Bi-Media Control Rooms with AURATUS
First AURATUS installations at WDR Regional Studio in Siegen
With major projects, such as the development of a new digital console, word gets around fast. This is also why STAGETEC products are always found in customer installations almost immediately after they are publicly announced. In fact, the design of one or other specific function is often based on early feedback from these customers, as was the case, for example, with the CINETRA installation at Geyer Berlin.
In a way, this is also true for the AURATUS. While the development was not yet fully completed, the WDR broadcasting service opted to use the new console, including a NEXUS audio network, at their regional studios.
AURUS or AURATUS?
The schedule for the studio build had already been fixed and with this the date of the first AURATUS installation as well. The first of three regional sites to receive completely new technical equipment installed by the BFE system vendor as general contractor in 2007 was the Siegen studio. In February the first consoles were installed in a new building.
On the other hand, it has always been one of STAGETEC’s principles to supply customers only with mature and thoroughly tested products. In order to ensure this was the case in this instance, regardless of the tight deadline, a clever trick was employed. The first three AURATUS consoles delivered to the Siegen studio were manufactured as a special edition. The new AURATUS hardware equipped with proven AURUS processing technology. This was a real advantage to both parties since the reliability of the AURUS audio processors provided a high level of operational security at the WDR studio while STAGETEC gained extra time to fine tune the new AURATUS processor board.
The other studios in Bonn and Duisburg will commission their new facilities later this year. At that time the AURUS hardware at the three Siegen studios will be replaced with AURATUS boards, followed by the AURATUS installations at the remaining eight regional WDR locations.
The implementation of new technology has not been WDR’s only consideration when planning the move to a new building. Rather, there is a new overall concept, the idea of the tri-media studio. TV, radio, and web content will be created by the same editors and be produced by the same crew of technicians. As far as the content is concerned, this is an efficient method of bundling the expertise of the present editorial and technical staff to produce programming for all three types of media, especially at smaller sites.
However, a tri-media studio requires different systems compared with the needs of traditional TV, radio, or web studios. The only logical step was to build a studio capable of serving all three types of media. For example, an interview might be broadcast on TV and also on radio.
Moreover, a feature might initially be put online; later, due to the level of audience interest, it may end up as a TV report. All this can only be achieved if the technical equipment offers the essential prerequisites. Not forgetting that the studio also has to be straightforward to operate. After all, this new concept demands higher competencies from the technicians since they need to be familiar with all three media types.
Flexible Studio Concept
So, what is the solution to the problem? Constructing three TV studios including the control rooms and then using just the audio for radio broadcasts would be technically possible but is not really advisable. Expensive TV production systems, cameras, and the comparatively big space in a TV studio would rarely be required. Therefore, dedicating the rooms would be sensible and not only for financial reasons. In Siegen, WDR established a TV studio and a radio studio, both including a control room; however, the assignments of studios to control rooms is not fixed. The radio studio, which is actually a useful large talks studio, can also be used in combination with a third control room, the so-called bi-media BIM control room. For this purpose the studio table, including all the installed gear can be revolved, permitting eye contact through the BIM control-room window as well. A small additional voice cubicle, which is normally allocated to the BIM control room, is available for dubbing or news reading tasks and can be assigned to any of the three control rooms and also to four other video editing rooms.
The choice of rooms is important
Of course, the audio network also refl ects this flexibility. Each of the three control rooms is equipped with a 24-fader AURATUS and accesses a common NEXUS network consisting of five Base Devices. Each control room is assigned one Base Device of its own, which will also accommodate the AURATUS processor board. The remaining Base Devices are used as network nodes and are therefore linked to all other Base Devices. In addition, they provide interfaces to all the important station signals such as external lines and codecs.
So, what happens when the radio studio is assigned to the BIM control room? During normal operation, the studio microphones are connected to the XMIC boards in the NEXUS in the radio control room and are routed to the corresponding AURATUS. As soon as the radio studio is assigned to the BIM control room, those sources as well as a number of return paths are automatically delegated to the AURATUS in the BIM control room. Red-light and yellow signalling control is also reassigned. Thanks to the NEXUS’ extensive logic operations, this is possible without external equipment, only triggered in this case from a central studio controller from BFE.
The biggest problem when programming the logic operations was that this entirely new concept of variable control-room and studio utilisation required a precise definition of the workflows. But, since the approach at WDR is an example of true pioneering spirit, there is no previous experience to draw on. Nevertheless, the broadcaster’s audacity is kept within reasonable bounds. Based on their technical concept and the combination of NEXUS and AURATUS, they have created a solution that, due to its flexibility, allows for virtually any type of utilization in the future.