On May 2, 2010, "Meet the Press" debuted a new set, but the more important renovation at NBC's Washington, D.C., operation was behind the scenes — a streamlined, rationalized, cost-effective signal distribution infrastructure that relies on the innovative use of dark fiber connectivity and advanced digital routing technology.
The NBC operation in the capital's Tenleytown neighborhood receives and distributes the network's local and regional feeds, as well as those of the local O&O, WRC-TV. For MSNBC alone, the facility does four hours a day of live programming. Despite this workload, signal distribution had been a combination of SDI video and analog audio left over from an upgrade in the early '90s. The HD transition took about four months, with the eight-person engineering staff doing the work in-house. At its heart is a Utah Scientific UTAH-400/XL routing switcher configured 804 x 792 HD3G, and 60 x 108 fiber optic, the largest single router in the regional market. That router is networked with six smaller Utah Scientific routers — one each at the Pentagon, State Department and White House, and three at the Capitol. The system is NBC-wide because it also includes access to headquarters in New York.
Because the Washington, D.C., operation incorporates many remote locations, an important component was dark fiber-based communications. Previously, NBC had relied on services from a traditional communications provider. Now, NBC leases two strands of dark fiber, with capacity for as many as 20 services on each using CWDM. For example, there are 24 HD video circuits on two strands of fiber between Tenleytown and the Capitol. The two strands also carry IT and phone lines with a per-circuit monthly cost of less than 5 percent of what it had been from the traditional provider.
All circuits are managed by the main router and by Utah Scientific's
MX-Lator Control Translation system, which coordinates feeds and allows the routers to talk to each other. There are, for example, 12 lines from the White House to the bureau, 16 from the Capitol, six from the Pentagon and seven from the State Department. Operationally, the system appears to be on a single router, and it can be represented on a single panel. NBC producers extensively use soft panels because they are so easy to deploy and update, and because they can be opened by several people at once. NBC relies on JPEG 2000 compressing to 120Mb going over two redundant 10Gig circuits to 40 New York destinations, and NBC
Media Traffic Control in New York does all switching using soft panels.
To illustrate the benefits of the renovation, consider an everyday occurrence — moving a video feed from the White House North Lawn back to the bureau. This used to require five manual steps, including switching the router at the White House, switching the communications provider's router and switching the Washington BTS router that fed back to the communications provider. Now a camera plugs in, and the newsroom producer picks North Lawn One on the soft panel and sends it.
NBC Washington's new infrastructure not only saves money, but also it saves time and headaches for staff and results in greater consistency for viewers.
New studio technology — HD
Submitted by Utah Scientific
NBC Universal: Larry Gaetano; Chris Whittington, eng; Joe Loebach, eng; Michael Benetato, eng. mgmt.; Wesley Scruggs, eng.; Susan Vitorovich, tech. mgmt.; Marsha Groome, tech. mgmt.; Chris Millar, broadcast IT; Sarah Greenberg, purchasing/coordination; Joe Shalhoup, audio eng.; Dave O’Brien, audio eng.; Mary Manby, video eng./cameras
Technology at work
ARKTX: Architectural engineering
Avid: Still store
Belden: Wire and cable
Calrec Audio: Audio console
Evertz: Fiber transmission, HD JPEG transport, monitor wall, terminal gear
EVS: Playback units
Hopewell Precision: Racks
Image Video: Tally and UMD control
Joseph Electronics: Fiber cable infrastructure
RTS/Bosch: Intercom system
Sony: Cameras, monitors, switcher
Utah Scientific: MX-Lator Control Translation System, UCP control panels, UTAH-400/XL routing switcher