New Stars in the Northern Sky
The new BBC offices at MediaCityUK on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in Salford near Manchester opened in May 2011. Including a large audio network with a total of 7600 inputs and outputs, this new NEXUS installation is one of the largest STAGETEC broadcast networks
The BBC’s new creative hub in the north of England is part of the BBC’s commitment to better serve audiences across the UK. BBC North is the home of BBC Children’s, BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Sport as well as BBC Radio Manchester and North West Tonight and other key local and regional programming. Departments from the BBC’s original offices in central Manchester producing drama, comedy and entertainment as well as Religion & Ethics have also moved to MediaCityUK and six out of ten of the BBC Future Media products are also based on-site alongside part of the BBC’s Research & Development division. With the arrival of BBC Breakfast in April 2012 – the first network news programme ever to be made and broadcast outside London – there will be 2,300 staff based in the BBC’s three buildings.
These buildings named Dock House, Quay House, and Bridge House are equipped with NEXUS for audio networking, routing, and inter-building connections. There is scope for future expansion with additional NEXUS components thanks to proactive network planning.
Everything to anywhere
Each of the networks is based on a NEXUS STAR with a high level of redundancy and a total of 21 NEXUS Base Devices are connected to these STARs. This NEXUS installation has very little in common with a conventional star topology network with a central apparatus room at its heart. Only the STARs are installed centrally, while the Base Devices are distributed throughout the buildings. Many kilometres of fibre-optic cable link all components and provide access to all sources and destinations from anywhere on each network. This network architecture provides additional reliability because every locally installed Base Device operates independently and will not be affected by any central component failure or a connection being broken.
Chris Collings, Managing Director of STAGETEC’s U.K. distributor Aspen Media, about the installation in the north of England: »The resilience, audio quality and scalability were key to the choice of NEXUS for this flagship development. However, I understand that the simplicity of the installation, that the system worked out of the box and required the minimum of commissioning effort were a significant bonus.« Aspen Media was selected by the BBC for the supply of the MediaCityUK audio router after a competitive tendering process.
Always in the background
The STARs are cross-connected via MADI thus keeping the two NEXUS networks separate from each other. The design engineers opted for this architecture after intensive consultations with Aspen Media, STAGETEC’s UK distributor. On the one hand, this solution makes it possible to avoid any undesirable interaction between the STARs while on the other it enables each network to be updated or expanded independently of the other.
Each of the two networks also has logic functions programmed which alert the staff by outputting an error message if there is a problem. This ensures that, even on a busy day in the central apparatus room, the failure of even a minor component does not go unnoticed.
For control of all switching operations in the broadcast centre the BBC are using an in-house solution, BNCS, which switches crosspoints of both NEXUS networks via Ethernet interfaces. The team in the central apparatus room only use the NEXUS’ user interface in exceptional circumstances.
STAGETEC technology is already in use in many BBC installations. Two CANTUS digital mixing consoles were the first to arrive in London. Several NEXUS installations, which were used primarily to replace copper multicores, and five AURUS consoles for outside broadcasting followed. Two AURUS consoles are employed in the Broadcast Centre at Pacific Quay in Glasgow. Now, with a new NEXUS system, Salford joins them to become the public broadcaster’s third production centre to rely on audio technology from Berlin.