With new studios, Great american country looks and sounds good

Scripps Networks' Great American Country (GAC) is one of the top-rated country music channels, and its new file-based, HD-compatible facility is receiving quite a few raves.

The country music network started in the 1980s, with most of its programs taped in Colorado and elsewhere across the country, and has grown considerably ever since.

After years of taping its programs in a variety of studios and production companies, the GAC network is now settled into a new two-story production studio in downtown Nashville. The 8000sq-ft facility was completed earlier this year, under the guidance of system integrator Broadcast Integration Group of Atlanta. It used a design developed internally by a Scripps Networks and GAC project team led by Kevin Kritch, the network's vice president of production operations.

The sleek new studios were built inside an existing recording studio and administrative office. The plant is completely designed and engineered for HD production, but currently distributes its programs in 4:3 SD only. The plan is to move to full HD sometime in 2009 when many of the other Scripps shows will convert to HD as well.

HD-ready production

The 2000sq-ft main production studio “A” features four Thomson Grass Valley LDK 4000 HD 1080i cameras and three custom sets. The sets are fixed to the building's main walls, yet they can be adjusted, and parts of the walls and panels can be moved or replaced to accommodate different scenic designs and art direction for other shows and live music performances. Philadelphia broadcast scenic veterans Artists at Work designed and constructed the colorful and flexible sets.

The main video control room features a Thomson Grass Valley Kayak 2.5 M/E switcher, Miranda Kaleido-X multi-image display system, Chyron HyperX2 SD/HD two-channel CG system and XClyps SD/HD two-channel clip player, and RTS/Telex Cronus intercom. An adjoining audio recording room includes a Solid State Logic (SSL) C132 digital audio console with Digidesign Pro Tools HD. There's also an NVISION router that moves both AES/stereo audio and video signals around the facility, all supported by dozens of Miranda signal conversion cards.

The smaller studio “B” is outfitted with three JVC GY-HD250U cameras with Fujinon lenses on robotic pedestals with Telemetrics custom heads. There is a small control room, complete with a Wheatstone E-6 audio console and a Broadcast Pix Slate integrated production system that serves up two playout channels of uncompressed video.

The studio cameras record to HDV tape or output an HD-SDI feed directly to an onboard hard drive or external server. The cameras can be easily moved to the larger studio, plugged into the facility's fiber and be immediately available to the main control room production switcher.

Tapeless workflow

Field material is ingested into a 10TB Avid ISIS SAN managed by the company's Interplay asset management system. Studio material is directly ingested into an Avid AirSpeed.

The post facilities on the second floor boast a tapeless workflow, enabling editors to begin working on a clip within 15 seconds of ingest. The post department relies on three Avid Media Composer Adrenaline NLE systems and a clip-based StorageTek SL500 archive library, with 48 data tapes that hold about 800GB each. The interface between the ISIS and the SL500 is an SGL FlashNet. All of the edit systems can share clips coming from the storage system, which streamlines post-production sessions and makes editors significantly more productive. Completed programs and production footage is all archived. This enables the creative team to easily repurpose material, which it does on a continuous basis.

File distribution

Completed shows are sent by overnight courier on an IMX or Digital Betacam videotape to Scripps' Technology Center in Knoxville, TN. Commercials and promos are inserted before they are played to air with an Omneon Spectrum server. Once aired, the shows are kept in a massive archive for permanent storage in Knoxville.

The network will soon be able to send programs as digital files via a fiber connection. Previously, a network fiber link was used for a few time-critical shows airing the same day. Soon, files will be played out directly from one of the Avid systems or a VTR in real time and sent to Knoxville. The program will then be recorded, QC'd, closed captioned and ingested into the server for playout to air.

The network's file-based workflow keeps content digital from ingest to finished output. This allows shows to maintain the highest quality images while enabling the production crew to have access to associated clips and elements throughout the process. The new system is so streamlined that the crew can now turn around its “Top 20 Country Countdown” show, a weekly, two-and-a-half hour, viewer-selected program, in three working days.

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

Technology at work

Autoscript teleprompter

AirSpeed ingest and playout server
Interplay asset management
Media Composer Adrenaline NLE systems

Avocent KVM switcher/router

Broadcast Pix Slate 2100 switcher

HyperX2 SD/HD CG
XClyps SD/HD clip player

Digidesign Pro Tools HD DAW software

Forecast Consoles furniture

HA22×7.8 and HA13×4.5 2/3in wide-angle HD studio lenses
HTS18×4.2 1/2in HD studio lenses

Furukawa optical fiber cable

Image Video TSI-1000 tally system

GY-HD250U HD cameras
DT-V24L1DU and DT-V20L1DU LCD monitors

Densité signal conversion cards
Kaleido-X multi-image display system

NEC Multeos M40-AV and M46-AV LCD monitors

AES audio router
128 × 64 NV5000 HD video router

Omneon Spectrum server

RCI Custom Broadcast Service Panels

RTS/Telex Cronus intercom

Sachtler Video 18 pedestals

SGL FlashNet content storage and archive management software

Solid State Logic C132 digital audio console

StorageTek SL500 archive

Thomson Grass Valley
Kayak SD/HD 2.5 M/E switcher
LDK 4000 SD/HD 1080i cameras

Telemetrics robotic system

Vinten Osprey Elite camera pedestals

Wheatstone E-6 audio console

Design team

Broadcast Integration Group

Tom Larrison, vice president, customer liaison/contracts

Matthew Hathaway, design engineer

Brian Kincheloe, on-site team leader


Peter Crowley, senior vice president, property development

Mike Donovan, senior vice president, engineering/satellite distribution

Kevin Kritch, vice president of production operations, GAC

Mike Nichols, broadcast engineer, GAC