In-house Studio System Design: Think flexible. Think big.

Trickbox TV Studio Design and Installation

This article first appeared in the December edition of Broadcast Film & Video’s publication.

TV studios come in all shapes and sizes and each have different facilities and purposes. Whether that’s a large LE (light entertainment) studio – like the type of studio used for the game shows and chat shows you watch at the weekend – or news studios or breakfast TV studios. But then there’s a new wave of TV studio popping up – the ‘in-house studio’. Whether it’s the shortage of available studios to hire, or perhaps the reluctance of companies wanting to continue to keep hiring studios (or perhaps a combination of both), companies are wizening to building their own in-house studios. The benefits are clear – accessibility, availability, flexibility. And if the finances are fully considered, it can ultimately be a more cost effective solution – in the long run.

As a system integrator, providing studio design and installation services, we’ve certainly noticed an increase in clients expressing an interest in designing and building their own TV studio. The types of clients range from production companies, to corporates, to PR firms, to communications agencies. It’s not just traditional broadcasters who need their own TV studio these days. I’m using the term ‘TV studio’ to cover all things video (and audio) related – from traditional broadcast, to webcasting, to IPTV. The distinction between the ‘use’ of the studio is of course important in terms of the output requirements and the operational design of the facility. And of course, the budgets will be different. As will the individual equipment you specify. The equipment and facilities you specify for a large LE studio will no doubt differ to a small corporate studio who produce online videos. But at the core of any studio facility, there will always be the fundamental ‘system’ of equipment, such as routers – video, audio, talkback, network – signal processing, monitoring and so on. And the process of getting from the client brief, to the day you hand over their new studio is also the same. The key stages are always the same – design, installation, commission and handover.

If you look at a video schematic or workflow drawing for any multi-camera studio facility, the signal flow of the key equipment (the ‘TX chain’) will always be more or less the same. We start with the ‘sources’, such as cameras, video playback devices, graphics machines; they feed into a video router, which feeds a vision mixer, which feeds back into the video router before it’s outputted to it’s final destination – an encoder, a recorder, an outgoing circuit etc. The signal processing, digital glue and monitoring, in and around that signal chain is likely to scale up or down depending on the individual studio facilities’ requirements. You may want to include DAs for certain devices and signals, there’s the supplementary infrastructure and processing equipment like timecode generators, sync pule generators etc. And then you need to consider the audio integration.

Advances in IP broadcast is of course changing how studios are designed. The above signal workflow is based on a traditional copper (or fibre) installation. With an IP model, the bit in the middle – the routers and the mixers – becomes streamlined. The start and end points will likely always stay the same. We’ll always have cameras and we’ll always have monitors and devices to ‘transmit’ signals to somewhere. But how they get from one to the other is changing and will continue to change.

So, what do you do if you want to design and build your own TV studio? The decision whether to go ‘IP’ or not, is obviously important, but that aside, your focus should be on designing a facility that’s resilient, redundant and as flexible as possible. Your current requirements will no doubt change as time progresses. You might only want a studio to produce simple training videos, or just for that one chat show that you got commissioned, but design your studio with greater aspirations than that. Think flexible. Think big.

And of course, if you need any help, or you want to outsource the whole studio project, get in touch to see how Trickbox TV can help.

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