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Studio Flexibility at WHYY in Philly

The new studio at a public broadcaster's media commons reflects the perfect marriage of AV and building infrastructure.



The studio at WHYY's Dorrance H. Hamilton Public Media Commons has its own dedicated control room with a Broadcast Pix Slate 1000 production system. Feeds from the studio go from here to WHYY's operations center.

The speech reinforcement and program audio/surround-sound are tied into an AMX control system and accessible via the operators' AMX console and a wireless AMX panel. From an AMX Modero touch panel, studio users can choose one of four basic setups. In talking with WHYY's technical people, event management, and the architect, RJC Designs recognized that 95 percent of the time, the room was going to be set up in one of the four ways.

Even though there are four presets, WHYY's technical staff can fine-tune the systems as they see fit. "Because of the way we designed the audio matrix and routing system, if we needed to get some speech reinforcement into the front speakers in the wall, we could," Coluzzi says. "And if we needed to get some program audio, like from a computer or a DVD, into the speakers up in the grid, we could."

In fact, the 12 speech reinforcement speakers firing down from the ceiling grid are programmed as 12 zones, which gives operators tremendous flexibility. For example, if WHYY hosts a panel discussion at the front of the room, and if the speakers in the front zones start to feed into the presenters' mics, operators can turn off the first row of speakers. Alternately, WHYY may want to rotate the studio's seating 90 degrees to face a presenter standing beneath a pair of hanging NEC displays. If the presenter wanted to show a video, the program audio–which, under normal circumstances, would come out of the speakers in the front wall–can be rerouted to the speakers over the audience's heads.


As the heart of the Public Media Commons, the studio is linked bidirectionally through a dedicated control room to the rest of the facility, including two community classrooms and a conference room. The classrooms function as an extension of the studio: Students can engage in events taking place in the studio or make presentations to studio guests.

The studio is also connected to WHYY's technical operations center, from which broadcasts that originate in the studio can be uploaded to satellites, or presentations can be fed into WHYY's existing videoconferencing codecs for sharing over long distances. The Public Media Commons is based on an all-digital HD-SDI infrastructure, which allows compatibility with fixed and broadcast cameras, displays, and other technologies throughout the studio, control room, and the rest of WHYY. "It was critical that this room be compatible with the rest of WHYY's technology," says Kevin Opeth, project design engineer for RJC Designs.

Inside the studio, there are tie lines (HD-SDI, communications, fiber, Cat-6, and specialized camera/intercom feeds) on all four walls both for local control room connections and connectivity to the operations center. Microphone connectivity and line-level feeds are sent from the studio to the control room, where they are split to a SoundCraft mixer and then sent via CobraNet to the operations center.

While the Public Media Commons is all-digital, it wasn't always going to be that way. In the classrooms, for example, the original design called for a smattering of analog connections. But even those connections were soon replaced by DVI and HDMI, creating end-to-end digital distribution systems.

"Keeping up with the digital evolution during the design process was a challenge. Format and device compatibility, HDCP issues, EDID, cable distances, digital equalization, etc., were all issues that needed concentrated technical and expert attention," Opeth says. "There is no gray area in the digital domain."


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