In November 2013, The Weather Channel (Weather), based in Atlanta, GA, embarked on a project involving a major redesign of its overall look and feel. Foremost in the plans was a significant revamp and modernization of the studio’s infrastructure. The new set design would, among other workflow enhancements, feature state-of-the-art video walls to display breathtaking imagery from Mother Nature herself.
“We were looking for a solution that would be capable of managing a large number of video walls,” explains Michael Smereski, director of broadcast engineering operations and support at The Weather Channel. “But they were not straightforward displays. The redesign called for walls with various overlapping aspect ratios, different—and often odd—sizes, and diverse resolutions. The operation of those walls would be very complex, and, at the time, there was no single solution that we knew of that could manage display of content effectively.”
In addition to the complex graphics distribution, which included 105 monitors in 18 different groupings, the new solution would also need to work with sources such as the vision mixer, house router, video servers and graphic systems. It was a huge task with an even larger benefit that would transform the studio into an extension of the ever-changing world around it.
While the plans were being drawn up, Smereski received a call from Orad (purchased by Avid in 2015). “I don’t know how they found their way to me, but Orad explained that they had an interesting set up that they would like to demo,” he says. “They explained the kind of video wall configurations they could manage with their technology, and it so happened this was exactly what we required for our redesign. By chance, I got a demo of Orad TD Control and realized that this could be the solution to handle our scenarios with high resolution and high quality.”
TD Control is a holistic system that can handle our entire—and sometimes highly complicated—production environment.
MICHAEL SMERESKI, DIRECTOR OF BROADCAST ENGINEERING OPERATIONS AND SUPPORT, THE WEATHER CHANNEL
Smereski says that once their new studio design plans were completed, it was obvious that conventional methodologies for controlling and monitoring these complex video walls would not be enough. The new studio had to deliver dynamic, real-time capabilities while simultaneously minimizing the operational and system resources required to operate and sustain the studio on a daily basis. TD Control (now Maestro | PowerWall)was a practical solution to fulfill Weather’s requirements, as it could handle multiple live video walls at once under one simple user interface.
“No matter the orientation of the images in the video wall or the various aspect ratios—some side by side, some four by four, others eight by eight—we could still achieve the result using just a single operator thanks to Orad TD Control,” he says. “What makes this so amazing is that Orad had no idea we were heading in this direction, yet the solution was there exactly when we needed it.”
The complex displays were initially meant to be used on Weather’s AMHQ morning show only, but after its immediate success, other studio 9 productions at the facility began utilizing the TD Control solution.
All in one system
Orad’s innovative video and graphics production center, TD Control, is a complete nonlinear, ultra-high-resolution, live production solution. It is capable of consolidating multiple content sources, and in the case of The Weather Channel, handles real time 3D graphics from two different systems, 3G/HD/SD video sources, integrated clip players, external video servers and much more.
“This ability to handle diverse sources is vital, because we receive material from a variety of sources, including remote sites and production partners,” says Smereski.
TD Control integrates with the vision mixer by establishing connections between the available video sources and Orad’s cutting-edge graphic solutions. The system also controls the in-house video router and video server channels to provide an extra automation level. It easily assimilated into and enhanced Weather’s existing production workflow.
On the hardware side, TD Control provides four different zones, controlled by designated HDVG4. Each of these zones receives seven outputs, some of which are combined for streamlined assembly. The system’s unique internal pixel mapping provides different orientations, resolutions, sizes and aspect ratios without the need of external processing.
To ensure the correct information is shown on the displays, program and preview confidence monitoring is provided for each zone. This replicates the actual studio screens on a single monitor—eliminating the need for “spy cams” in the studio.
TD Control’s software solution is configured so that a single operator controls all four zones, although there is provision for multiple users for more complex shows. The system includes an intuitive interface, which is controlled by touch screen in the control room or by a wireless tablet in the studio. A customizable GUI can also be adjusted to each specific zone screen. TD Control can be easily manipulated to quickly fix positioning and resizing of images, and to distribute clips files between the HDVG4s using the file-mirroring feature.In all, there are 105 Sharp and NEC monitors (with Christie rear projection cubes) in various display technologies and sizes ranging from 55 inches to 90 inches. There are a total of 18 monitors groups or “canvases.” For Weather, this means a greater look at weather across the globe—all at the touch of one universal control screen.
Above and beyond
“TD Control is a holistic system that can handle our entire—and sometimes highly complicated—production environment,” says Smereski. “Without the Orad system, we would have ended up with a a very inefficient and painful setup. I doubted whether if our goals could be achieved with just a single operator, but Orad’s contribution went beyond simply supplying a system that worked and came within our budget,” he concludes. “Their top-notch personnel worked tirelessly for two weeks installing and commissioning the system, and were around to support our technical and production people with situations that were unrelated to the displays. I’d say that Orad is a great technical reference and provider of great customer service.”
In addition to the complex graphics distribution—which included 105 monitors in 18 different groupings—the new solution would also need to work with sources such as the vision mixer, house router, video servers and graphic systems. It was a huge task with an even larger benefit, and it would transform the studio into an extension of the ever-changing world around it.