes programming for many prominent and diverse sports organizations. IMG/TWI clients include Major League Baseball, the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (Wimbledon), the Indy 500, the Triple Crown of Horse Racing, the Rugby World Cup, the PGA of America, the NCAA and the International Ski Federation.

In 1988, when the facility set up its first edit suite, it was doing two or three major shows each year plus a weekly production called “Trans World Sport,” which is still running. This has progressively increased to the point where the facility is adding 300 hours of incoming and locally produced material to its archive each week and employing more than 400 production staff.

In the past three to four years, the facility has diversified into light entertainment and documentaries, including “Churchill” and the “In Colour” series, both for Carlton, and “I'd do Anything” for the BBC. Its main clients in Britain are the BBC, Carlton, Channel Four and Sky.

New premises

Since 1988, the in-house facilities have grown to keep pace with the expanding production commitment. Around 2000, it became obvious that it had outgrown its old building. New premises in Chiswick on the western approach to London were found, next to the building that now houses its production staff. This building was an empty warehouse and gave TWI the opportunity to construct a completely new facility. Architect Ware McGregor was commissioned to design and build a 2-story structure within the warehouse, and TSL was employed as the systems integrator.

The new facilities consist of two studio galleries, three surround-sound capable audio suites, a large video tape duplication area and MCR all on the ground floor, with linear and nonlinear edit suites on the first floor. When the company moved into the new building, it changed its operating name from TWI Facilities to Media-house so that it could offer its services to the outside market rather than be seen as TWI-specific. Mediahouse now employs around 70 staff.

Acquisition

Most of its signal sources come via satellite from local host broadcasters, even for tournaments it manages itself. The company also has five Sony Digital Betacam camera kits that can be driven by freelancers, plus a large number of DVCAM kits that can be strapped to the bottom of bobsleighs and other places too small and risky for more expensive equipment. The facility also has its own 600-square-meter studio in a building next-door, equipped with seven Philips LDK100 cameras and a FOR-A virtual set.

System control

TWI's original facilities grew organically. It started with one size of routing matrix and when that ran out, the company bought another matrix. Then it went digital and bought yet another matrix, and so the station ended up with an MCR desk full of matrix panels.

When it moved into its current building, the company wanted a computer-controlled system to provide a unified interface. The company uses the Pharos Pilot MCR system to control its Quartz routers and a wide range of ancillary equipment. This includes Axon Digital Design Synapse synchronizers, aspect ratio converters, SDI audio shufflers and general interfaces, Eyeheight line-identifiers, satellite dish positioners and receivers.

The Pilot MCR electronics are housed in the central apparatus room and take the form of a server network that communicates through various Pharos Control Platforms (PCPs) with the routing matrices and other external hardware.

The operators for the routing and device control system are faced with simple and efficient software-based control via touchscreen. The main router is 256-squared, and there also is a 128-squared SDI matrix for VTR and a 64-squared matrix for gallery operation. An additional 32-squared matrix is used for the edit suites. Configuring and driving all of the hardware panels needed to control these would be something of a nightmare. However, one operator can control all these routers from one computer workstation.

The station has some hardware panels in the desks should the routing and device control system ever fail, but they have not been used since the control system was installed. The facility also has a main and backup Pilot system, and with the hardware panels, the station has three levels of redundancy.

The device control system is configured as three identical monitoring sections plus two VTRs for playout. Each monitoring section has a touchscreen workstation augmented by assignable rotary control panels, allowing fast adjustment of signal level. Each section soon will have a Pharos Almanac workstation, which will be linked into the company's booking system for playout and recording of satellite feeds and so on. The station has two Pilot workstations in VTR for routing control. It is also installing small Pharos applications on PCs across its office network that allow people to control parts of the routing matrix relevant to their area.

Video editing

Sony Digital Betacam is the facility's main operational VT format. It has about 50 Digital Betacams and about the same number of BVW-75 Beta-SP VTRs. The company has 27 editing suites of which five are tape-based. The remainder contain Avid editors, half of which are networked to a Unity production server. In addition, the company employs a DVD suite with Spruce authoring software.

Galleries

The company has two galleries in Mediahouse, each consisting of a production area, a sound area and a voiceover booth. Their main role is the re-purposing of live material. The company takes a live clean-feed of an incoming sports event and then adds a commentary, graphics, titles, VTR top and tail, and plays this out as a world feed.

Each gallery has a Sony DVS-7200 series vision mixer, a couple of Sony Digital Betacam VTRs and an EVS Live Slow Motion server. The sound areas are equipped with a Soundcraft B800 audio desk and Ethosacoustics loudspeakers.

Graphics area

The graphics area has five Windows 2000 based workstations running applications such as Adobe's Premiere and After Effects, as well as Discreet's 3ds Max. The facility's title sequences and more complex graphics are generated by these workstations. It also has six Aston character generators for use in the galleries and linear edit suites.

Audio

The company has one large audio dubbing suite equipped with an AMS Neve DFC console and two smaller suites with AMS Neve MMC consoles. The large suite has a 5-meter video projection screen and is also used as an 18-seat preview theater. These suites are supported by five AMS 24-channel AudioFile hard-disk recorders. Most of the audio work is handled on the AudioFiles and laid straight back to Digital Betacam. They also take a lot of projects straight from the Avid suites via OMF transfers.

The monitor loudspeakers are from Martin Audio with JBL subwoofers. The video edit suites are equipped with Ethosacoustics Pro201 loudspeakers. For its communications matrix, the facility chose Trilogy for its computer-configurable system and range of operational panels.

Archiving

The station has more than 200,000 hours of archived master tape split over libraries in several locations, as well as archived 16mm and 35mm film from its earlier years. All of the rushes and finished program masters are kept, and the archive is growing at a rate of 15,000 hours a year. Its videotape is predominantly Fuji.

The future

Mediahouse is looking at moving to a server-based solution for its production and editing requirements, as well as expanding its live and transmission capabilities. It is investigating IP-based delivery of both low-resolution approval copies and broadcast quality copies of its programs to its sales teams and clients worldwide. It has recognized the potential of its archive and is looking at media-management tools and electronic archive solutions to make this more available to its clients. High-definition will undoubtedly make its move, particularly into its high production-value programs and as a way of future-proofing its archive.

Richard Allingham is the chief engineer at Mediahouse.

Technology at work

360 Systems Instant Replay Accom
Abekas Dveous DVE
Adobe Systems:

After Effects
Illustrator
Photoshop
Premiere

AMS Neve:

DFC console
MMC console
24-channel AudioFile hard-disk recorders

Andrew dish positioner Aston:

Concept stillstore
Ethos CG
Motif XL CG

Avid Technology:

Symphony editing system
Xpress Elite editing system
Mac Film Composer
Unity 3 with 13 clients

Axon Digital Design:

Synapse synchronizers
Aspect ratio converters
SDI audio shufflers

Discreet 3ds max animation system
EAW MS-103 loudspeaker
Edifis Sting DDR
Ethosacoustics loudspeakers
EVS Live Slow Motion DDR
Eyeheight line-identifiers
FOR-A virtual set
Genelec 1029A near-field monitor
IBM Mpro workstation
JBL 4645C subwoofer
JVC:

TM-H1750 monitor
TM-A170G monitor
TM-A101 monitor

Leitch SPG-1601 sync pulse generator
Martin Audio:

Screen 4 loudspeaker
Effect 5 loudspeaker

NDS:

Alteia receiver
3000 receiver

Panasonic:

AJ-D750 VTR
TH42 plasma

Pharos Communications:

Pilot touchscreen control workstation.
Almanac playout system

Philips LDK100 cameras
Pioneer DVR 3100 DVD-RW for DVD authoring
RTW surround meter
Quartz:

SC-1000 system controller
256×256 SDI router
128×128 SDI router
64×64 SDI router
32×32 SDI router

Sanyo PLV-70 projector
Scientific-Atlanta PowerVu receiver
SGI PC workstation
Snell & Wilcox:

Alchemist Ph.C standards converter
TBS24D synchronizer

Sony:

DVW-700P Digital Betacam camera production kits
Various DVCAM kits
DVW-A500P VTR
BVW-75P VTR
DSR-2000P VTR
BVE-9100 editor
DVS-7200 vision switcher
DVS-2000 vision switcher
DME-7000 video effects
DMX-E3000 audio mixer
BVM-D24 monitor
BVM-2010 monitor
DVS-7250
DVS-7150

Soundcraft B800 audio desk
Spruce software for DVD authoring
Stewart Luxus Deluxe THX projector screen
TANDBERG TT1200 receiver
TASCAM DA-88 audio recorder
TC Electronic 6000 Multi FX
Tektronix:

WFM 601 SDI
1761 waveform/vectorscope
1721 vectorscope

Thomson Grass Valley Profile disk recorder
Trilogy Broadcast Mentor Plus SPG