Often, the benefits of a facility redesign are difficult to quantify. But that isn’t the case with MTV Networks Latin America, which recently completed an overhaul of its broadcast editing and reproduction facilities. The benefits are clear: time and money saved.
To illustrate, prior to the project’s completion, 58 percent of the facility’s work was sent out of house. The overhaul allowed the facility reduce that dramatically; now they go out of house for only 2 percent of the work. That’s a tremendous savings over the course of a year.
A new central equipment room at MTV Latin America feeds surrounding nonlinear edit and audio suites. A five-layer Sigma Electronics ADX routing system controls 34 VTRs and six audio tape recorders.
In addition to gaining efficiencies, the network also wanted to position itself for future growth, as well as standardize its formats and centralize operations, which cover a significant amount of programming. The station broadcasts six localized cable feeds to North, Central and South America: three for each of the network’s channels, MTV and Nickelodeon. MTV in Latin America reaches approximately 30 million households (including Brazil’s separate operation MTV Brasil), while Nickelodeon reaches more than 14 million households, including a Portuguese language service exclusive to viewers in Brazil.
Room to grow
The original edit and production rooms were spread out over three floors of an office building, with other offices and administrative spaces in between. The network had continually added editing systems over the years, but new technologies had always been installed based on individual department needs, rather than on the technological requirements of the entire facility. This was counterproductive for several reasons.
Primarily, these were stand-alone edit rooms – each supporting all of the formats we handle. If a machine went down, then that room was down until the machine was replaced or repaired. Also, since usually only one tape format was used at a time, and editing can be a long process, it was not uncommon for machines to be sitting idle for a week. Yet, at the same time, we still had to go out of house for duplication services. The facility didn’t have a dedicated audio suite, yet outside audio sessions accounted for 30 percent of post-production costs.
For years, we had been toying with the idea of a centralized in-house edit and duplication facility. Finally in 2001, we sold the idea to our finance and creative departments, and started the process of analyzing and planning the build-out. Not only would this streamline workflow and drastically reduce outsourcing, it would also add a measure of security and access control to busy technical areas. In the past, anybody could walk into the edit rooms with no restrictions. There was no real distinction between office space and technical space.
As part of an overhaul of station editing facilities, the project team installed six Avid Media Composer 1000XL nonlinear editing systems. The systems interface with an Avid Unity Media Network to allow staff members across the facility to collaborate in real time using high-bandwidth media.
Now, all edit, duplication and production spaces are located on one floor. All six suites mirror each other in software, hardware and furnishings. Every room also has access to any VTR on the floor, as well as all the hard drive space.
The overhaul has also resulted in fewer passes on each machine. With the old system, if five copies of one tape were needed in a Digital Betacam-to-Digital Betacam transfer, and only two machines were available, it had to be recorded from one to the other five times. Now we can roll it on one machine and record it on five machines simultaneously, if five are available. That not only saves time, but also wear and tear on the hardware, because the playback machine is only spinning its heads once to do the project, and not five times.
The new facility also includes a variety of other new features, including a ProTools suite, with the optional ProControl mixing surface. The team incorporated a Whisper Room isolated sound booth in the suite to create a self-contained audio environment.
The facility currently has six Avid Media Composer 1000XL units and one Avid DS system for digital compositing. All the suites interface with an Avid Unity Media Network, which provides 5TB of shared media storage. This system allows the entire facility to collaborate in real time using high-bandwidth, high-resolution, uncompressed and compressed media. This has optimized workflow by enabling editing, finishing, audio and graphics work to take place at the same time, using the same media files and projects in a shared workspace.
The facility employs an Avid DS system for digital compositing. This system works with the installed Media Composer editing systems and the Unity Media Network to enable staff to perform editing, finishing, audio and graphics work on the same media files at the same time.
The project included building a central equipment room with equipment racks feeding surrounding nonlinear edit and audio suites. Because we handle a high volume of duplication requests, the equipment room provides simultaneous editing and duplication support. The racks presently hold 34 VTRs and six audio tape recorders. Our standard format is Digital Betacam, and the majority of our machines are that format. However, since the facility handles both editing and duplication, every possible tape format is represented in the installation. While the primary format is serial digital 601, we also have the capability in each room to support an array of formats including Digital Betacam, SP, DV, D2, VHS PAL and VHS NTSC.
Everything is running through a Sigma Electronics ADX routing system, a five-layer system consisting of analog and digital video and audio, and time code. The configuration allows for a single 6RU frame system that can accommodate up to 64x64 operation, and is expandable to allow for a 128x128 matrix using a four-frame system. Several Sigma analog 8x8 routers served the old facility.
The router’s capabilities and expandability enable the staff to route any source to any destination, and use all five layers, depending on what a particular editor needs at a specific time. We needed to route machine control to allow editors to remotely control VTRs, and we worked with Sigma to accomplish this by using a DNF SW32PS external RS-422 switcher, which provides 32 RS-422 ports and switches them simultaneously with the ADX router.
To eliminate the need for costly outside audio sessions, the new facilities include a ProTools suite with a ProControl mixing surface and a Whisper Room isolated sound booth.
A five-layer design was decided upon for the routing system because analog formats still comprise much of the facility’s workload. The team thought it was best to keep analog and digital separate in their own levels of routing. With most newer, all-digital systems, everything would need to be converted to digital and then routed, adding more steps to the process.
It would also require many more A-to-D and D-to-A converters, which could end up being cost prohibitive. This routing system utilizes all the inputs to the VTRs. For example, going from an analog beta machine to a digital beta, we would use the analog inputs on the digital machine, and then use the digital converter inside the Digital Betacam, rather than having to buy another analog-to-digital converter. This design also allows analog machines to talk to each other without having to be converted to digital and back to analog. In the new facility, quality control is achieved through Videotek VTM-200 multiformat monitors. There is a QC station in every third rack, for a total of six stations. ANX alphanumeric control panels from Sigma are installed in each station, as well as in every audio and video suite. These control panels, which can include as many as 64 remote control panels per communications port on up to 2000 feet of coaxial cable, allow an operator to route from any location within a room. The entire system is controlled using the Sigma ADX SigMatrix software. Backup for the ADX system includes dual power supplies as well as ADC patchbays for each routing layer.
The routing system also allows for future expansion. At the appropriate time, we can double the station’s present capacity by expanding the ADX to a 128x128 matrix on a four-frame system. Acoustic treatment throughout the facility was achieved by using Snap Tex acoustical wall panels on the surfaces of the individual edit rooms, as well as hallways and exposed walls. The ProTools suite was treated with Snap Tex panels and RPG Modex bass traps.
Construction and build-out
The actual construction process was as intricate and detailed as the planning and design stages. To convert office space into technical space, an entire midsection of the existing location was gutted and cleared out. We took part of one of the floors where there had been several offices and hollowed the area out to build a VTR room. Then we retrofitted the surrounding offices for edit rooms.
We literally started from the ground up, putting in a new floor, new electrical and all new racks, and then installing the new router. Then we started slowly, room by room, taking the equipment out of those edit rooms and re-populating the new racks, hooking them up to the new router.
To further distinguish the technical spaces, we created an independent, supplemental HVAC system for the central machine room and a second supplemental unit that feeds the edit rooms. While all this work was in progress, it also was critical to have the workflow maintain its usual pace, with as few disruptions as possible. Since each edit room was originally a stand-alone room, we worked on relocating them one at a time. That way, we really didn’t lose any work time when we took one room out of service. We also scheduled the heavy construction either for weekends or other slower times to minimize disruptions.
In addition to the technological innovations, we worked closely with the architects and entire design team to create a facility that conveyed both a laid-back, almost “basement-type” environment with exposed overhead mechanical and electrical systems, and a totally modern and up-to-date image.
Raul Gutierrez is senior manager, technical operations, for MTV Networks Latin America, and Joe Fedele is president of Fedele & Associates.
JVC TM-A9U 9” monitors
Ikegami PM509 6” monitors
Wohler Amp1A and Amp2-S8DA audio monitors
Neutrik XLR connectors
ADX analog and digital routing switcher, ANX alphanumeric control panel
ADC audio/video patchbays
TBC Crossfire editing consoles
Media Composer 1000XL, Unity Media Network storage system
DVW-A500 Digital Betacam, DSR 80 and 2000 DVCAMs, DVR20 D2 recorder, UVW 2800, BVW 70 and UVW 2800 Betacam SPs, SVO 5800 VCR CDP-D500 CD player, BVM-20F1U video monitor
TASCAM DA-98 audio recorder
Fostex D-25 digital master recorder
Hitachi DV-W10 DVD player-CD recorder
VSR-2040 601 digital sync, generator clock system, VTM-200 and TVM-675 multiformat monitors
TenLab TR-1000 Pro converter
Digidesign ProTools 24 Mix Plus system
Omnirax Coda EX console
Genelec 1031A bi-amplified monitor speakers
Crown D-45 amplifiers
ElectroVoice RE20 microphone
Leader LV 5100 DU multiformat monitor
DNF SW32PS external RS-422 switcher
JBL Control 25 speakers
MTV Networks Latin America:
Ernesto Navarro, director of technical operations/administration
Raul Gutierrez, PM and sr. mgr., technical operations/administration
Elizabeth Kahan-Ledee, post production supervisor
Renato Schneider, Richard Maher, Daniel Ritts, Mike Lorey, Santiago Rodriguez and David Innocenti, installation technicians
Fedele & Associates:
Joe Fedele, integration manager
James Killinger and Paul Scallioni, PE
Nick Barge, lead technician
Robert Hobler and George Stevanoff, audio technicians