Rebuilding a Broadcast Facility
TV station rebuilds vary in scope and complexity, with the most difficult being a remodel of an existing facility in the midst of ongoing operations. Whether it’s an update of the technical core from SD to HD, the addition of a new automation production system to a production control room, or another project, numerous challenges accompany the in-place station rebuild.
When the engineering team and integrator must establish new equipment and a new workflow in the very same room supporting current operations, they face a variety of logistical issues. While space limitations are one obvious challenge, the task of evaluating and repurposing (or removing) existing equipment and cabling also can be enormous. In addition, providing staff with the opportunity for training and practice prior to the launch of the updated facility is much more difficult in an in-place build than when new systems are set up parallel — in a separate space — with existing equipment and operations.
In some instances, a little bit of creativity can help to alleviate space constraints. For example, we once moved an existing production control room into the broadcast facility’s break room, built up a new one in its place, and then dismantled the temporary installation when the new system went live. In other cases, we put new equipment, such as the switcher tub, in the back of the room so that during practice periods, staff can work with the same monitor wall they use every day. If the broadcaster doesn’t have the resources for all-new consoles, we can build custom insets that allow for a fast switchover from the old equipment to the new.
Repurposing existing equipment within a new installation is a greater challenge. The key lies first in evaluating current systems and determining if they are functional enough to operate during and/or beyond the transition. Once we’ve outlined the goal of the project with the client, we begin work on spreadsheets that document all new and existing elements and how the transition will take place.
Success is 80 percent planning and 20 percent implementation. With extensive exploration and planning, it’s possible to prevent unpleasant surprises. After pooling the knowledge of the on-site engineers who can detail how all existing equipment functions, it pays to test all assumptions, remove any equipment that isn’t in use, and pull any cables that aren’t connected. Sometimes the best course simply is to pull a plug and see if it has the expected impact. Doing a complete and thorough integration includes research and completing a puzzle – getting the right data and applying it to the solution.
Solving this puzzle requires a lot of talk and communication, in part because a rebuild often brings with it a change in how people work, or who does a task. For this reason, it’s a good idea to maximize the amount of staff training and practice, even for a complicated in-place rebuild, and to write this into the project budget. By paying close attention to equipment and workflow and to the personnel responsible for them, we can turn a challenging rebuild into a satisfying success.