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27/11/2009

Arqiva Prepares For DSO With Christie Monitor Wall Upgrade

Coinciding with the move towards Digital Switch Over (DSO), which is due for completion in 2012, Arqiva needed to increase the Freeview network monitoring facilities at its Feltham Media Centre.
Arqiva is one of the founding members of Freeview and currently owns the licences for two of the three commercial multiplexes. Through these multiplexes Arqiva provides access for broadcasters to the Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT) platform, including Freeview, by offering a fully managed service.
The switch-over has been in development since 2006. First Arqiva was awarded a long-term contract with BBC to build its high-power digital terrestrial TV network, including the replacement of both the BBC's analogue TV network and current low-power DTT network (which provides its Freeview digital TV service to viewers via their existing aerials). This was followed by a similar agreement with SDN Ltd and ITV.
But in order to keep pace with the all-digital world, the master control room facilities needed updating. According to Feltham Broadcast Operations Manager, Andrew O'Dell, the last upgrade had been carried out some years before. He said: "By mid 2008, it was clear that we needed some more monitoring walls - but now finally we have new desking and a brand new wall to monitor the new activity."
In fact, Arqiva was able to power up a new state-of-the-art Christie monitor wall in January this year, having requisitioned a wing of the Master Control Room (MCR) previously functioning as a transmission suite. This fulfills the requirement for a 24/7 mission critical, fully redundant system.
The quest began at the beginning of 2008. Andrew stated: "We did a shoot at our facility in Winchester and one of the systems we looked at was Christie - as we already had Christie kit elsewhere in the group. The quality that came our was very encouraging - the Christie system certainly appeared to deliver a superior image. Christie were also very cost-competitive - these were the main criteria and the company met all our requirements."
Three super-slim 67" RPMSP-D132U rear projection modules were selected following the evaluation. The Christie system provides the latest in SXGA+ single-chip display technology and Mr O'Dell noted immediately the stark contrast between the new system, with its high contrast ratio, superior brightness, colour calibration and cross-prism enhancement - providing much higher visual acuity than some of the older technology walls working alongside in the MCR. Furthermore, the integration of cross-prism optical screen technology provides Arqiva with a cleaner image - which Mr O'Dell describes as "more defined in terms of contrast".
Designed for 24/7 operational reliability with dual long life high pressure Mercury lamps, the displays, driven by third party (Miranda KaleidoX) multi-image processor, are at the centre of a fully redundant system.
Christie's KoRE electronics and firmware platform provides the most extensive level of input capability and control flexibility for a rear projection system, and with over 90 feeds coming in off the server (with an overall capacity of 192) this is vital.
The display wall is divided into three sections. Incoming SDI sources are delivered over fibre to one zone from three sections. Incoming SDI sources are delivered over fibre to one zone from three external locations. The adjacent display is assigned to DTT, monitoring off air feeds from the Crystal Palace transmitter and MHEG open standard interactive TV, while the right hand screen is dedicated to monitoring Arqiva's two commercial DTT multiplexes.
Andrew O'Dell is quick to praise the Christie support package, including the regular lamp and filter maintenance. He said: "Since we have to manage the services and maintain the kit we look for a high level of support. It's the ease of upkeep and expandability that we like and going forward, by using cutting-edge SXGA+ technology we have future-proofed the system."
There is every likelihood that this open-frame architecture could expand again any time soon - Arqiva certainly have sufficient headroom in the channel count. He said: "At the beginning of the year we had 50 monitored services and now it's up to around 90. We can expand with the Christie cubes as and when we need to."
(KMcA/BMcC)
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