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24/03/2017

Axon Helps SABC Deliver High Definition Election Coverage

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The South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) has become the first broadcaster in Africa to integrate Axon Digital Design's versatile Cerebrum control and monitoring software platform with Utah Scientific's powerful router technology.

The equipment has been installed in SABC's new High Definition mobile Master Control Room (MCR), part of the broadcaster's Johannesburg-based High Technology Operations Centre (HTOC).

Built by local coachbuilder New Installation Company (NIC) with design support from Systems Integrator and Axon distributor Inala Broadcast, the mobile MCR controls between four and six Outside Broadcast trucks and receives 20 external feeds in from SABC's news regions. It also monitors incoming signals and sends outgoing broadcast feeds to an uplink vehicle.

Close collaboration between SABC, Inala, Axon and NIC was imperative to the success of this project, which had to be completed in just four weeks so that SABC could deliver coverage of the 2016 South African national elections in full HD.

Anton Van Staden, Inala's Executive Broadcast Consultant, said: "Due to the tight timescale, Inala and NIC built a temporary installation to ensure HD coverage of the elections, which took place at the beginning of August. The equipment is now being decommissioned and moved into a brand new OB vehicle. It will be used as a mobile MCR for all types of productions and should be fully operational by April."

Inala's long-standing relationship with SABC meant that the broadcaster was happy to comply with its equipment recommendations. As ease of use, flexibility and versatility were key criteria, Inala had no hesitation in recommending Axon's Cerebrum control and monitoring system.

"Cerebrum offers a modular, scalable and open system that is perfect for SABC's requirements," Van Staden said. "The system supports virtually every piece of broadcast equipment on the market and acts as the nerve centre for all routing. It is also very easy to use with a fully customizable interface and significantly speeds up production workloads by enabling complex tasks to be completed much faster."

SABC's Cerebrum system is now being used to control two Utah routers – a compact 7RU UTAH-400/144 and a 4Ru UTAH-400/72s2 Frame, the smallest member of the Series 2 Family.

Van Staden continued: "By combining Axon's Cerebrum control and monitoring with Utah Scientific's routers, we have been able to provide a streamlined workflow that delivers against budget and production requirements. Also, Utah routers offer IP interface capabilities and this is a major advantage because it will simplify the switch to IP broadcasting, when SABC decide to make that move."

Other equipment installed in SABC's mobile MCR includes a Riedel communications system, Tektronix waveform monitoring and an Axon Synapse modular HD monitoring distribution amplifier with embedded 3G/HD/SDI.

Peter Knevitt, Principal Technologist and TV OBs Engineering Manager at SABC, says the close collaboration between Inala, Axon and NIC made the entire project much easier for his team.

Mr Knevitt said: "Switching from analogue to High Definition is a large step for any broadcaster, and with the national elections our target, we only had four weeks to do it in. In that situation, it is really important to have supportive and proactive people around you. Inala and Axon made things very easy for us and we're delighted with what they achieved. The temporary installation worked perfectly and we are looking forward to having all the equipment operational in our permanent mobile MCR."

(MH)
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