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Financial channel spends money

Volatility in the money and business markets in recent times has meant that the regular input of news and updated financial information is seen as a vital part of staying ahead of the game in those crucial areas. Philip Stevens took a closer look at business broadcaster CNBC's London studio facility revamp.

Business and financial broadcaster CNBC has revamped its London studios. Philip Stevens went along to take a closer look.

Volatility in the money and business markets in recent times has meant that the regular input of news and updated financial information is seen as a vital part of staying ahead of the game in those crucial areas.

One global source of that information is business and financial channel CNBC. Operating out of centres in London, Singapore and New York, the channel is able to provide a round the clock service to CEOs, senior corporate executives; the financial services industry and private investors.

To handle the increasingly complex amount of data originating from the markets and to present that information in a user-friendly and comprehensive manner, CNBC has just upgraded its studio facility in London.

“When we decided to redesign the studio, the aim was to make it multi-functional with several presentation areas within the floor area,” states Neil Burt, head of Technology at the London facility. “Alongside the broadcast element, we needed to incorporate the digital aspect – the live web streaming, Facebook, Twitter – of our service. It all needed to be moulded together as part of the CNBC brand.”

The result of the redesign and refurbishment is a 10-camera studio of 264 square metres – an increase in size of 40 per cent.

Burt reveals that the brief given to the designers called for the look to be dynamic, diverse and allow for plenty of movement. With the regular Panasonic studio cameras mounted on Vinten Radamec pedestals being unmanned and therefore not allowing tracking across the floor, this movement has been achieved through the use of Telemetrics Elevating Wall Mount vertical track sets.

“Our ceiling height did not allow the use of a jib, and handheld cameras were not thought suitable, but the Telemetrics system provides just what we needed,” states Burt. “Although we looked at other systems, our studios in the US and Asia already had these systems in place so it made sense to have synergy with these other operations.”

The Telemetrics belt-driven track system not only allows remote-controlled camera operation, but also vertical positioning to the pan and tilt movement. “The system adds a movement similar to that of a pedestal, but with greater height ranges,” says Burt.

With Vinten Radamec 435 heads controlling the robotics for the studio cameras, it made sense to use the same method to handle the Telemetrics system. In fact, the Telemetrics track integrates seamlessly, with the cameras being displayed as other sources available to the operators.

“The only difference is the X-Y-Z joystick is used to move the dolly up and down the track,” explains Paul Holmes, Vinten Radamec technical sales manager EMEA and Asia. “Shot information from the Telemetrics system is stored in the same way as all the Vinten Radamec devices. These details are stored on the database and can be recalled as necessary.”

All the cameras are controlled from the production gallery where the director or an assistant with their own panels also act as operators. An interlock facility prevents a camera being selected on both panels at the same time.

“The cameras can be allocated to studios and mapped to the control panel. The camera button on the unit turns ‘blue’ if another user is controlling a camera,” explains Holmes.

Displaying data

Information is, of course, the life blood of a financial channel – and how that data is presented is a vital part of the operation. A real time ‘ticker’ of share prices and exchange rates is not only available as an on screen graphic, but also as a moving display within the studio itself. The package for running this information, along with a ‘hot board’ of leading shares, was created by CNBC’s own graphics department.

However, the redesign of the studio has allowed a 15 metre high Video Wall to be included in the mix. Made up of 50-inch Barco LED projectors, the wall provides realtime information and other graphics showing market trends and specific business details. The tiling of the wall translates to a 2560 x 1440 signal to each 3 x 3 matrix of cubes – creating a display that has a very high resolution.

Brainstorm’s eStudio system is used to feed data that is received from two high speed Reuters feeds into the wall. Included in the display is an image of a globe which visually displays data from exchanges around the world, and a ‘heat map’ that gives traders a real time view of the Stoxx Europe 600.

“We are using Brainstorm’s graphics to show realtime graphics on the fly,” explains Andy MacKay, CNBC’s head of Data Systems Development. “The system allows us to display information without the need to pre-render any of the incoming data. For example, when the FTSE 100 changes we need to show it without any delay. Brainstorm fulfills that fundamental need without any need for manual involvement.”

But for more in depth information, MacKay explains that CNBC has taken the building blocks that are offered by the Brainstorm package and developed a system that suits its particular needs. “Sitting behind that is a bespoke control system which we wrote in house that allows the newsroom journalists to select how the raw data is to be displayed on the wall.”

The system permits graphics that are produced for the Video Wall also to be used as full frame graphics available through the vision mixer in the gallery. “The operation is template based, and when the journalist creates a graphic and saves it, the system will do the rest and make it available for whatever display is required.”

The Video Wall can, of course, show other sources such as presenters in other locations. Switching between inputs and the sizing of those sources is handled by the studio director using a Vista Spyder processor.

To light the new studio, Neil Burt turned to Litepanels from the Vitec Group. In all, 88 1×1 LED production lights were installed, covering both the wall and the various sets. To light the wall, 5600°K flood panels are used, while the presenter desk positions are illuminated with soft and warm light using 1×1 Bi-Color floods.

“There have been enormous benefits in our selecting light panels,” confirms Neil Burt. “Of course, the heat in the studio is considerably reduced and this has meant a reduction in the amount of air conditioning we have been using. Beyond that, the overall power consumption has gone down. Indeed, our electricity bill has reduced by a staggering two thirds since we started using these light sources.”

Routers and viewers

Another part of the refurbishment involves routers and multi-viewers. The Miranda NVision 8500 Hybrid embedded audio router with integrated audio processing, provides 3Gbps/3D/HD routing in a single frame. It integrates de-embedding, shuffling, breakaway and re-embedding, allowing common signal processing tasks, such as swapping programme audio tracks, to be handled easily within the router frame. This purchase replaced CNBC’s existing routing infrastructure in order to provide a more streamlined signal management operation.

CNBC added a Kaleido-X multi-viewer to its existing set-up for monitoring in the studio control room and MCR. With the new system, a total of 144 router outputs will be linked directly to the Kaleido multi-viewer system to drive 24 monitors across the whole station. The router’s rectangular matrix enables large multi-viewer installations to be supported without sacrificing the core square matrix outputs.

“By driving the multi-viewers directly from the router, we can give more flexibility to the operators,” says Burt. “If we need to make an urgent change, it can be performed with the click of a mouse. Operators can choose whichever source they want to see immediately, they can swiftly recall layout pre-sets, and also reconfigure the router.”
He concludes, “Much of the equipment we have incorporated is used at other CNBC facilities. So we know it all works and the equipment comes from market leaders that we trust. The new studio allows us to deliver essential business news to our knowledgeable audience – and that is what CNBC is all about.”