File-based Newsroom & Associated Studios Up & Running, Innovative New DSNGs Delivered
Ely, Cambridgeshire, UK, 11th September 2008: Independent UK systems integrator Megahertz Broadcast Systems (MHz) has completed work on the server-based infrastructure and broadcast systems for a new 24-hour news channel at South African broadcaster e.TV. Alongside the state-of-the-art file-based facility and workflow for the startup news channel, the project also included two new DSNG vehicles for current affairs coverage in and around Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. These were built at MHz's UK headquarters and incorporated an innovative satellite remote-control system, M2RC, developed by MHz engineers at e.TV's request.
Between March and the start of June, when the news channel was launched, the MHz team, led by former South African resident Don Wilson, oversaw the design and construction of both a main and a subsidiary news production studio — the latter used for pre-recording interviews and features. MHz supplied around two-thirds of the equipment used in the project, including a Miranda Kaleido X multi-image display processor (feeding 65-inch plasma monitors), Ikegami cameras with Canon lenses, Vinten robotic pedestals, a Ross vision mixer and a 56-channel Soundcraft B800 broadcast audio mixer. Megahertz also designed and custom-built all of the monitor housings and control consoles in-house. The newsroom was based around an Omneon server and a DaletPlus NewsSuite system, with six Apple Final Cut Pro systems for editing and post-production. The rest of the equipment was drawn from e.TV's existing inventory.
MHz have undertaken studio-build projects for e.TV on several occasions throughout the station's 10-year history, including their original studios and newsroom, but e.TV wanted this to be quite different from the first — a cutting-edge project incorporating the latest in tapeless shoot-edit-transmit technology. "When you design the facilities for a news channel from scratch, you want systems that will last a while, not something that will be out of date in just a couple of years," explains Dave Stewart, e.TV's Chief Engineer. "From working with them previously, we were confident that MHz had the right design people to give us what we wanted, even though they've not built anything quite like this for us before." This was especially true of the DSNG vehicles — although the vehicles themselves were fairly conventional satellite news-gathering units, e.TV were additionally asking for something quite new. "We have a compact team of people, and we wanted to see if it was possible to control our new SNGs remotely from HQ without having to send our operators out into the field, as that takes time and depletes the staff available at HQ for other tasks. MHz came up with M2RC, a new way of controlling of the vehicles via a satellite link, using affordable IP technology. Now we just send the vehicle out with a driver/cameraman and reporter. All they have to do is put up the antenna and make the connection with the satellite, and then the operator at HQ can take over from there."
This idea is not new, and DSNGs have been controlled via satellite before, but the implementation has always been expensive. Using off-the-shelf IP networking and switching technology, MHz achieved a solution that fulfilled e.TV's requirements while remaining within their budget. The DSNGs were the last part of the contract to be completed, and were delivered to South Africa in August, joining e.TV's single older SNG vehicle.
"MHz did a fantastic job, as always," comments Dave Stewart. "We had problems with the construction of the studios — nothing to do with MHz, but it meant that they couldn't start installing the equipment when they were supposed to. But of course, we couldn't defer the launch date of the channel, so the pressure was really on Don's team. And they still made the deadline with enough time to give us three weeks of training and dry runs before the station went on air.”
"Our latest work for e.TV is a fine showcase for MHz's abilities", says Greg Hoskin. "A pair of DSNGs with some innovative remote control technology, and modern server-based studio facilities designed and partly built in-house by the MHz team, then finished off on site — and everything finished on time and on budget. We look forward to helping e.TV with similar projects in the future."