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QVC Concentrates on Digital Audio

E-tailer QVC, which broadcasts from a 25,000-square-foot multi-studio television complex just west of Philadelphia, has embarked on a digitization project that, for the last several months, has concentrated on audio.

"The current facility in Studio Park is a little over eight years old, so it's reaching the end of its life cycle," said Ron Schiller, the televised shopping service's director of broadcast engineering and technology. So far this year, he elaborated, "We took the plant from analog to AES routing and distribution, we went to Calrec for digital consoles in both control rooms, and we incorporated an nVision analog/AES router to work with video."

On the wireless side, he continued, "We expanded our Sennheiser microphones to a 16-channel distribution. We upgraded the intercom system to an RTS ADAM frame. We used HME as the IFB return for host and talent."

But wait, there's more. "We also replaced the front-of-house board in our annex or theater studio—a live studio that seats 250 people—with a Yamaha PM5D. We went to active mic pres and standardized on the Aphex 1788. Aphex makes an incredible product. The complex is so stretched out that we used Aviom to integrate, so everything is linked by fiber optics. That gives me the ability to expand at will; I just drop in an expansion unit--plug-and-play. And we've done all this in 4 1/2 months, while we're on the air, and with no interruptions."

Like its U.K. studio counterpart, the facility chose Calrec digital consoles. "I was very impressed with the Zeta's performance," reported Schiller, who ordered two 48-fader versions. "It's a footprint that's right, and it was very easy to install. We were assisted by Studio Consultants out of New York and by Calrec in the U.K."

Schiller said of the facility's wireless systems, "We used James Stoffo and Professional Wireless Systems to design the combiner system. Because our complex is so large and we have so many studios we've been using multiple systems, so James designed a combined antenna system, and we now have 90 percent coverage throughout the whole complex on one system."

"It was quite an incredible install; certainly my biggest to date," admitted Stoffo. "There are well over 100 wireless systems in use in that studio operating simultaneously." PWS, Masque Sound's RF specialist division, integrated two fully loaded, 8-channel Sennheiser EM1046-RX receiver racks, six Lectrosonics T1 IFB base station transmitters and an HME intercom system with a multiple zone setup that incorporated proprietary PWS helical antennas and custom-designed combiner boxes.

"They wanted to be able to put a Sennheiser MKE-2 wireless mic and SK-50 belt pack transmitter and a Lectrosonics R1a IFB belt pack receiver on a host and be able to have them walk from one zone to another and never drop out," Stoffo elaborated. "The hosts are now able to sit in the green room and have a mic check and get cues from a director, along with the people wearing production intercom, and they can walk anywhere throughout the facility to various sets, including outside the building, and constantly be on-air with clean, broadcast-quality audio."

The project is far from complete, said Schiller. "The next round will include embedding audio for our transmission. We will continue to enhance and upgrade our live production with small upgrade paths for post and sweetening. Next year we'll also upgrade local production, our remote unit that goes around the country and the world doing live shows. That will probably be another Calrec, in a truck configuration."