Fifty years ago, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) became the nation's first Christian television station. Today it is one of the largest television ministries in the world, with programming in 200 countries. Its flagship domestic show, "The 700 Club," has approximately
1 million daily viewers.
CBN embarked on an upgrade of its Virginia studios with several criteria in mind for its audio infrastructure. CBN wanted to replace its existing audio equipment with consoles that would yield exceptional sound quality and make the transition to 5.1 easily. The infrastructure had to be reliable and flexible enough to handle a variety of shows, from talking heads to large music productions — including live air mix and multitrack — on the same console. For larger shows, the equipment needed multi-operator functions and/or split-desk configurations so that multiple operators could use the same equipment. Ease of use and prompt, accessible manufacturer support were critical.
The goal of the upgrade was to enable mirrored control rooms to share resources fully, making it easier to move productions between rooms or access each other's I/O for cross-studio productions.
Complicating the situation was the fact that CBN continued to produce daily shows during the upgrade. The equipment had to be installed on a weekend so that CBN could broadcast its weekday programs without disruption. That meant removing the old system after the last production on Friday, and starting production with the new system on Monday morning — leaving just two days to install the new equipment and get it working perfectly.
Calrec consoles were at the heart of CBN's audio infrastructure upgrade. CBN installed two 48-fader Calrec Artemis Beam mixing consoles to cover all three of its studios. The consoles are linked via the Calrec Hydra2 audio routing system, giving CBN the ability to share any resource across its network. I/O that is attached to either system is available to either system, and the plug-and-play nature of the I/O makes it easy to add I/O boxes as needed when doing remote broadcasts. Also, the masters, groups, auxiliary and multitracks are always available even if the operator chooses not to use them. This means that bringing an extra group online is straightforward and can be done instantly without reconfiguring any other part of the system.
The console's expanded master output section, 12 A/B layers of faders and split-send functionality on track sends were significant benefits. During a recent larger production, which employed three 48-channel splits for production sound, the on-air mixer brought each split into the consoles on a separate layer. At the same time, the mixer brought playbacks and other "air-only" audio sources into the production server. All I/O was converted to Hydra2 at the splitter, keeping noise on the audio copper to a minimum.
This ability to share resources saves CBN money because it eliminates the need to rent extra consoles or I/O in the future to make a large show fit within the console. Also, the console's ease of use means CBN can ramp up for shows much faster, and it takes much less time to configure the console for a given show.