Control rooms are the central nervous system of every broadcast facility, and they must be maintained to exacting standards. That means following stringent industry guidelines for wiring equipment and building space and installing the latest technology in sound, lighting, and video. The following are six simple ways to make sure your control room is up-to-date:
1) Standard equipment
Maintain a standard for wiring equipment. Use proper cable types, such as shielded twisted pair (STP), and avoid telephone-type cabling or lamp cord whenever possible. Ensure any audio cables run within walls are adequately supported to prevent damage from vibrations or other impacts.
A control room should be kept quiet at all times. In most cases, noise issues are caused by improper equipment installation in the racks by broadcast engineers who didn’t know what they were doing. This can cause interference problems on some RF channels, especially UHF stations that have been distributed throughout an entire market via IBOC digital radio channel assignments on multiple frequencies. In some cases, this means simply moving a rack to another location in the room, but sometimes it requires a more detailed analysis of the room and a complete rewiring job.
3) High-quality Equipment
Use high-quality cables, connectors, and other accessories for rack equipment. Cheap cabling often can’t cut it in a busy control room where hundreds of different signals from dozens of sources. The reason is that they converge from every direction into a 1RU piece of gear that displays video on one end and distributes audio on the other end to TV sets, radios, and other destinations. The least expensive 1RU distribution amps should be avoided since they typically add noise to your system while providing less than optimum signal protection. ProAV makes half a dozen series of 1RU distribution amps suitable for most control rooms, including The Wohler P600 Series Distribution Amplifiers, priced from $249 to $599 each.
4) Best Racks
Use only the best racks available anywhere. Standard 19-inch applications are still very popular, but control rooms should always be designed for future growth while providing plenty of space behind TV camera monitors and other gear in front for adding new equipment. When racks are running out of room, it’s time to consider a larger rack that can accommodate more equipment without changing other components in the rack or drive cases that hold all of the modules inside. B&R Automation Systems has introduced their 9000 Series Rack. This provides enough space for up to 14 1RU slots running at standard 19-inch EIA spacing (1.75 inches) with an additional half-inch on top and bottom that can be used for rack-mounted power strips, distribution amps, and other types of modules.
5) Quality Monitors
Use a high-performance monitor in front of the talent. This is particularly important on talent-facing news sets where a high-quality camera feed from an outside source is displayed. In contrast, technical directors, managers, or news anchors speak on-air. The monitor should have pristine picture quality so viewers at home won’t see any lagging images while the anchorperson gives the latest sports scores or weather reports. A typical studio-grade LCD capable of producing very accurate color would work best in most cases. Still, LED-backlit and LCDs are good alternatives that typically produce more vibrant colors while using less electricity during regular operation. Also, ensure your control room console furniture is up to date.
6) Monitoring Signals
Never let your video signal cross over into the audio path. This is the most common mistake made by broadcast engineers. While sending a program feed to an outside facility, it’s all too easy to route that same signal into one of your video output buses like a supplemental or transition feed without realizing this will degrade that signal while inserting noise into your system at the same time. Routing any external signals through devices other than your standard monitor bus should be done sparingly and only for very brief periods when required in live production environments.
A control room should always be designed like a high-end home theater. The reason is that every piece of equipment contributes to pristine picture quality on-air while protecting RF signals from being exposed to any unnecessary interference that can cause poor performance or even damage expensive components. With so many control rooms operating on tight budgets, it’s essential to address all of the items listed above rather than just focusing on a few components.