As part of an ambitious plan to center its coverage for the fall 2012 elections out of Washington, D.C., CNN has completed a massive state-of-the art control room and is gearing up to build three new studios in its D.C. facility that will go live in September as its new CNN Election Center.
The effort is notable both for the new technology it will provide CNN during its election coverage and as a savvy editorial strategy. In 2008 and 2010, the CNN Election Center was hosted out of the network’s New York studios, with links to D.C., Atlanta and other locations. This time around, headquarters will be located in D.C., with significant additional editorial contributions coming in from New York, Atlanta and other sites.
“The elections are the most important event we will cover this year,” says Sam Feist, Washington bureau chief and senior vice president at CNN. “Our election teams are all based in Washington, so we think this facility coming on line this year gives us more " exibility, and, frankly, the ability to produce what we expect to be the most extraordinary Election Night we have ever produced.”
At the core of the new Election Center is the new Control Room A, which is designed to handle daily newscasts as well as big events such as Election Night and the inauguration, which Feist calls “our Super Bowls.”
During those premier occasions, the size and flexibility of the new control room will offer CNN a number of competitive advantages, notes Matt Speiser, CNN senior director of operations.
“It is a state of the art system, the best control room at CNN, that will allow us to do a lot of things we would struggle to do in a regular control room,” Speiser says.
The control center occupies the space of the old Larry King Live studio, covering about 1,250 square feet. It has 20 seats and can easily be expanded to handle more people for pivotal events such as Election Night, and three rows of wide seating.
Currently, the all-HD control room, which went live this month, is handling The Situation Room, John King USA, State of the Union and Reliable Sources. In August it will be used as the hub for CNN’s convention coverage. “That will be our first major event,” Speiser says.
But its real capabilities will be most evident when coupled with the new studios being built at the Washington facility over the next few months. When these go live in September after the conventions, CNN will significantly improve the visual quality of its newscasts and offer a much wider array of research, data and graphics, says Feist.
Illustrating the amount of data, feeds and information CNN will be able to deploy is the fact that the large production monitor wall inside the control room is capable of displaying more than 400 images across the wall’s 30 largest monitors.
Key vendors for the control room include a Sony MVS-8000 production switcher, Vizrt for graphics, the Vista Spyder system to control the distribution to all the video signals for the massive monitor walls in the new studios and the Euphonix MaxAir audio console.
CNN is also using an Evertz system for managing the monitor walls inside the control room and TV Logic to control producer monitoring. NEC and Samsung supplied those monitors.
Other vendors include Mode-AL, which provides the wall support system, Blue Sky speakers, Image Video for Source ID and Tally, Enco for audio playback and RTS for the intercom system.
Next to the new Control Room A, CNN has also built a smaller Room C, which will provide added " exibility in coverage. “That will allow us to control the monitor walls during shows that demand a lot of wall control,” Speiser says. “It also gives us a small control room for pre-tapes and the ability to free up the major control room if the production doesn’t require it.”
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