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opticamSWITCH

An investment in expensive HD and 3D equipment can be optimized with a well-conceived, flexible system architecture, paired with a fiber-optic camera switch solution.

Swiss Television carefully considered how best to deploy its existing HD equipment within an expansion of its studio infrastructure and started the “BigSwitch” project. The basic idea of the project was to plan a step-by-step increase of HD control rooms to be freely switchiable to the five major production studios. tpc (technology and production center, Switzerland ag) — an independent subsidiary of SRG SSR, Switzerland's radio and TV broadcaster — considered various new ideas and opted for a future-proof concept. Neutrik's opticamSWITCH flexibly connects the technology and production center's existing cameras and control rooms to one another. Furthermore, as they come online, two planned new control rooms and studios will be easily integrated into the system. (See Figure 1.)

Because the opticamSWITCH is a fiber-optic camera switching system, mechanical wear, costly maintenance and possible mechanical failure are eliminated, resulting in a robust, reliable solution. Integration into existing control systems, with control via software, enables automation and allows for real-time control over complex wiring structures. This increase in efficiency — with significant reduction of potential errors — led tpc to employ the system.

System installation and test phase

Because the facility still had productions ongoing and the time frame was small, the planning was complex. The center needed to win more time for the installation and needed to have a plan B in case of upcoming problems.

During installation, the fiber-optic cables to the studios had to be assembled on-site. Neutrik brought the entire assembly infrastructure, including assembly specialists, to the studio. The team, along with tpc employee Martin Sturzenegger, connected the cabling to the fiber-optic camera routing system in a short time.

After that, the first test took place. All studios and cameras were connected and switched in all combinations. The system ran without any major mistakes.

Swiss National Council elections 2011

The first big practical test of the new installation was the Swiss National Council elections 2011. The Swiss Parliament, also called the Federal Assembly, is the supreme legislative authority at the federal level. Since 1848, the Federal Assembly has consisted of two mutually equivalent chambers: the National Council, consisting of 200 delegates of the people, and the Senate, which includes 46 delegates of the cantons. Every four years, the Swiss people elect the parliament. On October 23, 2011, it happened again. The media's reporting on Swiss television was realized by tpc using the opticamSWITCH.

The live coverage at the Swiss National Council elections 2011 was 12 hours. From tpc alone there were 120 technicians working in the studio in Zurich. Then there was the Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) program. In total, there were about 870 radio and TV people in Switzerland working for the elections.

Studio 1, with an area of 1000sq-m, was converted into the election studio. Ten tons of material were used for that. In the smaller Studio 2, all of the radio stations were quartered.

Several other rooms were available for the print media. Twenty-six remote outposts were coordinated for control room 2. The election was produced from the main control room 2, with support from control room 3.

There were eight Sony HDC 1400R cameras for SRF in use, which all ran over the new opticamSWITCH.

Result

Gerard Koch, project director video technology for tpc, says the decision to use the system for the first time in the elections wasn't a risky one. The facility performed several tests in real environments with associated cameras. In addition, it carried out various smaller productions with the system.

In a worst-case scenario situation, Koch says they would have been prepared with a manual patch solution using opticalCON couplers. Thus, tpc was able to calmly look forward to the elections, which went off without a hitch.

Christian Ganahl is product manager, Neutrik.