CNN Time Life Studios

Since the 1980s, CNN has expanded its international news organization beyond its home in Atlanta to include facilities around the globe. The most recent move for CNN involved the renovation and construction of two facilities in New York City in 2002 to accommodate news shows built around its high-profile talents, Connie Chung and Paula Zahn. The Systems Group (TSG) was appointed to help plan and execute the project, which included the renovation of the CNN facility located at 5 Penn Plaza and the construction of the new street-front studio located at the Time Life building in midtown Manhattan. These facilities were necessary for CNN to have a bigger presence in New York.

Early in the planning process for the 5 Penn Plaza project, CNN announced plans to create the new studio facility in the former Time Life building and control it remotely from the 5 Penn location. The Time Life Studio was designed to give news shows dedicated high-profile studio space, with two sides of glass for public exposure to Sixth Avenue and the associated plaza. Support and technical facilities are located on the lower concourse level. Sony HDC950 video cameras mounted on Vinten Quattro studio pedestals are used to provide the studios with HD capability for the future, as well as SD quality for the initial launch. A Yamaha O2R digital audio mixer fulfills the audio production duties.

Two production control rooms were updated along with the expansion of routing connectivity feeds to two smaller existing studios. Thomson Grass Valley 4000 three-M/E production switchers were chosen for the facility, deployed along with a Thompson Trinix SDI video router with a 256 × 256 channel matrix and active carding for a 192 ×192 matrix. A Venus analog router with active carding for a 256 × 256 matrix also was installed. Sony PVM and BVM video monitors using Telex KP32 intercom key panels for communication were installed in the two facilities. The new systems were cut into the existing on-air operation in a highly coordinated manner with no impact to the home viewer. Each room in Penn Plaza was individually transitioned and tested, allowing the engineers to shadow the signal path for both analog and digital systems while remaining on the air.

TSG was appointed in February 2002, with the 510 Penn Plaza segment reaching completion in May 2003. TSG was on site within four weeks to begin the cable pulls for the production studio upgrade. The studios went from analog to a full-digital 601 operation within a six-week period. The Time Life installation started in April 2003. Testing for the Time Life studios began on May 15. The 1000-square-foot-studio launched on June 24, only 20 weeks after the award date. The 2000-square-foot-street-front studio designed for Paula Zahn came online on September 18, due to the complexities of the set design. Once all the smoke cleared, CNN had a showpiece facility for its high-profile talent and their expanding New York presence.

Design Team

Jeff Gershgorn, dir. eng.
Jesse Spilka, eng. mgr.
Dave Slack, VP-imp. and planning
Tim Sloan, tech. mgr.

The Systems Group
John Zulick, eng.
John Holt, sr. eng.
Paul Rogalinski, sr. proj. mgr.
Darwin Clermont and DJ Rice, installation supervisors
Hemant Ganesh and Steve Losquadro, lead tech.

Equipment List

Thomson Grass Valley
Trinix SDI video router 256 × 256
Venus Analog audio router
4000 three-M/E production switchers

Yamaha 02R digital audio mixer

Vinten Quattro studio pedestals

Telex intercom key panels KP32

HDC950 cameras
PVM and BVM video monitors