Systems Design Showcase: Cisco Systems' new broadcast and production facility

Cisco Systems has added a broadcast and production facility to its headquarters in San Jose, CA. The facility, designated as Building 8, is a completely new structure built from the ground up. It includes a master control center, four broadcast control rooms, four production studios and several labs.

Cisco contracted Digital System Technology (DST) as systems integrator for the facility. DST provided Cisco with a broad array of services for this project, including design, consulting, engineering, equipment provisioning, integration and installation.

Cisco expects to use the facility to test and demonstrate the capabilities of its IP/TV Solution product line as well as to conduct training, distance learning and corporate communications. The IP/TV Solution line uses multicast technology to deliver TV-quality live video programming such as management broadcasts, training programs, university classes, business television and satellite programs to desktop PCs, classrooms and meeting rooms. This facility will allow Cisco to train clients, employees and customers worldwide via multicast and unicast streaming — a highly cost-effective alternative to flying the trainees in to San Jose from various countries.

The original completion target date of October 2001 was extended through January 2002 following additional requests by Cisco. DST’s job was to keep up with each extension —on time and on budget. The flexibility provided by both companies allowed them to meet their goal of opening a fully functioning facility in early 2002.

Cisco provided a preliminary equipment list, which was somewhat altered through discussions and evaluations of the best choices for the facility. DST made changes to the list and began the process of bringing the facility to light. DST pre-wired several of the equipment racks at its Atlanta facility. These consisted mainly of racks required for the new facility’s central control room, including the signal routing and patching equipment. The remaining racks, as well as the majority of the build, were done on site at Cisco’s San Jose headquarters.

The heart of the system is the master control center, a 20’ by 20’ room housing 10 racks of equipment that tie the operational aspects of the entire facility together. To ensure that all required equipment could fit into the available space, DST designed exceptionally high racks to house the equipment.

The master control center’s core equipment consists of PESA Tiger and Cougar routing and switching systems, which address SDI and NTSC video, plus AES and analog audio. All electronics for the entire facility live in this space. This includes all processors for the various production switchers found in all four broadcast control rooms, plus a variety of Leitch distribution equipment and Tektronix test and measurement equipment.

The master control center also houses the videotape operations center, complete with Sony Betacam, Digital Betacam, DVCam and VHS systems. An adjacent server room houses all IP products for corporate broadcasts and distance learning (the Cisco IP/TV 3425, 3424 and 3432 for multicast and unicast streaming), as well as the RTS Adam intercom matrix for facilitywide communication.

The facility also features four broadcast control rooms, each with its own adjacent production room. Control A, measuring 20’ by 20’, is the largest of the four control rooms. Its adjacent 35’ by 45’ production room is the largest of the four production rooms. Control A is the facility’s primary control room and features a large Sony DVS7150 production switcher and associated production equipment: a Pinnacle Systems DVEXtreme digital effects system, a Pinnacle Deko computer graphics system, a Pinnacle Lightning still store and a Crest audio console.

Over the duration of the project, Control A proved to be among the greatest challenges in regards to serviceability — an issue that Cisco will face in the future. Control A’s construction made it necessary to install the racks against a wall. This placement eliminates rear access to the equipment and all service must be handled from in front of the racks.

The three remaining control rooms employ most of the same equipment as Control A, except for Ross 210D production switchers. But, unlike Control A, the layout of these three rooms allowed DST to provide rear access to the racks, affording much better serviceability in these rooms. The production rooms adjacent to Control B, C and D are roughly half the size of Control A’s production room. Generally, all four production rooms have similar equipment: multi-camera setups featuring Sony DXC-D35WT cameras with Fujinon Ah18x9.7 standard-definition lenses. The production studios for Control C and D also house Panasonic AWE600 robotic cameras. For production communications, the entire facility features numerous Sennheiser audio products, including EM1046 and EM3032 rack-mount receivers, SK50 body-pack transmitters and Evolution wireless and microphone products.

The final leg of the integration process included two labs for equipment testing and training: one for the IP/TV Solution line and one for Cisco’s training development. DST provided the infrastructures for these rooms. DST installed a termination panel that allows Cisco to move equipment into these labs as required. The labs themselves connect to various studios and production rooms to create content, which is recorded directly to tape or distributed via the Internet.

Power sources include a central three-phase power system that feeds all of the technical spaces with isolated grounding. However, there is no generator or central UPS in this facility. Several rooms feature dedicated local UPSs, specifically where servers and computers require protection.

DST put considerable effort into the details of designing operation consoles. As with equipment integration, the main challenge was to install a large amount of material into a small amount of space while keeping it accessible and usable. To ensure that all necessary furniture fit properly, some unusual console design was required. DST customized the furniture to meet ergonomic and ADA requirements within the facility. Solutions Custom Furniture of Santa Fe Springs, CA, handled the assembly and installation of the furniture.

When Cisco is ready to expand, the core of the system allows room for growth, beginning with the PESA routing system in master control. Dialogue between Cisco’s and DST’s engineers resulted in a fully functioning facility that satisfies all of Cisco’s in-house broadcast and production needs.

Mark Siegel is vice president of business development at Digital System Technology.