Newseum Facility shows news as it happens

What better way to spotlight the history of the news business and demonstrate how content is developed than by employing the very tools and systems used by stations around the world today? This is precisely what Newseum is — a multimillion-dollar facility that offers visitors a unique multimedia experience. The building spotlights five centuries of news history, while employing the latest news production technology. A major bonus is that the new building occupies the last prime real estate left on historic Pennsylvania Avenue (between the White House and U.S. Capitol building), in Washington, D.C.

When designing and building the facility, the Freedom Forum's challenge was developing the museum's new home with innovative technology that combines a file-based HD production environment with interactive kiosks, multiple galleries and digital theaters.

The Newseum opened on April 11, with numerous interactive exhibits, live news feeds coming in daily from around the world, and a complete multiformat HD production, archiving and asset management infrastructure. More than three years in the making, the new Newseum is much larger than it was in its previous location, which was situated outside of the city in Arlington, VA. It's estimated that millions of people will visit the museum each year. The ground floor of the building includes well-known restaurants and retail shopping, which should help attract crowds.

This is no mere museum with traditional A/V display systems. The building also functions as two fully working HD production studios, including serving as the new home of ABC's “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” It will also house other TV programs and various nationally syndicated radio shows.

HD news production and historical exhibits

There are seven floors that house HD production areas, museum galleries and 15 theaters. One of the theaters, called the Big Screen Theater, features a 90ft-wide screen with images projected by five Christie Digital DW3K 720p HD projectors. A Vista Systems Spyder video processing engine is used to blend the edges and create a seamless image. The projection equipment is controlled by a Medialon show control system.

Inside the new building are the latest HD production facilities, including two control rooms, five edit suites and a multiformat HD news production infrastructure. The backbone of the infrastructure includes an SD/HD Thomson Grass Valley K2 media server-based storage area network (SAN), with 14 HD inputs, 20 HD outputs, nine SD inputs and 14 SD outputs. The system also include a Trinix HD video router (256 × 256) and two Apex digital audio routers (256 × 256 each). Encore control software keeps everything in check.

Special software was designed to control the networked K2 servers for content playout in the building's many presentation theaters.

“This Week's” new home

The two identical control rooms include a Thomson Grass Valley Kalypso HD 4 M/E production switcher and an Evertz MVP multi-image display processor. Completely redundant, the rooms can be digitally linked together for larger HD productions, but will usually operate independently. The large K2 SAN supports not only the broadcast control rooms but also other museum galleries and exhibits throughout the building. There are two audio control rooms with Euphonix digital audio consoles, in addition to five Avid HD edit rooms (with Adrenaline and DS Nitris systems). The fifth suite doubles as an audio sweetening room with a Digidesign Pro Tools digital audio workstation.

For producing television shows, the Newseum's two studios — one of which will host the program “This Week” — feature at least four Thomson Grass Valley LDK 6000 mk II HD cameras each. “This Week” will be produced in the 720p HD format for ABC. The same equipment can also produce shows for other clients in the 1080i HD format.

The master control room includes a glass wall where museum visitors can watch as a show is in progress. They can also watch the program on a large 22ft × 40ft Barco LED screen located in an atrium at the entrance of the building. When not producing a live show, one of the Kalypso switchers will run a preprogrammed looped segment to simulate its operation.

A long road

In 2006, systems integrator Communications Engineering, Inc. (CEI) was called in to design and implement the IT- and video-centric network (with GigE and baseband HD-SDI) and equipment for the new production and museum space. Raef Alkhayat, director of engineering at CEI and project supervisor, said the extensive build project was divided into two basic systems: broadcast and traditional A/V. Both had specific requirements, with its own message and purpose. CEI worked closely with the Freedom Forum on the design, and then set out to locate and install the most flexible equipment available. It all had to be HD-capable in order to accommodate the widest variety of paying clients. CEI also worked with various equipment manufacturers to design — and in some cases invent — suitable solutions.

A significant amount of routing was necessary because the new facility, in addition to the broadcast cameras and various CG and still stores, distributes multiple inbound and outbound signals through Verizon. There are numerous Ikegami HDL-40 box-style cameras located on the building, as well as on the roof and across the street. These are controlled by a Telemetrics robotic system. The Trinix router not only feeds the broadcast control rooms but also the various monitors, galleries and theaters throughout the building. Doremi servers are also used to play back video for the various exhibits throughout the Newseum.

Networked signal distribution

The file-based environment serves two purposes. First, it allows students and journalists to research hundreds of hours of low-resolution video and audio elements, as well as thousands of still images, of historical significance. And the archive continues to grow every day. The idea is to handle and save all material as a digital file for long-term storage.

Second, the architecture allows the museum's video editors, who work on Adrenaline and DS Nitris systems, to cut in-house projects for the museum and to share files via Thomson Grass Valley Turbo disk recorders directly connected to their workstations. Completed files and other content is then sent to the K2 central storage system or to the StorageTek archive system that's managed with a Front Porch DIVArchive system, all tied to an Artesia asset management system. Telestream FlipFactory is used for transcoding files, attached to a Sun Microsystems robotic library, where all long-term storage is kept.


In the end, the Newseum has become a showplace for what the news business is all about. Frank Ginsburg, broadcast engineer at the facility, calls it “one of the most technologically advanced museums ever built.”

From CEI's point of view, it's a highly advanced broadcast facility project, on top of a compelling museum. Basically, there's something for everyone. The Newseum uses high-tech equipment to convey a unique message. The design is friendly and easy to use for the average museum visitor, which is good news for everyone involved.

Michael Grotticelli regularly reports on professional video and broadcast technology industries.

Design team

The Freedom Forum/Newseum

James Updike, vice president of technology

George O'Connor, director of engineering

Michael Saunders, project manager

Frank Ginsburg, broadcast engineer

Communications Engineering, Inc.

Raef Alkhayat, director of engineering

Don Brassell, senior manager of systems support engineering

Ruber Huertas, senior systems engineer


Dan Laspa, project manager

Technology at work

Artesia DAM

Avid HD Adrenaline and DS Nitris editors

OverView displays
22ft × 40ft LED screen

Canon HJ17EX7.7B HD lenses

Christie Digital DW3K 720p HD projectors

Chyron HyperX HD CG

Cisco Ethernet switches

Digidesign Pro Tools audio workstation

Doremi Nugget Pro MPEG-2 video players

Euphonix Max Air audio consoles

Evertz MVP display processors

Forecast Consoles

Front Porch Digital DIVArchive content storage management

Ikegami HDL-40 HD cameras

Medialon SCM II

Samsung 940T and 244T LCD monitors with ELO Touch

Snell & Wilcox Ukon standards converter

CRT and LCD monitors
Digital Betacam VTRs

StorageTek SL500 system

Tektronix WFM audio monitors

Telemetrics robotic system

Telestream FlipFactory transcoder

Thomson Grass Valley
Apex digital audio routers
Encore control software
Kalypso HD switchers
K2 media servers
LDK 6000 mk II HD cameras
Trinix HD video router
Turbo disk recorders

Vista Systems Spyder video processing system

AMP2-S8DA and AMP1-S8DA audio monitors
MON2-3W/HR and MON1-T/7W-HR video monitors