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ESPN’s HD heaven

New studio technology - HD

ESPN’s HD heaven

ESPN’s 120,000sq ft, all-digital HD digital center in Bristol, CN, is the future of broadcast production, based on digital technology, and it’s paying huge dividends today. Networking and automating many of the labor-intensive processes has led to reduced errors and continued system reliability. If there is such a thing, this is HD heaven.

A signal distribution and processing system design has been implemented to support nine different TV networks that originate from Bristol. These include all U.S.-based ESPN distributed channels and are supported by the facility’s massive signal routing architecture that feeds more than 19 nonlinear edit rooms, four master control suites and a large sports content ingest screening area. Signal paths can be changed quickly to accommodate new channels and future internal growth.

The facility features resilient, physically dispersed HD SDI and AES signal paths throughout the building, requiring more than 7 million ft of coax and fiber-optic cable to handle a mixture of SD and HD signals.

Now in its second year of distributing more than 470 HD live sports telecasts on its ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD channels, ESPN distributes its highest-rated programs, including “SportsCenter,” in the 720p HD format. These widescreen telecasts, with multichannel AES audio, are supported by a large variety of multiformat broadcast equipment to produce more than 6000 hours of originally produced HD programming annually.

The immense requirements of ESPN’s production infrastructure is handled by multiple racks of HD routing switchers (configured as four dispersed 1024x512 I/O matrixes for HD video signals) and a similarly dense AES router to handle audio routing. The video router can handle both SD and HD signals in the same frame. Control of the routers is through a centralized facility control system.

To support its signal distribution paths, the facility has installed hundreds of modular equipment products to route digital audio and video signals to routers, production switchers, audio mixers, and other destinations.

There’s a large complement of nonlinear editing and media server equipment, including 25 edit systems tied to 68 main media servers to distribute media on and off the SAN that currently includes a capacity of more than 3500 hours (in SD mode).

The facility houses three HD studios, which are home to all ESPN Bristol-based studio shows, including “SportsCenter.” To capture its live shows in widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) 720p, ESPN is using 20 multiformat HD cameras. Fiber-optic transmitters and receivers, in tandem with air-blown fiber between buildings on the Bristol campus, has enabled the facility to network seven studios via more than 1000 fiber-optic circuits.

Design TeamTechnology at Work ESPN: Calrec Alpha 100 audio consoles Rob Hunter, sr. dir., systems eng. and media tech. Evertz Bill Lamb, VP systems eng. and tech. support MVP-3000 display processors Kevin Stolworthy,sr. VP, production op. 7700 series fiber-optic gear Ted Szypulski, sr. dir., proj. dev. Grass Valley: National TeleConsultants Trinix HD routing Doyle Technology Consultants Apex Plus routing switchers The Systems Group Concerto routing switchers Encore control Kameleon distribution amplifers : Kalypso production switchers LDK-6000 studio cameras Miranda: Densité and Symphonie distribution amplifiers signal conversion modules ImageStore network branders Pro-Bel: TX-510HD MC switchers Sirius and Halo signal routing Morpheous automation Quantel sQ servers, Qedit Pro editors
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