News television in the Dominican Republic

This new facility serves as its flagship operation, consolidating, upgrading and expanding its media holdings to address Medcom’s growing media business and longer term broadcast needs.
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Initially conceived at the turn of the century as a news operation that would complement its other broadcast and print media operations, the new Telecentro broadcast facility reflects the growing sophistication of Grupo Medcom, a leading media company in the Dominican Republic.


Medcom’s master control center uses Leitch Opus switchers and Ross 8900 master control switchers, all supported by Pinnacle DekoCast multi-layer character generators and keyers.

Occupying the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola and bordering on Haiti, this tropical maritime country is nestled comfortably between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is home to about 9 million people, with a decidedly youthful bias. More than 2 million live in Santo Domingo, the cultural core of the Republic since the 15th century, when it was the primary link between Spain and Spanish interests in the Americas. It is now the home of the new Medcom facility.

The facility is owned by Grupo Intercontinental, which also operates several newspapers, television stations and radio stations throughout the country. This new facility serves as its flagship operation, consolidating, upgrading and expanding its media holdings to address Medcom’s growing media business and longer term broadcast needs.

Following a review of the needs of the proposed news operation, it became apparent that there was reason to extend the original objective to include merging and expanding all of the company’s television interests within a common facility and management infrastructure; integrate state-of-the-art digital technology with SDI/AES signal distribution and server-based media storage; and provide the proposed contemporary 24-hour news channel, comparable to established similar services in content and presentation. This would enable the company to expand the audience base in the Dominican Republic and produce Spanish-language programming for satellite distribution to expatriate communities in North America. The new plant now incorporates not only news but also a common master control center for five independent television services — Channels 7, 13, 27, 31 and 57.

To assist it in achieving its overall business and broadcasting goals, Medcom selected AZCAR International as its system and engineering consultants, designers and integrators.

Infrastructure

While the desire to provide a contemporary and comprehensive news service was the initial impetus for the project, it became apparent that much of the infrastructure could become common to an expanded facility that would also address the growing modernization needs of the company’s other four television operations. The opportunity to consolidate management and operations, as well as update and centralize the technology at the same time and in the same location, was too attractive to ignore. The broadcast objective was to provide superior levels of program quality, concepts and content supported by modern television technology, which would provide a new level of service to the region.

Master control

The facility incorporates common equipment, function and control facilities within a common master control center for five independent channels: Channel 27 (the new news channel) and existing Channels 7, 13, 31 and 57. The master control center uses Leitch Opus switchers for the two main channels and Ross 8900 master control switchers for the others, all supported by Pinnacle DekoCast multi-layer character generators and keyers. The operators face a massive monitor wall consisting of four Panasonic displays fed by Miranda Kaleido display drivers. Video, audio, ID and waveform information is displayed. Two large projection units, also Kaleido-driven, border the plasma screens on both sides and are used for more selective monitoring.

Central operations room

The central operations room houses 30 racks containing digital and analog VTRs for playout and record operations, and incoming and outgoing feeds. It serves as an ingest area for the commercial and news server systems for all program services. A separate center within the operations area provides for camera control operations for all cameras and production studios.

Central equipment room

The central equipment room, housing 60 racks, incorporates the 256x256 central SDI/AES digital router, 128x128 RS422 control router, intercom, news and commercial servers, microwave and satellite equipment for transmission and reception, digital pulse, reference and master clock systems, and standards conversion equipment. A mobile engineering test system supplements the integrated monitoring and measurement equipment.

Central graphics and post-production

Included as another supporting but centralized facility is a large common post-production and graphics center, with a dedicated VTR ingest pool to serve the production requirements of the five program channels. Currently, the center incorporates 11 Leitch Velocity NLE stations, with pending plans for expansion.

Pinnacle Thunder and DekoCast character generators supplement the conventially equipped graphics stations.

News

The new Channel 27 operation, Red Nacional de Noticas (RNN), provides a 24/7 news service in the Republic and appears on cable networks internationally. Produced on a fully digital broadcast platform, the channel’s news product delivers a news service over satellite, fiber and the Internet, as well as off-air. It uses ENPS, AP’s electronic news production system. The system is the nucleus of the digital newsroom. Enabling users to share news stories and video between the Medcom channels, it controls the Leitch VR440 broadcast servers using the industry-standard Media Object Server (MOS) protocol. Almost overnight, journalists have transitioned from using ad-hoc methods to produce news to having the latest digital production tools at their disposal.


RNN’s digital newsroom uses ENPS, AP’s electronic news produc- tion system. ENPS allows journalists to share news stories and video between the Medcom channels.

With ENPS, the channel’s journalists enjoy a centralized content search engine that enables easier content sharing across the group’s several news-gathering operations. The search engine includes video items produced in the station’s video servers. The new newsroom unites RNN with its sister station, Telecentro, Channel 13.

Studios

The company’s facility has four production studios. The largest serves the general production needs of Channel 13. All studios are equipped with Ikegami HL-45BT cameras, 17 in all, most of which are equipped with QTV teleprompter systems. A computer-controlled Colortran dimmer system handles lighting chores, with the fixtures in the largest studio mounted on motorized battens to facilitate rapid studio turnaround.

A combination studio/newsroom has been incorporated specifically for production of news for Channel 27. The studio/newsroom contains one of the large Leitch server-based news systems consisting of 30 browse stations and nine nonlinear edit stations for ingesting and editing. The two remaining studios are primarily used for special additional news and sports productions.

These studios are busy and already nearing full capacity. More than 90 percent of the programming on Channel 27 is new and produced daily in-house, while a full 50 percent of programming on Channel 13 is produced in this new plant. Channel 31 focuses on sports, with live studio inserts and commentary. Studio productions are, typically, energetic, loud and elaborate, with little downtime available between production shoots. Audience-involved variety, game and entertainment shows, as well as novellas, make up the majority of the locally produced entertainment programming.

Production control

Three production control rooms employ fully equipped Synergy 2 switchers, wired to accommodate 48 inputs. A smaller production room employs a 16-input Synergy 1. The rooms are all 2-tier designs featuring multi-image Panasonic plasma displays bracketing individual Sony CRT preview and program monitors and Leitch up/down timers with 5-centimeter LCD displays.

Audio production within the plant remains analog to contain costs and realize production efficiencies. Each production control room includes a 32- or 24-channel Studer 928 broadcast audio console with associated input and monitoring devices. These analog mixers are equipped with D/A converters on the inputs and A/D converters on the outputs to provide digital, AES, audio for plant distribution.

The main studio is also equipped with two Yamaha 32-channel fold-back/PA consoles and an extensive JBL PA system. Six Sennheiser wireless microphone systems are installed in the main studio and four in the news studio.

Distribution

Outgoing signals to the new and existing transmitters are delivered by microwave to their respective sites from a tower located at the facility. The microwave transmitters operate in and around the 2GHz band, with single hops of up to 80 to 96 kilometers to the transmitter site not uncommon. The Telecentro and RNN signals also enjoy wide distribution in the Americas by satellite and cable to émigré Dominican and other Spanish-language communities.

David George is a former president of SMPTE, a director of AZCAR Technologies and chairman of AZCAR USA.

Design TeamTelecentro/RNN:Jose Miguel Baez, presidentChristophe Saladin, VP special projectsJorge Galina, VP operationsCesar Mazzotta, VP strategic planningLuis Guaba, director of engineeringAZCAR International:Stephen Pumple, presidentJohn Warner, project managerJoe Langel, lead engineer – servers & VTRsCarlos J. Arancibia, conceptual developmentHakim Kharbut, support and infrastructure systemsEquipment listPhilips/Thomson Venus/Trinix 256×256 SDI/AES, 128x128 RS-422 central routing systemsLeitch Opus master control switchers, NewsFlash news system, VR465 NLEs and Browse Cutter; Velocity post-production and NLE system; VR440 servers; DPS-575 frame synchronizers; 6800 Series distribution equipment, sync and pulse, clock systemsPanasonic DVCPRO 50 VTRs, DVCPRO camera systems, plasma displays, content monitoringSony reference monitorsMiranda Kaleido virtual monitor wallRoss Synergy 1 and Synergy 2 production switchers, DVM-8900 MC switcher & AVM-7900Studer 928 audio consolesPinnacle Thunder still store, DekoCast CG for MCR, Deko CG, Alaidin Pro DVEsIkegami HL-45BT studio camerasTektronix video monitoring/measuring equipmentVideotek VTM-200 seriesWohler audio monitoringClear-Com 128x128 Matrix intercomTelex wireless intercom and IFBAVP jackfieldsBlonder Tongue house CATV monitoring


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