All Systems Go
Fox News Channel improves delivery with expanded master-control facility
By Ken Kerschbaumer -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/17/2004 8:00:00 PM
The nerve center at Fox News Channel is getting a makeover. Last week, the network took the wraps off a new master-control facility that gives operators what they want most: more control. The new system includes an expanded master-control switcher with more versatility and new video monitor walls that give the operators the ability to see incoming video feeds, graphics and even audio levels at a glance.
"Now they can deal with breaking news more easily or any other problems or changes that might occur," says Paula Firestone, head of master-control operations.
Master control is where all of the programming, graphics, commercials and interstitials come together before heading out to the viewer. When news breaks, the operators in master control are responsible for cutting into programming with footage and making sure that TV spots that get displaced eventually make it back into the schedule. A ruined or missed spot can be expensive, resulting in a make-good and lost revenue.
The new 16- x 30-foot room is larger than the old one and is located in what used to be the graphics department.
At the heart of the system is the Thomson Saturn master-control switcher. With only one control panel in the old system, only one operator could interface with the switcher. But as Fox News Channel has begun to do more and more programming for the Fox network, it became apparent that additional control panels were needed. Two new panels have been added, giving as many as three operators their own workspace.
"Now the master-control operators don't have to do everything from one panel," says Frank Cerone, Fox News' engineering project manager. "And they can also send different channels at the same time."
The new Saturn switcher can send out as many as four channels at once. Firestone says that will make it easier for the network to send out content to the Fox network and affiliates. In the past, she says, those signals would bypass master control completely and simply be transmitted to the network. Being able to bring them through master control gives an additional level of quality control.
The new LCD wall is light years ahead of the old system, which required operators to swivel from monitor to monitor to make sure a graphic or logo was ready for air. Positioning all of the elements in front of the operators opened up space behind them for other equipment, like tape machines.
Cerone says one of the things he likes most about the room is that LCD monitor walls have replaced traditional tube-based monitors. The advantage of using large LCD panels is that one screen can display multiple incoming and outgoing signals.
An Evertz MVP multi-signal monitoring system coupled with a Thomson routing switcher will allow each operator to customize the LCD monitor layout at the push of a button: video, audio and graphic monitoring.
"When you change to a different panel or frame, the whole monitor wall changes to show you the inputs out of the switcher, the output lines, the preset programs, and return path right in front of you," says Cerone.
The MVP also lets the user zoom in on part of the display, such as an onscreen area dedicated to graphic elements. Says Firestone, "We can blow that box up and read clearly the crawl that will go out."
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