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RT adds Washington, D.C., bureau to its international coverage

RT, an international provider of broadcast programming to a worldwide audience, has extended its reach by creating a state-of-the-art bureau in the heart of Washington, D.C. Through the broadcaster's Moscow-based headquarters, the D.C. operations work in tandem with the already established bureaus in London, Paris, Tel Aviv and Tskhinval.

Providing a vast array of globally-oriented English-language programming choices, RT has positioned itself as a leader in network growth. Covering news events, politics, finance, world affairs, technology and travel, it has captured the attention of an ever-expanding audience.

Going digital in D.C.

While considering a Washington, D.C.-based bureau, RT weighed the benefits of using the services of a systems integrator and selected Azzurro Systems Integration to design and build a turnkey system within a limited timeline. Azzurro was tasked with transitioning the antiquated analog-based facility into a completely digital workflow while maintaining the broadcaster's ability to produce daily live programming. The resulting facility design required that all programming material be acquired, produced and distributed in a native digital format.

RT's requirements included a comprehensive set of services comprising a conceptual plan, detailed design, budgeting, equipment procurement, scheduling, project management and system integration, with an emphasis on maintaining maximum efficiency throughout all phases of project development.

Enlisting leaders in the creation, storage and management of digital assets, a best-in-class approach toward the development of the facility was created. Elements were designed to accommodate the creation of programming content using either of two studios and independent control rooms, ENG capabilities where local news events can be captured, and editing tools for creating and packaging program elements. Customization of program elements is enabled through the use of a powerful graphics engine.

Production

Under Dalet automation control, an Omneon Spectrum server provides nearline storage and playout of media assets. NetApp servers act as a central repository for core programming and interstitial material. Through the modular approach of the Spectrum and NetApp servers, Azzurro designed a system that met the exacting standards of RT. The architecture allows for future growth through the ability to expand upon the existing servers, rather than the need for system replacement.

With Spectrum being built upon open standards and published APIs, the broadcaster has the ability to choose from hundreds of applications, including the media asset management (MAM) system. Packaged within the MAM is the ability to automate and track all digital workflows within the facility. Through this system, RT maintains a centralized point of control for all production requirements under a common application.

A Sun StorageTek LTO tape-based archive provides protection and long-term storage of core media assets. Enabling the efficient management of media to and from the archive is Front Porch Digital's DIVArchiveapplication.

The two digital control rooms employ the latest technology to create the unparalleled production elements associated with the RT broadcast. Considering the system requirements, the broadcaster selected a Grass Valley Kayak production switcher that includes SD/HD formats, 72 digital inputs and 36 digital outputs. Additionally, three mix/effect buses each provide two DVEs and two keyers. Finishing off the switcher are two clip players. A Grass Valley 256 × 256 Trinix HD/SD-SDI router with production switcher control provides flexibility to the available Kayak inputs and acts as the core router for the facility.

Each of the two control rooms contains a Lawo Zirkon XL audio mixing board. The use of a common Nova 17 matrix controller makes all sources available to either mixer. The matrix allows for 64 AES and 48 analog sources to appear in control rooms independently or simultaneously, without the need for extended wiring. Streamlining the facility elements was the key to maximizing the available technical resources and therefore containing overall costs.

A six-channel Vizrt graphics system enables the broadcaster to create elements locally through multiple artist stations at the Washington bureau or receive templates digitally from Moscow via Ethernet connectivity. The graphics system's ability to share elements between locations allows RT to provide an efficient graphics workflow and the framework to expand the capability across all bureaus.

When used in conjunction with the automation, text elements can be placed within programming either dynamically or according to a predetermined schedule. The capability to locate and prepare digital graphics for integration into a live environment is at the core of the graphics system/automation combination.

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With Moscow as the central point of bureau integration, programming created at the Washington facility is transported over Ethernet to Russia via TANDBERG H.264 encoders. In Moscow, additional branding and informational elements are added to the network feed. The finished product is returned to Washington for distribution using the same Ethernet transport technology.

Evertz technology provides efficient monitoring within the control rooms. VIP-X multiviewers located in each room allow for up to 32 unique video signals to be positioned across two Samsung large format professional LCD monitor displays in a user-controlled configuration. The broadcaster has the ability to leave the configuration static or modify it to accommodate its changing needs. Visual monitoring of embedded AES audio streams is provided via a bar graph display overlaid upon the video source. Harris VTM-4100 rasterized digital signal diagnostics complement the multiviewers.

An RTS Cronus intercom system was installed to integrate both IFB and facility communications. A Lectronics wireless IFB system located in the control rooms provides communication with talent in either studio, as well as the roving Steadicam operator. Wireless technology is also used to deliver talent lavaliere microphone signals.

Designing the studios

Azzurro worked with RT in developing the technical elements necessary to create its envisioned set designs. The primary studio uses 12 Planar rear-projection DLP seamless cubes to create a 90in × 160in stacked display plus a 103in Panasonic plasma rear monitor as backdrops. The plasma display is outfitted with a touch-screen overlay developed by U-Touch. Using Telestrator presentation software to drive the touch screen, on-set talent can add personalized real-time graphics elements to the live broadcasts.

RT's second set is also outfitted with a 103in Panasonic plasma monitor as a backdrop. Several additional LCD monitors are placed within the set to provide an opportunity to individualize the various programming being created.

Each of the two studios has three Ikegami HDK-79EXIII HD/SD cameras with Fujinon lenses mounted on Vinten Osprey pedestals. The primary studio includes two additional Ikegami cameras mounted on Jimmy Jib extension and Steadicam. Pedestal cameras are operated remotely to both control rooms using Shotoku pan and tilt robotic heads. All pedestal-mounted cameras are outfitted with Autoscript prompters controlled through the automation system.

Edit suites

Five independent edit suites provide the ability to create customized news and entertainment programming. Each suite is outfitted with Final Cut Pro stations with the ability to perform both real-time and native digital ingest. Submixing capability within the suites provides the ability to add translation tracks on edited programming.

Capturing news from the field

To satisfy RT's electronic newsgathering needs, six Sony PDW-700 camcorders with accompanying XDCAM recorder playback decks were provided. The cameras afford abilities to ingest native digital clips directly to server storage or perform real-time ingest to Final Cut Pro workstations.

Conclusion

Azzurro kept the entire operation functional as it transformed a 12-year-old antiquated studio into a state-of-the-art facility. Advanced and efficient technologies replaced analog and first-generation digital technology for a future-proof and HD-ready serial digital infrastructure with embedded audio. The Washington, D.C., bureau went live in January.

Scott Buchholz is director of engineering at Azzurro Systems Integration.

Technology at work

Apple Final Cut Pro

Autoscript TFT17HB-BLW prompters

Dalet

Enterprise Edition automation system

MediaCutter editing module

Evertz VIP-X multiviewers

Grass Valley

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Kayak HD 300 production switcher

Trinix routing switcher

Front Porch Digital DIVArchive content storage management

Fujinon

ZA17x7.6BZD full servo lenses

ZA12X4.5BZD wide angle full servo lenses

ZA17X7.6BERM lenses for ENG systems

Harris Videotek VTM-4100 waveform monitors

Ikegami HDK-79EXII cameras

Jimmy Jab extension

Lawo

Nova 17 matrix controller

Zirkon XL audio mixing console

Lectrosonics

IFBT4 wireless base station

IFBR1A beltpack IFB receivers

Omneon

NetApp servers

Spectrum media server

Panasonic TH-103PF10UL 103in 1080P HD plasma

Planar Clarity Margay II DLP displays

RTS Cronus intercom

Samsung LN65B650X1FX LCD monitors

Shotoku TG-18 robotic/manual pan and tilt heads

Sony

PDW-700 camcorders

XDCAM recorders

Sun StorageTek LTO archive

Telestrator presentation software

U-Touch touch-screen overlay

Vinten Osprey pedestals

Vizrt Trio triple channel and Artist graphics

Design team

Azzurro Systems Integration

Marc Bressack, executive VP
Bill McKnight, VP/GM
Scott Buchholz, dir. of eng.
Steve Regina, sr. eng. proj. mgr.
Joe D'Arrigo, proj. lead

RT

Sergey Maganet, technical dir.
Denis Trunov, deputy editor-in-chief
Andrey Bukashkin, chief dir.
Mark Bulla, chief eng.
Mark Angelini, dir. of ops.