A new 150,000-square-foot headquarters for NBCUniversal’s West Coast news and television operations is taking shape on the Universal Studios lot in L.A. that will provide the company’s NBC4 Southern California/KNBC and Telemundo 52/KVEA with a major upgrade to their news operations.
KNBC has moved its news operations into the facility, with an official debut on Feb. 12; additional KNBC operations have followed. The L.A. bureaus for NBC News, CNBC, MSNBC and Telemundo News will start work in their new home on March 17. KVEA is to go live with its newscast on May 27. Overall, more than 600 people will work out of the broadcast center, housed in two three-story buildings.
While the work continues, viewers can already see the impact of the new facility on the newscasts, says Richard W. Westcott, VP of technology and broadcast engineering for KNBC and KVEA. Enhancements include new studios; redesigned sets from Broadcast Design International; an innovative LED lighting system from Mactech; and a new 16X9 feed that offers more graphics and information. And that innovation, execs hope, will continue to pay off in viewers and efficiency in the increasingly competitive local news world.
Behind the scenes, new control rooms and technical upgrades are also improving the look and productivity of the news operation. An expanded storage system now allows the stations to shoot most of their footage from the field in HD, and newly upgraded Harmonic encoders make it possible to deliver a “much better-looking, less-compressed signal” to multichannel providers, Westcott says.
Automation in OverDrive
The complex has greatly expanded studio space and six new control rooms, two large and four small. Key technologies for the main control rooms include the Ross Video OverDrive automation system, Ross Video production switchers, Chyron graphics and Calrec Artemis audio boards. Grass Valley’s media production Stratus platform, which plays a central role in managing digital assets and workflows, is closely integrated into Avid’s iNews newsroom system and Grass Valley Edius editing systems.
As part of the upgrades, the stations have expanded the operations that are controlled by the automation system to include lighting and the studio monitor walls. In addition, Stratus has helped streamline workflows in the newsroom and for multiplatform delivery.
“We have 65 seats in the newsroom where people can be editing simultaneously on Grass Valley Stratus,” streamlining both broadcast and digital operations, Westcott says. “The central repository of video allows the Web department to reach right in and get what they need, which has been really important for us because we are growing our Web presence.”
The redesigned newsroom also provides better communications. The operations center, which used to be housed away from the newsroom, is now located behind a glass wall where everyone can see feeds on a large monitor wall from live trucks, bonded cellular units and other video sources.
NBCU also installed a new Rangecast system from Scan Master that monitors radio traffic from many different police, fire and other government agencies in the DMA. “That has been a big change for the assignment desk, which we believe gives us a strategic advantage in the market,” Westcott says.
STUDIO (AND FEED-SIZE) ROOM TO SPARE
NBCU’s new L.A. broadcast center offers both larger studios—the main KNBC studio covers 3,300 square feet, about 1,000 larger than the old one—and more of them. In addition to two large studios for KNBC and KVEA, there are two smaller studios for the promo department and special events and two positions in the newsroom for breaking news.
The main KNBC studio features 27 monitors controlled by two Vista Spyder systems, four weather systems from WSI, a new robotic camera system from Ross Video and a Mactech LED lighting system installed by Universal Studios, which is designed to produce significant energy savings.
KNBC is now offering only a 16X9 feed, with older 4X3 television sets getting a letterbox version. That gives news teams a much larger visual palette for more information.