Manhattan Center rises to the occasion

Manhattan Center, centrally located at 34th Street and 8th Avenue, is home to the world-famous Hammerstein and Grand Ballrooms, as well as two television studios, two audio recording studios and several video post suites.

Here at Manhattan Center, we recently completed the total rebuild of our TV1 studio. Under the direction of Marvin Williams, director of engineering and operations, we have built a new, fully HD, state-of-the-art television studio. With the rest of the industry moving toward HD and 3-D platforms, we made the decision to start from scratch and build a brand new television studio.

TV1 had been in operation since 1995 as an analog studio, and then it was converted to a digital studio in 2003. In 2007, the studio began HD production on a small scale, so it seemed there was no time like the present to make the transition to full HD.

The facility was gutted down to slab and brick, and the team began its design. We wanted to build a studio and control room that would be an icon as well as a premier working space in the TV industry. We had to consider all factors, ranging from the overall flow and organization to the various systems that make the facility operational. The new facility layout was established based on a design by architect Tom Lekometros of The Lawrence Group/New York.

Once the plan was in development, a totally new mechanical, electrical and plumbing infrastructure was done, based on a design from AMA Consulting Engineers of New York. Most importantly, the broadcast technical infrastructure, which is based on HD- and 3G-compliant equipment and systems, had to be carefully selected and integrated into a strong architecture in order to provide maximum flexibility, scalability and future expansion capability. The majority of the technical design was completed by Manhattan Center staff engineers, with consultation and additional design help from Bill Marshall of Harvey Marshall Berling Associates.

Travis Butler, the chief engineer, and Williams had to come up with a practical solution for freelancers to work in, while retaining the traditional production workflow environment and maintaining a highly flexible platform to accommodate new technologies. We had already experienced working in a partially SD tapeless environment when our client ESPN occupied the space from 2003 to 2007. Now with the new technologies, we would do it again with an HD file-based system. Clients increasingly wanted to walk away with files instead of tape so that they could edit on Final Cut Pro or Avid systems. We still maintained a 16-bay HD tape infrastructure for clients who would still want tape assets.

Production studio

The new production studio features Ikegami HD cameras and is wired for 16 cameras. Manhattan Center houses four studio pedestal cameras and seven hand-held cameras with studio build-up kits as well. The studio is a SMPTE-based fiber backbone facility and can connect to any of the other venue spaces throughout the facility by cross-patching in its technical core. There are 10 broadcast service panels in TV1 — seven in the studio, one on 34th Street and the other two in the support spaces.

The studio uses an SSL C10 HD audio console with 128 DSP and Dialogue Automix with Genelec 5.1 monitoring system. It employs 18 wireless microphone channels with room for expansion, IFB and Riedel Acrobat wireless intercom throughout the studio. There is a wireless antenna system in place in the studio, green room areas and on 34th Street for outside shooting, as well as connectivity for monitor mix position and front of house.

The studio lighting is controlled by an ETC Ion board controlling three ETC SR48+ 96-channel racks over Ethernet. There is Ethernet to 16 DMX breakout modules in the grid and along the studio walls. There are also two company switches installed in the studio (100A and 200A), allowing for easy tie-in. An iWeiss 360-degree curtain and track is in place with a black curtain.

Production control room

The newly installed, state-of-the-art production control room features a Grass Valley Kayenne 3.5 M/E HD switcher, Chyron graphics and a monitor display wall composed of 10 HD LCD monitors with a Miranda Kaleido-X multiviewer for easy assigning of sources, aspect ratio sizing and tally. In order to optimize the space for the production and technical staff, a three-console configuration features the necessary ergonomics while providing suitable sight lines to the front monitor wall.

Adjacent to the control room is the audio mixing suite, which was acoustically designed to accommodate a conventional surround-sound monitoring environment and the lighting control booth with the ETC Ion control console with fader wing 2 × 20.

Audio communications

The overall communications system is based on a Riedel 136 × 136 matrix with a combination of analog, MADI, and AES and GPI interface cards. The matrix, key panels, telephone interface units and other gear are all seamlessly interfaced to provide a vast amount of point-to-point, IFB, four-wire (e.g. cameras, etc.) and party-line communications requirements.

Although the majority of the IFB and party lines are interfaced to the talent and operations via wireless provisions, there is also an outboard hard-wired Clear-Com two-wire system as well for the ballrooms, which are connected to control room. Riedel Acrobat wireless intercom systems are in the studios as well as in the ballrooms.

Post production/playback

Graphics and video files are shared over an extensive IP-based file-sharing network in order to support production and post capabilities. The MC team also implemented Grass Valley K2 servers for multi-camera recording and playout production support. Studio and post-production share resources, linking the studio K2 system to the post-production Avid Media Composer editing workstations and Final Cut Pro workstations.

EditShare Energy supplies storage and backs up media files. This provides for tapeless studio recordings, and seamless transferring to the post-production suites. The facility has heavily transitioned to a tapeless workflow environment, but also maintains an infrastructure for HD tape decks to supplement additional production requirements and legacy tape playback and record functions.

Video control and transmission

The video control room is set up to control two shows at once either in TV1 and TV2 or either of the venue spaces. The video control room has all the OCPs mounted between the two video shading positions, and each shader has his or her own master control panel for any detail adjustment that might be needed. There are two 46in HD LCD flat panels that are control by Miranda multiviewers, so configuration of each monitor can be controlled for each show's needs.

The technical core contains the entire respective 11 camera CCUs, although the system is currently wired to accommodate a total of 16 camera chains. There are also controls and monitoring for color correctors for each engineer to paint monitors on set.

Transmission is set up with a 50in HD LED monitor that is controlled by a Miranda multiviewer, so configuration of inbound and outbound signals can be programmed according to each show's requirement and be monitored. Transmission is set up for two engineers to operate on two separate shows. Each engineer has control of AJA frame-syncs via web-based software on our TechLan.

Marvin Williams is director of video engineering & operations for Manhattan Center Studios.

Design team

Manhattan Center:

Marvin Williams, dir. eng. & ops.

Travis Butler, chief eng.

Stan Gregory, lead tech.

OBie O'Brien, dir. of production

Eva Clark, controller

Robert Katz, K2 pictures consultant

Phil Hack, K2 pictures consultant

Lawrence Group New York:

Thomas C. Lekometros, architect

Harvey Marshall Berling Associates:

Bill Marshall

Technology at work

Ableton Live 8: Music production software

AJA Video Systems: FS-1 frame syncs, electrical-to-optical converters

Apple: Final Cut Pro nonlinear video editing software

Autocue: QTV teleprompters

Avid: Media Composer nonlinear editing system

Belden: Cable and fiber systems

Blackmagic Design: Ultrascope, electrical to optical converters

Chyron: HyperX graphics platform

DNF Controls: Tally system and controllers

EditShare: Energy server and storage

ETC: Ion lighting console, SR48+ dimmers and company switches

Grass Valley: Trinix multiformat/hybrid router, Kayenne switcher, Concerto routers, terminal equipment, K2 video servers

Genelec: Speakers

Gepco: Fiber systems and SMPTE fiber patching

Harris: Test scopes and waveform monitors

Ikegami: HDK cameras, LCD HD monitors, security cameras

iWeiss: Curtain and track

JBL: Loudspeaker system

Letrosonics: IFBs

Middle Atlantic Products: Equipment racks

Miranda: Kaleido-X, X-16, Alto, Quad multiviewers

NEC: LCD5220-AVT monitors

Riedel Communications: Digital intercom systems

Sachtler: Studio pedestals

Samsung: HDTVs

Scharff Weisberg: Wireless antenna system

Solid State Logic: C10 HD audio console

Sennheiser: Wireless microphones

TBC Consoles: Broadcast consoles

Trompeter: Video and audio patching

Vinten: Studio pedestals

Wireworks: Custom panels

Wohler: Audio monitoring