11. August 2020 Mark

MCI modernizes production technology at WDR regional studios

Since 25.05.2020, the modernized WDR Regional Studio Duisburg is the first of a total of nine studios “On Air”. The studio is the first studio at WDR prepared to produce in ultra-high definition (UHD). In the future, WDR will thus be able to broadcast even better quality from its ten regional studios in particular.

As general contractor, MCI is planning and implementing the installation and commissioning of the nine regional studios plus the already HD-capable Studio Cologne, and the integration into the central exchange platform ZAP. At each location, the editorial offices and workspaces will be combined to form a “shared newsroom. Planning for the production technology needed to implement the new studio concept and full integration into WDR’s networked production environment began in April 2019. The challenge was to unite the previously separate areas in a needs-based cross-media production complex and at the same time make them fit for the future by producing in UHD.

To meet the demands on the flexibility of a modern studio and the requirements of new channels and viewing habits, the concept for the new studios, in addition to classic television and radio production, provides for a cross-media editing room in which contributions can be prepared and made available quickly, flexibly and efficiently for all playout channels.

To improve the production process, WDR, in cooperation with MCI, relies on smart solutions when selecting technology. In the course of the modernization and conversion to 12G SDI single link UHD technology, the project team was faced with the task of examining the entire technology for its UHD capabilities and finding the appropriate integration. The control room was newly planned, designed and equipped with four workstations. In order to be able to produce in UHD in the future, a Ross Ultrix video router and a Ross Video Carbonite Black Plus 12G+ image mixer, as well as graphics systems from Avid were integrated. A Stagetec Auratus Audio mixing console and the matching Stagetec Nexus Audio router will ensure excellent audio quality in the future as well. For the classic studio production, Ikegami UHD box cameras on lifting columns from the Vitec Group are used, which can be flexibly adjusted to every movement of the presenters by remote from the control room thanks to the swiveling and tilting head.

Two newly created presenter spaces were planned for self-driving operation and each was equipped with small, easy-to-use Yellowtec Intellimix mixing consoles. In the future, an ARRI Broadcaster 2 Plus light panel will offer journalists the possibility to autonomously switch to Internet distribution channels at any time. For user-friendly operation, all workstations were equipped with KVM systems from G&D.

To keep track of complex studio technology, Lawo’s IP-based vsm studio control system brings everything together under one roof, providing all-important parameter values in real-time and making them accessible to users. So nothing stands in the way of trouble-free cross-media production operations.

Rafael Paltian, Project Manager MCI: “The studio in Duisburg serves as a kind of blueprint for the other eight regional studios. The challenge in planning was that each technical solution had to be applicable to all nine studios. This should ensure that a technician from Münster can easily drive a production in Bonn, Wuppertal or Duisburg without prior technical training.”

Another complexity during the conversion was integrating the new studio concept into WDR’s existing networked production environment and central exchange platform (ZAP), which had been growing for years.

Tom Kupfer, ZAP subproject manager: “The challenge is to integrate additional functions into an existing system like ZAP, which consists of a large number of existing functions, without jeopardizing ongoing operations. The task of the system integrator here is primarily to implement the management of the project with technical expertise and system overview. Together with our customer, Arvato and IBM, we have so far succeeded in both fully integrating the Duisburg regional studio and relocating a complete newsroom on the ZAP side.”

The editing suites are connected to a central AVID Nexis production system, which is installed in Cologne. The playout in the regional studios, which is linked to the ZAP, is carried out using the HMS ClipBox product. ClipBox plays both SD, HD and UHD clips. Playback of fill and key signals to the image mixer is also possible. Furthermore, the placeholder workflow established at WDR is supported using a MOS connection to OpenMedia. Dabei werden Beiträge und deren Medienobjekte in OpenMedia angelegt. The playout server manages and associates media objects with clips. In the final step, OpenMedia provides a broadcast schedule for playout via MOS. ClipBox is mainly operated by remote control via the image mixer, so that playout and image mixing could be combined at one workstation.

The central connection to ZAP and the modernization of the studio technology address the cross-media requirements of the industry in terms of information processing, changing viewing habits, speed and picture quality. In the future, content can be processed and made available flexibly and regardless of location on all channels, in every common format and every conceivable resolution.

By the end of 2020, the studios in Wuppertal and Siegen will go on air with new UHD-capable technology and full ZAP connectivity, followed by the remaining six regional studios in Dortmund, Essen, Bielefeld, Aachen, Münster and Bonn in the next two years. Due to existing technical conditions in the area of program distribution, the studios will initially produce and broadcast in HD quality. With the expansion of the distribution channels, the program can then be offered in UHD quality.

As a technical partner of WDR, MCI is pleased to create the conditions for a further expansion of cross-media coverage and to jointly take this step into the future of modern UHD broadcast technology.