ESPN selects Thomson to outfit new HD broadcast center

Thomson will outfit ESPN’s new high-definition production center in Bristol, Conn. with a wide variety of digital production equipment, in a deal valued at over $15 million.

The new 120,000 square-foot ESPN Digital Center will supply programming for the network’s all-HD ESPN HD channel, which is now available to direct broadcast satellite and cable TV systems throughout the United States. In March, ESPN announced its plans to launch ESPN HD and feature a variety of 100 live, HD telecasts in its first year. Once the center is operational, ESPN will add a variety of studio shows in 2004, providing an additional 3,700 hours of HD programming.

ESPN will install a variety of Grass Valley HD and multi-format broadcast products in the production center, including the Grass Valley Kalypso HD video switcher, Trinix video routing switcher, Apex audio router, multiple LDK 6000 mk II multi-format HD cameras and several hundred Kameleon modular products.

The digital infrastructure inside the ESPN Digital Center is so complex that it requires one of the largest signal routing systems on the East Coast. That system will combine multiple Grass Valley Trinix routing switchers configured as a 1024x512 matrix for HD video signals—and an equally dense Apex router system with a 1500x800 matrix to handle all incoming audio sources and convert them to multi-channel AES digital audio files. The routers will operate under the control of the Grass Valley Encore facility control system.

To support its signal distribution paths, ESPN has also ordered several hundred Kameleon 16-channel output distribution amplifier modules to route digital audio and video signals to the facility router and throughout the building.

For its production control rooms, ESPN has purchased several Grass Valley Kalypso HD video production switchers to handle multi-camera shows such as its flagship SportsCenter program. The all-sports channel will outfit three main studios in the new production center with numerous LDK 6000 mkII HD cameras; which can operate in both 1080i and 720p HD resolutions and in either traditional 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio modes. It will be used to shoot programs in ESPN’s preferred widescreen 720p HD resolution.

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