When MTV Networks International set out a three year programme for a technology upgrade at its Camden Town HQ, Senior Systems Engineer Rob Cranfield knew that the front end monitoring would represent the final phase.
The Master Control Room (MCR) and equipment hub have now been completely overhauled, the former old-technology CRT displays making way for a Christie solution.
Aware of Christie’s presence in the market, the engineering team visited other leading broadcast facilities in the UK and Europe, before Rob Cranfield carried out his own subjective evaluation when planning the upgrade.
“We ran three similar-spec systems side by side. The difference between them (was instantly apparent in the image display) — it was the whole look of the Christie screen that impressed, the focusing was just so much better.”
The order went in favour of three 80” Christie edge-butted display wall enclosures with RPMSP-D120U rear-mounted tiling projectors. The cubes display SXGA+, and MTV run this in true 1400x1050 native resolution.
MTVNI is both a digital terrestrial and digital satellite facility. “Before we converted to Christie our return feeds from satellite were on individual 14” CRT monitors — so it was difficult to work out which channel was which. Now, with three 80” cubes in a custom chassis, joined together with narrow bezels, and the ability to present up to 24 feeds (including live shows recorded at Hawley Crescent) each replicating a 9” monitor, it has revolutionised what we are doing.”
However, screen configurations can vary, and on major events — such as the MTV Europe Music Awards — they can fill the entire monitor wall with a single image.
Within the Camden facility itself are three live studios, transmission and edit suites. In addition to this, MTVNI host third party productions — from the BBC, Channel 4 etc — who also have access to the master control facilities. “They need to get signals to fire third party to their own transmission — so this represents heavy usage of the switching system.”
In fact a major reason for backing the rear-projected option was to facilitate the large number of pictures they wanted to display. “Rear projection would allow us to get more screen real estate. With LCD screens there would have been a wider bezel to contend with — and that would have been another screen sacrificed.”
Rob Cranfield admits that while MTVNI’s broadcast requirement had evolved rapidly over the years, currently handling around 52 channels (including high-definition) via broadcast lines, satellite and fibre, the Master Control Room (MCR) had failed to grow with it; in fact the infrastructure had been inherited from previous owners TV-am, from whom they purchased the building in 1993.
Now the final piece of the jigsaw is complete, the monitor front end interfacing with Evertz Multi Image Processor (3000 MVP) architecture, which sends a DVI signal to the displays. Backed up by a Probel Sirius, the seven-frame Evertz set up provides an HD routing matrix of 256-in/12-out, while Axon Synapse devices integrate the worlds of analogue and digital via A/D and D/A converters and frame synchronisers.
Handled in house by a system engineering team, the integration went smoothly, enabling a seamless swop-over, Robert confirmed. “I supplied Christie’s David Griffiths with room configurations and he advised on a fixed-frame, front access option as being the most appropriate solution. In fact Christie worked with us every step of the way.”
The Master Control Room is really just a large switching and monitoring area, he explains “We have different satellite transponders and it’s split up into European services, Astra — which is our Sky platform — Hotbird, which is another European satellite. The monitoring system now has vital outgoing and off air feeds, clocks and alarms spread across the three screens.”
Rob Cranfield emphasised that since the MCR needs to function 24/7 the Evertz MVP will automatically generate audio and visual alarms (in the failure of picture, audio, mains power and sub-titles) via a SNMP (simple network messaging protocol) interface to a Skyline Dataminer system. Faults can be logged on both incoming and outgoing circuits, and alerts sent via email and texts.
“We can now alarm most failures,” he said. The number of strikes on the dual long-life high pressure Mercury lamp can also be monitored. The system provides built-in redundancy but we can also run it at around 80% brightness to further extend lamp life.”
This was another reason for opting for Christie’s proven, mission-critical technology.
Summing up, Rob Cranfield is delighted just how smooth the integration has been. “We are very happy indeed with the display wall and as a result of this implementation our channel uptime has increased to 99.997%.”