Discovery: Starting From Scratch

NAB comes just as Discovery is in the throes of a major construction project to convert an old department store into a state-of the-art, all-digital production facility with over 50,000 square feet of floor space.

The new building will be fitted with an all-digital SDI infrastructure capable of handling both high-definition and standard-definition production with two HD-capable quality-control suites and two HD nonlinear edit and graphics suites.

At the heart of the new operation will be a Thomson Trinix routing switcher that will support the new systems as well as some legacy analog equipment.

Although much of the equipment for the new Silver Springs, Md., facility has been ordered, the network will be investigating new ways to help streamline operations across its ever-growing international empire.

"For Discovery, NAB is more about solutions than equipment," says Jay Schneider, senior vice president, production, operations and engineering services. "Our theme is enterprise-based solutions, and we're focused this year on on-air automation systems and post-production and on-air content storage systems."

In Las Vegas in April, Schneider and his team plan to look at the offerings of all major providers—among them Omnibus, Sundance and Florical—that have the ability to interface with Discovery's legacy traffic systems.

"There was a time that you needed to start from scratch," Schneider says, "but companies tend to make large investments in their infrastructures and are not likely to swap out their entire infrastructures when they change or upgrade their automation systems."

Looking to maximize the efficiency of its burgeoning operations, the network also will be looking for video servers that will permit it to reduce time-to-air for content and eliminate steps for content playback. An on-air audio server-system is also on the list, for handling transmission of international network programming.

The network also will be investigating new ways to streamline the closed-captioning process. "Ideally," Schneider says, "what we would like to do is find a solution that would enable us to eliminate the step of encoding captioning data to tape and instead play back the captioning data synchronous with the playback of the program as controlled by the automation system."

On the production side, Schneider will be looking at shared storage that will work with the network's suite of Avid standard-definition and high-definition nonlinear editing systems.

Transmission will also get a once-over at the show, with uplink equipment including antennas and uplink-control systems.

"There has been so much consolidation in that area, which is both a challenge and an opportunity," says Schneider. "It has reduced amount of choice, but it also is an opportunity for some of the smaller companies to meet the more specialized needs of the production community."