More than two years ago, TVW — Washington state's public affairs network — asked Advanced Broadcast Solutions (ABS) to manage the design, installation and systems integration of its new state-of-the-art digital production and distribution facility, known as the Jeannette C. Hayner Media Center, in Olympia, WA.
TVW's plan was to vacate its leased office space by January 2007 and transition to the new facility across the street without any interruption of its live daily broadcast operations.
TVW, which provides unbiased coverage of Washington's Senate, House, Supreme Court and executive branch proceedings, sends its 24/7 signal via fiber to Comcast Cablevision, which distributes it to 1.5 million subscriber households. Independent research indicates that nearly 1 million people tune into the TVW cable channel on a regular basis.
Challenges in the beginning
Moving the existing gear from the old facility over to the new location was not an option because TVW had to continue broadcasting during the transition. Therefore, ABS decided to start fresh and build from the ground up with an all-digital infrastructure and new serial digital equipment.
The network's budget was $6.5 million, of which $3 million was earmarked for construction costs. That left $3.5 million to cover the technical core budget. TVW was adamant about not going over budget.
In this two-year period, the greatest challenge was keeping the project on budget despite significant changes to the cost and capabilities of the technology the team planned to use. ABS successfully maintained the budget. In fact, there was only one change-order to the entire project, and that was to add closed captioning at the request of the network.
Another challenge was the lengthy delays in construction that impeded the crew's ability to run cables, and install and test equipment. Construction delays outside of TVW's control caused the network to move just as its lease expired and begin broadcasting from the new facility on Jan. 7, 2007.
Without the luxury of time, the crew had to compress the planned 18-week, on-site build down to just 11 weeks. ABS worked closely with TVW to determine the proper location and footprint for the entire plant, including the technical core and production control areas. The company advised the architect about its specific technical needs with respect to the electrical and HVAC loading and design, as well as wire routing, sound abatement, lighting and specialized treatment for ceilings, walls and floors.
To make the most of the time, technicians and subcontractors worked overtime to do all of the prewiring, prebundling and preterminating of cables in ABS' 5000sq-ft warehouse. Crews stuffed all of the equipment into the racks with plans to move them right into place at TVW's new production facility as soon as they could gain access to the new location.
Equipment in the technical center
The Hayner Media Center has three times the space of the old facility. Of the 15,000sq ft of space available at the new location, a 520sq-ft area is devoted to the technical center, which is where the racks were permanently installed. The technical core of the facility also houses key video equipment systems, such as a Thomson Grass Valley Concerto house router, as well as equipment supporting streaming media, telephony and the IT infrastructure.
All video conversion, fiber connectivity and other digital glue tasks are handled by Evertz products. The facility employed the company's MVP multi-image display and monitoring system to create video walls on a single large-screen display.
In total, there are 20 racks of equipment at the facility, all of which were installed in the technical center. They were arranged in two rows of 10 racks and installed on a cement floor. The cables and wires were installed in an overhead cable tray. For the initial installation, the crew used 19 32in standard rack units, and one 36in rack at the end of a row to house the server because the depth of the server required a wider rack unit.
Evertz processing gear was used to precondition and optimize the fully SDI signal. The equipment includes distribution, A/D distribution, frame synchronization, noise reduction, proc amp and fiber connectivity from Capitol Hill to TVW. The facility also used the company's Vistalink for signal monitoring for quality control.
In any facility, high-quality power and HVAC is crucial to having good signal quality within a facility. To ensure the proper signal environment for the network, ABS installed three-phase power, isolated ground, UPS and a generator.
When the crews began the installation at the new location, there was no HVAC or power in place yet. The crews had to work around the construction trades to pull their cable and wire from room to room. This was not an ideal situation. In this case, high levels of dust and dirt at the site created a nightmare for the systems integrator because delicate equipment is susceptible to damage under those conditions. Prior to bringing the equipment in, ABS couldn't pump air through the filtration systems, which would have helped to clean the environment sufficiently to protect the gear. Once the crews were on-site, they used Visquine plastic sheeting and air filtration systems as they worked.
Three control rooms
The next challenge was debugging all of the installed systems — a painstaking process that took one month. A Thomson Grass Valley Maestro master control switcher lacked some key functionality, which made it difficult to integrate it fully with an Avid Titan automation system and the Concerto router with 128 × 128 SDI video, analog audio and RS-422 control data levels. The network installed an Omneon Spectrum video server with five ingest channels, eight playout channels and a storage capacity of 400 hours of DVCPRO50 video.
TVW's new facility also accommodates three production control rooms. When combined with the master control area, they occupy 580sq ft of space. The edit suites are identically configured with Thomson Grass Valley Kayak switchers and a 48-input MVP multiviewer for creating a monitor wall on a single large display. They have full access to and control of all sources on the house router.
All three control rooms feature Harris Inscriber real-time graphics generators for lower-third supers and other on-screen text. Using software written by the station's IT director, Scott Freeman, the graphics systems are driven in real time by data streams generated from state government sources that feed data regarding the bills on the floor, how members have voted, election information and other XML data about legislative proceedings. The graphics system is capable of pulling in these real-time data feeds and plugging them into on-screen templates on the fly without any manual entry.
Among the source inputs are five Panasonic 655 box-style cameras with Vinten robotics, which are used for the network's original programming produced in the 1850sq-ft studio located on the first floor. There are also 72 Panasonic cameras with Vinten robotics situated throughout the Senate, House and other capitol campus locations, which are 1/2mi away. These camera signals are connected to the studios via Evertz fiber, which carries serial digital video, audio and control data (such as camera control data for white balance, iris balance, gain adjustments and powering the cameras remotely).
TVW can produce coverage of three simultaneous events, with one carried live. The old facility only had two production control rooms. Today the network can produce 50 percent more live and produced programming. All three signals record onto the Spectrum server, which feeds three 165sq-ft edit bays equipped with Apple Final Cut Pro nonlinear editing systems and AJA Kona I/O video capture cards. While the cabling infrastructure is HD-capable, there are no plans to buy HD equipment or migrate to HDTV. The network could produce in 16:9 and upconvert to HD if it wants to.
Each of the production control rooms has a Mac for processing AIF files. The facility also includes a 200sq-ft audio production room adjacent to the master control room. The audio production control room features an Allen-Heath series 3800 mixing board and a smaller Mackie audio board. The operation is entirely stereo audio, with a secondary audio channel used for live Spanish language translations.
The workflow at the new facility is greatly streamlined as a result of the sophisticated interface between the automation, server and digital asset management systems. The digital asset management systems include a Pictron with voice-to-text recognition and a Rhozet, which transcodes DVCPRO50 files on the server into low-res proxy files for editing on Final Cut Pro as well as for DVD authoring for archive. This automated workflow helps to archive more than 3000 hours of content per year, which is kept accessible on nearline storage systems.
TVW now has a video and audio archive of more than 50,000 hours of government proceedings accessible on-demand from its Web site at www.tvw.org. The Web site also makes all of the events available as streaming audio, and many of the events can be viewed as live streaming media or on-demand as well as via podcasts. The site attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually.
FLEXIBILILTY FOR THE FUTURE
When TVW began broadcasting from the Hayner Media Center, there were several workarounds in place to smooth over technical issues ABS could not address in time. The integrator continued to refine the installation for one month following the premiere broadcast. The facility performed flawlessly, and the initial audience feedback indicated that viewers noticed the network's more polished, graphics-rich on-air presentation.
The goal of the project was to design a technical operation that was free from error-plagued or cumbersome tasks, and one in which all technical employees could understand the data and workflow.
Today, TVW has a properly scaled facility with inherent room for growth and the flexibility to accommodate any technological advancements it might want to incorporate in the future.
Mark Siegel is president of Advanced Broadcast Solutions (ABS) in Kent, WA.
TECHNOLOGY AT WORK
AJA Kona I/O video capture cards
Allen-Heath series 3800 audio mixer
Apple Final Cut Pro NLE systems
Avid Titan automation
3000 MVP multi-image display processor
7745FS frame synchronizer
MVP multi-image display and monitoring system
Vistalink signal monitoring
Harris Inscriber graphics
Mackie 140 ZVLZ audio mixer
Omneon Spectrum video server
Panasonic 655 box-style cameras
Pictron digital asset management system
Rhozet Carbon Coder file transcoder
Thomson Grass Valley
Concerto router with Jupiter control
Maestro master control switcher
Vinten robotics LCP-8000 camera control system
Advanced Broadcast Solutions
Mark Siegel, executive in charge
Timothy C. Colwell, system and CAD designer
Kenneth M. Scott, system and project commissioner
David Williams, project manager
Allan D. Freedman, lead installer
Matt Minnihan, wiring technician