By Vijaya Cherian
Kuwait TV’s Studio 500 was built 30 years ago and was in dire need of a revamp. In early summer 2005, the state broadcaster undertook a big-budget project to transform the studio into a progressive digital production facility. Digital Studio reports.
I|~|jack1.jpg|~|Jack Bleriot with one of the presenters on the studio floor. |~|Kuwait TV has undertaken a complete revamp of one of its big studios as part of its efforts to upgrade its entire facility to a progressive digital studio broadcast operation. The SD-only Studio 500 has now been given a new look and equipped with seven Thomson Grassvalley LDK 500 cameras, one wireless GV studio camera and other state-of-the-art equipment.
“Kuwait TV wanted to put in place a state-of-the-art studio for the production of high-quality local programmes,” says Alvino Cordeiro, sales account manager for Thomson Middle East. “As Thomson is currently the only vendor that provides 4:2:2 for video transmission, Kuwait TV chose us for Studio 500,” he adds.
Studio 500 was in need of a major upgrade. For one, it was built thirty years ago. Although a brief effort was made to upgrade the studio a few years ago, it is only now that Kuwait TV undertook a complete revamp of the studio. Apart from putting in new equipment, the upgrade included redoing the entire technical floor of the studio as well as its lighting and its walls. Kuwaiti systems integrator, INC undertook the project in conjunction with Thomson.
The studio is equipped with seven GVG LDK 500 cameras installed with base stations and outfitted with viewfinders, operational control panels and Vinten Pro-Ped studio pedestals. These are connected to four studio wall boxes with Trix/Audio/Video/IFB/AC power and Autocue connections. A special feature of this installation is a software that allows the operators to interchange any of the cameras in the studio with the wireless camera. “The LDK 500 is an automatic white balance unit that produces the truest pure colour pictures that are required in today’s high-end production. This camera has proved its operational versatility in the large studio live production for Al Watan — a special holiday programme,” says Jack Bleriot, TV advisor to the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information (MOI).
This installation was made complete with a vision mixer such as the GVG Zodiac 3 ME, which is a still store dual Chroma keyer and a 3D transform engine such as the Kalypso Aux Bus Remote. “To allow the TD to have all the tools that a first line production would ask for, we added a multi-channel 3D Pinnacle Digital Effect System with six inputs/ six outputs, video & key with composite monitoring to the Zodiac internal DVE,” explains Bleriot.
All 84 monitors are Kroma LCD flat screens with SDI input and come with Kroma Under Monitor Indent Display and Tally.
Also installed is a Concerto router with a Jupiter control system along with an analogue & digital audio router. Additionally, router control panels have been installed at most operator stations for easy selections of input and output feeds. “The upgrade was a huge task,” says Sayed Akl, resident engineer and co-ordinator at the MOI. “We had over thirty years of cable and other items that had intertwined themselves with all of the operational interconnections to the Master and other control rooms that depended on the main operation of the past Studio 500. So the first task was to remove these cables that would not be used or needed in the upgrade.”
||**||II|~||~||~|He adds that this portion of the project alone took about 10 days. “We also had to identify those cables that would be required and re-install them. Also, the Master Control interconnections needed to be upgraded to handle digital feeds. We had to carefully remove equipment that was planned for another studio that is scheduled for an upgrade in the near future. All of this obviously took time,” explains Akl.
The second task was to retrofit the studio with new AC power requirements and re-construct its walls, ceilings, fixtures and cable raceways along with new decorations to fit the new requirements. This took another month.
“We had the systems integrator temporarily install the new equipment at another location so as to have all the items up and running there. The space of the new control rooms were then made into a template to have the equipment desks, racks and monitor walls custom-built for us in France to carry out the theme of the rooms,” explains Akl.
The third phase, which took yet another month, included fitting equipment into their positions and testing them.
The project was not without its challenges. For one, half way into the installation, the crew discovered that the new cameras would not carry the power and video feed for the Autocue system. “To resolve this, we made a sleeve to encompass the Trix and the added AC power and Autocue cables placed on reel drums,” explains Bleriot.
Another issue that was addressed after Ramadan was the re-surfacing of the studio production floor with a poured self-levelling Herculean coating. “We rescheduled this as it would require a lot of time,” adds Bleriot.
On walking through the new studio, it becomes clear that the layout has been carefully planned to improve operational efficiencies. For one, operators have been seated in such a way that they can always maintain direct eye contact with the directors and communicate easily with each other. Likewise, there is a deliberate symmetry in the overall layout of the plant. At the entrance to the array of control rooms is a client lounge. The walls in all of these areas are Sonix sound insulated and covered appropriately with fabric to reduce ambient noise.
From here, one is led to a video production area, equipped with a Strand 520I 250 channel lighting console to handle 2.5 & 5K dimmer circuits. For this, Kuwait TV chose a handheld wireless focus remote unit. Next to this is a CCU to control the camera positions of the LDK 500s. This includes output onto CRT monitors and WFM and master control panel for Ethernet use.
These two stations face a Kroma monitor wall with added preview, programme and off-air screens.
On another side is the DVTR video play back area — a work horse station with five Sony DVW M200P Digital Betacam recorder machines, a Sony DVCam, a two-channel GVG disc recorder with a capacity of 32 hours and two JVC DVD recorders. All of these machines face a Kroma monitor wall with under screen Tally displays. “This installation includes an FX Deco two-channel character workstation and a Pinnacle still store with real time 3D DVE for 3D transitions. The centre control room, which is occupied by the director and the assistant director also includes space for the Autocue operator — with his computer workstation, weather graphics computer and printer. These operators have a large view of the Kroma monitor wall. However, we do have extra monitors to handle additional incoming sources in future,” explains Bleriot.
A third control room is equipped with a Yamaha DM2000 Audio Digital Mixer with a special desk arrangement for editing and on-air integration.
This studio will primarily be used for live broadcasting. It will also be used for the production of several local programmes.
In fact, Thomson worked towards a very tight deadline between July 2005 and September 2005 so that the studio would be ready for the production of programmes during Ramadan, one of the peak television viewing seasons in the Arab world. “The time schedule was extremely challenging but we are happy to say that we met their deadline. Training for the new equipment has also been ongoing both during the installation as well as after, so that has also been taken care of,” says Cordeiro of Thomson.
The upgrade of Studio 500 is only a part of the state broadcaster’s efforts to improve its broadcasting appeal. With word that several private TV stations are to be launched soon in Kuwait, Kuwait TV is taking giant strides to ensure that it remains in the race. As part of these efforts, the broadcaster also intends to upgrade another one of its studios and make it more viable for commercial production.