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Setting up a simple broadcast studio

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Peter SilvermanSetting up a simple broadcast studio
by on Aug 18, 2010 at 3:54:02 pm

Hello,

I'm a 10 year veteran of the film and video world but have no experience in live TV. I've been asked by a client to create an in-house studio with the ability to send out a live HD video feed to TV stations around the country.

Leaving out the camera, lights, and sound gear, what kind of infrastructure needs to be installed and what hardware needs to be purchased in order to achieve this goal?

Thanks in advance,

Peter Silverman
Silverman Media Services LLC
Washington, DC


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Dave LaRondeRe: Setting up a simple broadcast studio
by on Aug 18, 2010 at 4:12:47 pm

Now, THAT, sir, is an extremely loaded question! In my experience, there really isn't such a thing as a "simple" broadcast studio.

Here is just the briefest of equipment lists. It is by NO means complete!!! Do not take it as gospel in any way, shape or form!
Video Switcher
Routing switcher
Audio board
Audio batch bay
Audio record & playback equipment
Teleprompter system
Character generator
Sync generator
Video recording & playback equipment
Satellite uplink & downlink

Your task goes far, FAR beyond simple equipment purchases and hooking everything up.

This is why there are companies that do nothing but design studios. They've been there and done that. They know the questions to ask. They know all the gotchas. They know the technical specifications. They know how to get all the gear to talk to each other, an essential in the digital age.

I cannot emphasize this enough: you need to talk with one of these companies.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Todd PerchertRe: Setting up a simple broadcast studio
by on Aug 18, 2010 at 5:45:31 pm

Or, much of the production studio is already wrapped up into a Newtek Tricaster. 2 choices for HD - http://www.newtek.com/tricaster/tricaster_tcxd300.php
http://www.newtek.com/tricaster/tricaster_tcxd850.php

But as Dave pointed out, there is a whole lot more needed in getting audio/video to the system and out to the stations.
TC


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Gary HazenRe: Setting up a simple broadcast studio
by on Aug 18, 2010 at 5:48:23 pm

I agree with Dave, there's nothing simple about setting up a broadcast studio. The first thing I would do is determine your clients expectations. How much are they expecting to spend for start up? How much do they expect to spend annually to maintain the studio? If the client has some grasp of the huge investment that it takes to build and run a studio then you should move on to the next step. Hire a systems ingrator to put together a proposal for your client.


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Bob ZelinRe: Setting up a simple broadcast studio
by on Aug 18, 2010 at 5:58:56 pm

Peter writes -
I'm a 10 year veteran of the film and video world but have no experience in live TV. I've been asked by a client to create an in-house studio with the ability to send out a live HD video feed to TV stations around the country.

REPLY -
you want a simple answer ? If you are building a "corporate facility" that needs to feed the outside world, in addition to building the facilty (which can't be answered in 2 paragraphs), the easiest answer is that you need a VYVX feed. VYVX is a dedicated fibre optic feed that goes to their offices. They are tied to most broadcasters, so when you say "we need to send the output of our studio to CNBC, or Bloomberg Financial", VYVX will patch you in. Is this expensive - you bet it's expensive.

You have not stated if you want a 24 hour feed on the air, or if you are going to do an "occational" live show, which will need to get broadcast, once in a while.

I hope that your customer understands that they are going to spend a LOT of money to do this, and to the gentlemen that gives you the impression that you buy a Newtek Tricaster, and you have a TV station - well, he is very "innocent".

It is really beyond me that you hoped to post on Creative Cow, get an equipment list, go back to your client and say "hey, I am told that if we buy X Y and Z from B&H Photo, this is all we need to build a TV studio, and we will be broadcasting all over the country".

I remember about 5 years ago, speaking to someone that wanted to build a Radio station, and discussed the Telos Zepher ISDN codec box, and having another station act as their transmission site. After explaining how this could work (for the need of the Telos Zephyr box), they actually said to me "so why do I need all of this other equipment - why can't I just plug the microphone into the Telos Zephyr, and be on air". You just can't make up stuff like this.

Bob Zelin



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Dave JohnsonRe: Setting up a simple broadcast studio
by on Aug 18, 2010 at 9:35:14 pm

Peter,

The scenario you described is exactly the one my employer dropped on me and one other guy about 10 years ago now (minus the HD part since it wasn't available yet then). So, I'll tell you how it all played out so you get a sense for how right Dave and Bob are about there being nothing simple or cheap about this.

By the way, at that time, I'd been a Producer/Director/Writer/Videographer/Editor (not an Engineer) for only about 5 years (after another 5 of what was more or less on-the-job-training combined with schooling) ... the other guy had literally zero TV/Video experience except what he picked up from working with others who did.

After very, very, many very long nights and weekends, not to mention lots of the company's money, we pulled it off, but this is the important part ... only by hiring professional TV systems integration companies when we were allowed to. Unfortunately, when we were allowed to was unrelated to when we actually needed to.

It's even more glaringly obvious today than it was then that what I call "the wanters" (like the stomping, screaming kids in the mall we want to smack even though they belong to someone else) clearly had no idea what they were getting into with an attitude exactly like the one Bob described, but 10 times worse since it was coming from otherwise very intelligent Ivy league types who had obviously never before been told they can't do what they want. Basically, it was "just buy a camcorder and plug it into TV for us" so we don't have to get our hands dirty (didn't put that last part in quotes because that's just what they were thinking, not what they actually said).

Anyway, the company now has what it wants (ability for executives to frequently do live TV interviews conveniently without leaving the office), but I'm here to tell you that, by trying to do it basically for free, it wasted tons of money over the course of many years ... and the worst part is, still has a mess to show for it.

For example, even though we've spent lots more money on new studio space, a custom set, HD cameras, lighting, etc., etc.; to this day, we still have barely airable remotes. Why? Because, one of the very many significant and practically irreversible bad decisions that was made was to have the in-house maintenance staff run fibre throughout the buildings as they were being built instead of having it professionally done. I'm sure we've all heard the weakest link in the chain analogy before. So, now what? Shall we start tearing down walls and re-running clean fibre?

I guess the main take-away is that, even though my post is so long, I've actually only mentioned tiny bits of the bigger picture ... and, trust me, it's not a picture you want any part of. My advice is that you find the largest TV systems integration company in your area (the one that does the local TV stations), pay them a few thousand dollars to send out some Engineers for a point A to point B needs analysis and proposal that's all-inclusive (staff, equipment maintenance, equipment replacement, etc., etc.). Then, show the results to the powers that be to make absolutely sure that they have at least some idea of what they're getting into before you go any further ... or, it'll all be your fault in the end.

I'm going to stop now because I can actually feel the veins starting to protrude from my temples from just thinking about this subject. I hope you found my input helpful. Cheers.


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Peter SilvermanRe: Setting up a simple broadcast studio
by on Aug 19, 2010 at 1:40:09 am

Todd, Gary, Bob, and the two Daves,

Thanks very much for the quick response. Once again, members of the COW come through with great advice. To clarify, I had no intention of setting this up myself. I'm doing the research for the client as to what equipment needs to be purchased and how expensive it would be. Once that is ascertained, they will hire a company to install everything. I'm just acting as a liaison for the client, who had no idea where to start asking.

If you could:

A) Give me a ballpark estimate on a single camera remote feed setup ( $100-200K, 200K-300K, $500K+ etc)

B) Any recommendations for companies based in the Mid-Atlantic that could set this up.

Thanks again,

Peter Silverman
Silverman Media Services LLC
Washington, DC


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David JohnsonRe: Setting up a simple broadcast studio
by on Aug 19, 2010 at 2:37:23 am

Peter,

Sorry for jumping to conclusions and ranting earlier ... it just sounded very much like your intent was the do-it-yourself approach since you said you were asked to "create an in-house studio with the ability to send out a live HD video feed to TV stations around the country", then asked "what hardware needs to be purchased".

I'm not familiar with companies in the Mid-Atlantic, but you might try reaching out to a local TV station (or, ideally, someone you know at one). You may have to sit through a pitch about just sending your people to their studio every time (for a not-so-nominal fee, of course), but you should be able to pry out a few names of the big integration companies in your state. For example, here in central-Florida one of them is owned by the same parent company that owns one of the TV stations (Media General). That's a fairly common thing nowadays so folks at stations like that are more willing to refer you elsewhere if it's to a partner company.

As far as a ballpark estimate, no one on a forum can really offer you that since there are way too many factors and many of them are totally dependent on your specific facility and needs/wants. For example, we recently spent $150k on two camera packages alone, which are actually low-end HD cameras. Can you try passing off a $10k HDV camera signal as HD? Sure ... just depends on how lucky you're feeling and what you really mean by "TV stations around the country" (low-power locals, network affiliates or nationals like us). By the way, in our situation, the camera packages are the cheapest part of the whole equation ... except my salary, of course.

You'll also need to consider recurring costs like service contracts and equipment leases to get signals to a fibre network or satellite. Those often run several thousands per month depending on your facilities and needs. I mention equipment leases because it's often impractical to buy all the necessary equipment since some aspects can run into millions and, if owned outright, you're in a heap when it breaks or needs to be updated.

Figuring out those things and much more for a particular facility, then pricing it all out is what systems integrators do ... I'm forced to do much of that all by my lonesome and, trust me, that is not a situation you want to put yourself or your client in.


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David ShulkinRe: Setting up a simple broadcast studio
by on Aug 19, 2010 at 3:23:57 pm

Peter:

I couldn't agree more with the previous comments. Let me throw in a low ballpark figure of just initial costs assuming one HD 1/3" camera package (non-robotic), one audio package, one small light package (3 lights/banks) NO GFX package, minimal monitoring and measurement equipment, and any additional conversion/terminal equipment to get a HD-SDI feed to a rented satellite uplink truck parked outside = ~ $45,000 (as I've done this before). This assumes no other costs of building needs or the cost of the rental of the Sat. truck, etc. But these ideas are truly focused on an specific need, access, quality needs, and cost structure. Frankly some of the discussion needs to consider how often it is used an what technologies to get the signal to the broadcasters. Right now the best methods is fiber or sat., but if local, a rented microwave truck might do the trick to get your signal to the station.



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Bob ZelinRe: Setting up a simple broadcast - answer
by on Aug 20, 2010 at 3:54:58 pm

http://www.commeng.com/html/projects.html

They do extensive work in Washington DC. They subcontracted me to do work for Fox Sports in Florida. They are a great company.

Bob Zelin



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Peter SilvermanRe: Setting up a simple broadcast - answer
by on Aug 21, 2010 at 2:17:45 am

Thanks for the lead Bob.

Peter Silverman
Silverman Media Services LLC
Washington, DC


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Richard CardonnaRe: Setting up a simple broadcast - answer
by on Aug 29, 2010 at 2:13:21 pm

Check these state of the art software for hd multicam studio opreations.

It will save you a bundle on money-time-space.

Its the new era.

cutfour hd at avtake.com

vidblaster broadcast vidblaster.com

The quality is tops the operatin cost are very low. They are profesional apps.

Ric


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Richard CardonnaRe: Setting up a simple broadcast - answer
by on Aug 29, 2010 at 2:31:48 pm

The software I mentiones in my previous post aone will give you a simle but powerful solution for a simple hd studio.

I advise you to check for software solution that are available
for color example:

Color correction:
http://www.blackmagic-design.com/products/ultrascope/

brodacasting and data management:
http://www.cinegy.com/jml/index.php

Audio:

Avid pro tools or Sonar producer


All of these if not all can be run on workstation class computers and decklink cards

With all you can save you can invest in good cameras and led lighting for far less than you'd think.

You might still need som hardware but stay from them if you can.

Richard


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