All Systems Go

The nerve center at Fox News Channel is getting a makeover. Last week,
the network took the wraps off a new master-control facility that gives
operators what they want most: more control. The new system includes an
expanded master-control switcher with more versatility and new video monitor
walls that give the operators the ability to see incoming video feeds, graphics
and even audio levels at a glance.

"Now they can deal with breaking news more easily or any other problems
or changes that might occur," says Paula Firestone, head of master-control

Master control is where all of the programming, graphics, commercials
and interstitials come together before heading out to the viewer. When news
breaks, the operators in master control are responsible for cutting into
programming with footage and making sure that TV spots that get displaced
eventually make it back into the schedule. A ruined or missed spot can be
expensive, resulting in a make-good and lost revenue.

The new 16- x 30-foot room is larger than the old one and is located in
what used to be the graphics department.

At the heart of the system is the Thomson Saturn master-control
switcher. With only one control panel in the old system, only one operator
could interface with the switcher. But as Fox News Channel has begun to do more
and more programming for the Fox network, it became apparent that additional
control panels were needed. Two new panels have been added, giving as many as
three operators their own workspace.

"Now the master-control operators don't have to do everything from one
panel," says Frank Cerone, Fox News' engineering project manager. "And they can
also send different channels at the same time."

The new Saturn switcher can send out as many as four channels at once.
Firestone says that will make it easier for the network to send out content to
the Fox network and affiliates. In the past, she says, those signals would
bypass master control completely and simply be transmitted to the network.
Being able to bring them through master control gives an additional level of
quality control.

The new LCD wall is light years ahead of the old system, which required
operators to swivel from monitor to monitor to make sure a graphic or logo was
ready for air. Positioning all of the elements in front of the operators opened
up space behind them for other equipment, like tape machines.

Cerone says one of the things he likes most about the room is that LCD
monitor walls have replaced traditional tube-based monitors. The advantage of
using large LCD panels is that one screen can display multiple incoming and
outgoing signals.

An Evertz MVP multi-signal monitoring system coupled with a Thomson
routing switcher will allow each operator to customize the LCD monitor layout
at the push of a button: video, audio and graphic monitoring.

"When you change to a different panel or frame, the whole monitor wall
changes to show you the inputs out of the switcher, the output lines, the
preset programs, and return path right in front of you," says Cerone.

The MVP also lets the user zoom in on part of the display, such as an
onscreen area dedicated to graphic elements. Says Firestone, "We can blow that
box up and read clearly the crawl that will go out."