PCN’s studio set is lit with a combination of Videssence fluorescent lighting and halogen backlighting. Four Panasonic cameras are remotely operated from studio control.
After 10 years serving as the home of the state's public affairs network, Pennsylvania Cable Network's (PCN) original two-story building had long outlived its usefulness. As the staff grew and equipment needs increased, the four analog production rooms had taken on multiple functions and had become crowded, making it difficult to produce and air the network's unedited live and taped coverage of Pennsylvania state government activities. An upgrade and improvement of on-air quality and appearance became a priority.
PCN decided to expand its headquarters in Camp Hill, PA, from 5500sq ft to more than 21,000sq ft. The task to design a new digital facility became an internal project.
Designing the new facility
A schedule that included everything from hanging cable to installing equipment and training staff was planned to appropriately correspond with the construction timeline. The challenge was to remain flexible and alter the network's timeline to accommodate construction delays.
Master control is a one-person operation and monitored by staff nearly around the clock. All taped and live coverage pass through master control prior to the Uplink. Operators use the Chyron Duet for PCN’s intensive lower-third graphic supering. When necessary, the digital Yamaha audio board to the left of the operator allows for EQ and level control.
This venture required putting up with drilling and hammering for months while continuing to run a television network and handle normal tasks, such as equipment repairs and maintaining a quality air signal.
The new floor plan more than tripled the number of technical rooms. It was designed with efficiency in mind — improving workflow for the staff and room layout.
Due to the nature of the network's master control, that room was given critical attention. Two rooms were formed out of the old master control. The tape room became a spacious quality-control station, where the operations staff checks levels of incoming feeds and decks. With computers and decks now absent from the new master control, a significant reduction in equipment noise allows the operator better concentration. A curved console provides a more conducive work environment, and a comfortable producer's desk serves as another Chyron station.
Cost of equipment and satellite transmission was a significant factor in the decision to implement SD vs. HD. The plan was to design an SDI facility using Leitch and Grass Valley conversion gear to integrate the analog sources.
Using a combination of both digital and analog audio proved to be more cost-effective. For example, continuing to use the current studio microphones and purchasing the Wheatstone SP-8 analog audio mixer kept the cost down, while still meeting all of studio control's needs. It was also decided that the network select discreet unbalanced digital audio. The flexibility of routing audio separately from video was important. The unbalanced audio was chosen because it could be integrated using the same coax and BNC connectors as the video. Color-coded cables were used to distinguish between the audio and video signals.
The equipment at the core
In studio control, the director/TD operates the Grass Valley Zodiak with a Chyron Duet and Panasonic remote camera control unit on either side. Behind the console is the audio booth and a producer’s station, which includes the call screener and teleprompter crew positions.
The demand for a mid-sized router that could switch audio, video and control signals was essential to the design. The Grass Valley Concerto routing switcher was chosen for this purpose. The system consists of one frame configured for 64×64 serial digital routing and one frame configured for 32×32 digital audio, 32×32 analog audio and 32-port RS-422 data routing. The entire system, including remote panels, is configured and controlled using the Grass Valley Encore control system.
Quality control is the most important function in operations. The staff adjusts levels of all sources, including satellite, microwave and fiber feeds. The challenge was to find a quick and easy way for operations to adjust these incoming analog sources within a digital platform. The solution was Grass Valley's Newton control panel and its Kameleon modular conversion products. The Newton panel, designed to be part of the quality control station, can be configured to adjust any combination of audio and video characteristics that are available on the Kameleon cards.
As the network's studio productions became more complicated, the Grass Valley 110 production switcher was no longer adequate. The team researched several options and decided on the Grass Valley Zodiak for its versatility and features.
The switcher's flexibility offers many options in mapping buttons and saving multiple effects without tying up the mix effects banks. For example, when trying to accomplish an effect with multiple boxes, the Zodiak required one ME, while a competitor's switcher required the entire switcher.
This proved to be especially beneficial during the network's election night coverage. The continuous five-hour program was less stressful due to the switcher's ability to not only save an ME with the correct DVE but also recall the correct still. To accomplish this with a simple button push resulted in an efficient and seamless production.
The Zodiak's built-in machine controller has several options. Tapes can be cued and rolled using the touch screen panel or by programming the master E-MEM. This is useful because PCN often uses one clip tape with multiple segments. The network uses a more freeform style when it comes to its productions, and the switcher's quick reaction and versatility meets these needs.
SDI/analog signals are monitored at the quality-control station in the tape room and adjusted using various TBCs. Sony DVCAM tape is the format used both in the field and in the technical rooms. DSR1800s and DSR1500s are used to play and record feeds and for VHS/DVD duplication purposes.
To improve the on-air appearance and functionality in master control, two major upgrades were needed — an advanced CG system and a digital switcher. The network's master control switcher is used similar to many production switchers. Operators spend much of their time supering live and taped events and then transitioning to various sources dedicated to switcher inputs. Graphics must be recalled quickly, and the switcher must be logical and intuitive.
The team chose the Chyron Duet LE character generator and the Grass Valley M-2100 master control switcher. The Duet's two channels are assigned to separate keyers on the M-2100: one channel/keyer for lower-third name and topic graphics and the other for crawls promoting upcoming programs using the animation and effects generator built into the Duet.
Another plus is that graphics can be typed in the Duet's “preview” without altering the two channels on the air. Graphics created in Adobe Photoshop can easily be imported into the Duet for lower-third templates or full-screen stills.
The network's four Duets and three PCs running Chyron's Lyric software are networked together. The multiple Duets can serve as a backup to each other or, if need be, one Duet's drive can be simultaneously accessed to super programs in four rooms while still maintaining each Duet's two-channel capabilities.
In addition to the M-2100's keying options, the audio/video breakaway is an important feature. Operators can use the audio follow video option or quickly breakaway from either signal to another source. This provides the flexibility needed in the network's master control.
Another design consideration was how to monitor the various signals in master control and studio control. The team selected the Barco Hydra Compact and Overview DLP display system instead of traditional CRT monitors.
This multi-image display requires less maintenance and less power and produces less heat than racks of CRT monitors. The display system has more inputs than any of the other manufacturers that were evaluated. The system allows for greater flexibility in sources displayed. The monitor wall layout can be changed quickly with the use of GPIs.
Making a connection
Three workstations provide areas for Leightronix automation, Leitch video server programming and a networked PC that serves several purposes — a Chyron typing location, VHS tape labeling and a Primera Bravo DVD duplicator, which serves as a backup to the two Rimage systems.
PCN did not have an extensive intercom system until the Drake PICO was purchased. It is a 32-port digital matrix in a 1RU frame configurable from either the front panel or computer interface through a serial port. To continue using some existing RTS equipment, the optional four-channel, two-wire interface was also purchased.
Any of the 32 ports can be configured for use as an intercom panel port, a four-wire telephone interface port or a two-wire audio I/O port. With this arrangement, multiple audio sources can easily be routed to the PICO and assigned to intercom or IFB channels. Multiple configurations or maps can be saved and the intercom setup switched based on the event being covered.
Videotek's VSG-204D serial digital sync generator is used for producing the reference and test signals needed throughout the facility. A second VSG-204D and a Videotek VSX-11D multiformat sync changeover unit were installed to create a fully redundant reference system. Up to 11 sources from the primary and backup generators can be connected to the VSX-11D. When a loss of signal is detected on any of the primary inputs, a transfer to the backup occurs.
In order to satisfy both the distribution of power and a backup power plan, the network upgraded a 20 KVA Leibert UPS to 30 KVA and purchased a new 50 KVA Leibert UPS. The smaller UPS and existing 60kW generator supply backup power to the uplink and such critical areas as master control. The larger UPS provides backup power for the remaining equipment. This UPS can supply power for up to 30 minutes at full load, allowing for a graceful change to alternative programming in the event of an extended power failure.
The design team carefully scheduled the transition into the new building room by room. Studio control, one linear edit suite and graphics were the first rooms to be functional. The staff practiced in the new master control until the cutover day. The old master control was disassembled and equipment was reallocated into the new building. The relocation was completed with ease.
PCN now offers a professional and inviting atmosphere for guests and the staff. The staff enjoys the spacious environment. The new digital equipment improved the on-air appearance.
Debra Kohr Sheppard is vice president of operations for PCN in Camp Hill, PA.
Debra Kohr Sheppard, VP of operations
John Fox, chief engineer
Mark Kendall, engineer
Technology at work
Overview mDG50-DL 50in DLP
Overview cDR67-DL 67in DLP
BUF Technology VTC-4000
Chyron Duet LE CGs
Drake PICO digital matrix intercom
Concerto multiformat routing
Encore router control system
Kameleon KAM-AV A/D
M-2100 MC switcher
Newton modular control
Zodiak 2.5 M/E switcher
Net-164 video system switcher
TCD/IP video system controller
Logomotion logo generator
VR-440 video server
Panasonic pan/tilt robotic system
PanoramaDTV video monitors
Rimage 2000i and 1500
S-A Power Vu Plus encoders
Sony DVCAM VCRs
VSG-204D sync generator
VSX-11D sync changeover unit
Videssence studio lighting
Wheatstone SP-8 console
Wohler AMP2-DA audio monitor
Yamaha 01V digital mixing console