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Vista Spyder

When China's state broadcaster CCTV (China Central Television) launched its new U.S. hub in Washington, D.C., it wanted a clean, elegant on-air look for its first American content targeted to viewers back home.

The U.S. operation delivers English-language programming to China; the Washington hub is the latest in the broadcaster's worldwide expansion of bureaus and studios. CCTV operates 16 national channels in China and claims a global TV audience of one billion.

The design brief for Washington called for maximum flexibility to accommodate a large number of shows produced from just two studios located in an office building. As the designers and builders of the studio sets, we looked for a system that would enable CCTV to manipulate its PAL video and graphics seamlessly across the studios despite the different pixel counts for high-resolution and low-resolution display devices.


We selected three Christie Vista Spyder X20 0808 processors to control an array of video walls, LEDs and flat-panel displays designed into the sets. These displays showcase HD-SDI-driven titles, logos, graphic elements, breaking news and interviews. Everything in the sets can change: The lighting, video and graphics can give them a completely different look.

The X20 has established a good reputation in the broadcast world as a high-end, hardware-based video processor whose unique architecture allows for a resolution- and video format-independent environment. It can be used in many different environments with any combination of display devices. The system's 20 megapixel bandwidth enables it to blend, window, mix and scale any source format and route the signal to any destination device quickly and easily.

One Spyder is dedicated to Studio A's CCTV News Center set, where it feeds video and logo graphics to a curved Suncoast 4mm LED screen in the middle of the anchor desk; a curved 3 × 7 Orion flat-panel video wall across the back of the set; a Color Kinetics LED vertical panel with LED bottom ribbon to the left of the video wall; and a 10in Panasonic flat panel to the right of the video wall.

A second system is dedicated to the “Biz Asia America” show and other financial news programming originating from the other side of Studio A. It feeds content to the LED screen on another anchor desk; an L-shaped video wall in a 4 × 5 configuration flanked by a pair of Suncoast 8mm LEDs; and an 85in Panasonic flat panel to the left.

Studio B features a third Spyder, which feeds all the monitors and LED screens on its news set. The most elaborate of the three sets, the news set has a curved Orion 2 × 5 flat-panel video wall, which comprises the backdrop. Suncoast 8mm LEDS on either side show graphic displays, and a 103in Panasonic flat panel to the right side plays breaking news. A 42in Panasonic flat panel hangs vertically and serves as the anchor's over-the-shoulder monitor with the ability to display remote guest appearances. The front of the anchor desk has a built-in Suncoast 4mm LED.

A fourth system is on hand in a separate control room for use in future Chinese-language shows. Philadelphia-based systems integrator Video Visions installed the video control systems and X20s for CCTV's Washington studios.

Ease of use

User-friendliness of the equipment was a consideration throughout the project. Although Spyder is sophisticated, it's relatively simple for an operator to run and has an intuitive user interface. After just a few days of training, the CCTV staff was able to flow images to different display formats and orientations with ease. It's impressive to watch people with no experience of the product adopt it and use it to its full potential. The staff is already exploring new possibilities with the X20s.

Spyder's ability to manipulate a wide range of graphic and video content seamlessly and easily helped us deliver the clean, elegant on-air look the broadcaster sought and made CCTV's Washington, D.C., debut smooth and flawless.

Caroline Aldridge is COO and Project Manager for Broadcast Design International (BDI).