Studio B Transition To HD

Significant changes to MCMs Studio Production Facilities have recently been completed.  It is very important, please read the whole thing. There is a short Q&A section that may answer some of your questions.

Why This Matters:

Conversion to HD affects all aspects of Audio/Video production, and makes many video recordings, formats, and equipment obsolete.  Since a move to HD is expected for the entire MCM Facility, this development/change is important.

Whom Does This affect:

All Producers and Technicians who use; work in; or edit for the Studio complex.   Anyone who has considered or anticipates working in Studio B soon, or who anticipates working in any of MCM’s production facilities over the next several years.

As you may be aware, MCM is in an extended transition to a High-Definition Media Production Facility.  This work has been ongoing for several years and will continue for several more.  The first public step in this process was the addition of the JVC-HM700 High Definition field cameras over the summer and fall of 2010.

We are now entering the next phase of that transition, the conversion of the Studio Facilities to High Definition.  Due to funding limitations, this is expected to be a several year process; however the first step in that process will be the conversion of Studio B.  That conversion began on August 24th, 2012 and completed the first week of September 2012.

Programs now produced in Studio B will be recorded in a computer-based file format.  This process is similar to the way that the JVC-HM700 HD field cameras record.  DVD recording and DVCPro Tape recording will no longer function for Studio B.  Studio B will use new cameras, a new type of recording deck, a new CG, and a new control room video monitoring system. Although this is a major evolution for Studio B, most practices and procedures used in day to day productions will remain relatively unaffected.

At the same time, Master Control has also begun moving to High Definition.  Although this is a much slower process, MCM has been requested to make this transition by the County, in anticipation of eventually presenting MCM’s channels 19 & 21 in HD, on the local cable systems.  While we are still far from transmitting in HD, and much needs to be worked out, the likely submission format for HD will be in BluRay, an optical disc format similar to DVD.

Questions & Answers:

Will I need to be recertified to work in Studio B?

No and Yes.

There will not be a real Re-certification Process to work in Studio B now that it has been converted to HD.  Technicians, who currently work in Studio A, will also be able to work in Studio B.

However, just as there are differences between Studio and Field productions, there will be technical differences between Studio A and Studio B.  It will be in the best interest of both Producers and Technicians to know and understand the production level differences before they work in an individual Studio. 

If Studio B will no longer be using video-tape, how will I get my show in? What kind of format will be required for submission?

You may submit in any format you wish as long as it is currently accepted for air.  At present those formats are:

DVD
MiniDV Tape
DVCPro Tape
DVCam Tape

MCM also expects to be able to accept Blu-Ray Discs in High Definition soon.

What you won’t be able to do is output a completed show tape directly from the Studio.   Studio B productions will require some level of after-production processing.  We are still looking into how easy that may be, and whether that can be successfully accomplished during a standard evenings’ production, or will require a separate, possibly very short, session in one of the edit suits.


I am a producer who regularly uses Studio A for my show. I think of Studio A as the premiere facility here at MCM. I’m wondering why you chose to convert Studio B to High Definition before Studio A. It just doesn’t seem to make much sense.


Studios A and B are two very different facilities and you are right, Studio A is the premiere facility because of its additional space and capacity to produce larger shows and to better plan and control the lighting. The conversion of Studio B to HD before Studio A is due to funding limitations, the amount of equipment required for the transition, and simple luck of the draw.

Because MCM has limited funding for capital equipment, implementation of new systems, or general equipment replacement, is often broken up into several sections, usually over a number of years. As a result of this process, Studio B has a production switcher that is designed to handle HD, putting it a very large step ahead of Studio A. Studio B also has less production infrastructure, (i.e. less equipment, less cabling, etc.), making it less expensive, and less difficult, to move into an HD format. And much of the equipment used in the Studio B upgrade was purchased with an eye to the Studio A conversion, and will eventually be expanded to handle Studio A.


When will Studio A be converted to HD, do you have a timeline or schedule for that?


While MCM would prefer to transition all MCM Studios and Facilities to HD now, due to funding and the amount of additional equipment needed to complete the work, the Studio A HD transition will take several years to complete.

However Technical Services continues to review costs and technical requirements. If the Studio A conversion can be completed sooner, it will be.


I am raring to go and work with HD in Studio B can you tell me when the transition will be complete?


The Studio B High Definition Transition was completed over the last week of August, and into the first week of September, 2012. All programs produced in Studio B from this point on will be in HD.

I regularly work in Studio B what changes can I expect?


It all depends on your crew position. For many of the positions during production you will notice very few, or no changes at all. Most changes will fall on the Producers, Character Generator Operators and Tape Operators.

I am a producer who regularly uses Studio B for my productions. How will this transition affect me?


Many things about studio production will change for Producers using Studio B. Although most production tasks for Producers will be exactly the same, several critical elements will change, and Producers will have additional responsibilities after the completion of their productions. The work will take additional time, however, none of this work is very hard, but for a while it will be new and different. Studio Engineers and Facilities personnel will be there to work with you, and if you take a few notes you should be good to go on your own in a few productions.

I am a Studio Technician who regularly works in Studio B. How will this transition affect me?


In many ways in-studio technicians are affected least of all. HD Cameras and other equipment inside the studio are nearly identical to the previous Studio B equipment. While camera framing and focus change and become critical in HD, most studio operations and techniques do not change.

I am a Control Room Technician who regularly works in Studio and Control Room B. How will this transition affect me?


Control Room Technicians will also be affected very little. As with Studio Technicians, image focus and framing become critical, but most operations do not change.

I am a Tape Operator who regularly works in Studio B. How will this transition affect me?


Like producers, many things about studio production will change for tape operators using Studio B. The basic digital recording operation will be much simpler than you are used to. However, tape operators will have additional responsibilities related to the recorded digital computer files. None of this work is very hard, but for a while it will be new and different. Studio Engineers will be there to work with you, and if you take a few notes you should be good to go on your own in a few productions.

I produce a good amount of video that I then use for my show. If I am editing, or shooting footage to be use in my studio production, do I have to produce that in a certain way?


The way that you prepare video or photos for use in Studio B will be somewhat different than you have used in the past. For the most up to date information please see your Training & Volunteer Services Representative or speak to one of the Technical Staff, if they don’t know the answer, they will try to get one for you.

I regularly use video segments in the studio for my production how will I get that to happen?


The way that you prepare video or photos for use in Studio B will be somewhat different than you have used in the past. For the most up to date information please see your Training & Volunteer Services Representative or speak to one of the Technical Staff, if they don’t know the answer, they will try to get one for you.

I regularly use still images in the studio for my production how will I get that to happen?


The way that you prepare video or photos for use in Studio B will be somewhat different than you have used in the past. In the current Studio B configuration, there is no dedicated Image Still Store. You may use the Studio B character generator, or use the Studio B Synergy Vision Switcher for still image playback. If you have further questions, please see your Training & Volunteer Services Representative or speak to one of the Technical Staff, they can show you the options, and how each may work best for your production.

If we are not broadcasting in High definition now can you tell me what the Schedule for Master Control Conversion is?


There is no specific schedule for the HD conversion in Master Control. Indeed until MCM can transmit in HD, there is no immediate necessity to be able to do so. However, we do anticipate eventually working in, and transmitting HD from MCMs Master Control Facility.

Although this is a much slower process, and much needs to be worked out, the likely submission format for HD will be in Blu-Ray, an optical disc format similar to DVD. We hope to be able to begin accepting Blu-Ray Discs sometime in the next few months.


Is there anything I can do to prepare myself for the HD transition?


Most studio operations will be the same for High Definition as they are in Standard Definition. However, High Definition is produced and presented in an image format that is slightly wider than you may be used to. If you have access to a high definition television, you may want to view a few channels or programs that are similar to productions you work on in Studio B, to see how those crews framed and positioned their shots.

Will I have to learn a new switcher?


No. If you have been trained on the Studio B switcher, or if you are currently working in Studio B as a Technical Director, then you already have the skills to switch in HD. The Studio B switcher is classified as Multi-Definition Equipment. This means that although it can only work in one format at a time, it can be set to work in several different types of video formats. So for operators, the Switcher and all of the normal switching operations will stay the same.

I am pretty familiar with Tape-to-Tape Editing and I often do small fixes on my show in the Linear Edit Suite. Will I be able to use the new file recorders in the Linear Edit Suite in the same way that I use video tape there now.


No. Although the new studio recorders appear very similar to VTRs, and they do work in the same manner in many instances, internally, they are really very different machines. It is possible that an editing version of the Hyperdeck recorder will eventually be developed, but currently the units do not have editing capability.

My crew and I have gotten pretty good at doing a strait, live to tape show. When we leave the studio at the end of the evening, I just drop off my finished tapes for airing. In the new Studio B, will I be able to leave the Studio with a completed production and drop it off for airing in the same way that I do now?


In most cases no. Currently Studio Producers are used to completing their show on the night of production and dropping their competed show tape in the Training Department. However the process to complete a studio production in an HD file based format will be closer to the one used to complete a production using High Definition field equipment. For most productions, it will not be practical to “print” to a final production during the studio recording session. Studio productions will require a post-production session, possibly a very short one. Producers should time their production schedule to allow a few days space between a production date and program submission date.

I understand that the way you record in the studio will change, and that it is different than working with DVCPro Video Tape. Can you tell me what will change?


Exact written procedures are still being worked out and will be provided later. But the process is very similar to current field production techniques. If you have been involved with field production in the last 18 months or so, then you are already well familiar with what is required. The basic digital recording operation will be much simpler than you are used to. None of this work is very hard, but for a while it will be new and different. Studio Engineers will be there to work with you, and if you take a few notes you should be good to go on your own in a few productions.

Should I buy an SSD Drive now?


At this time MCM does NOT Recommend that users purchase any Solid State Drives (SSD). Currently, the cost of SSD drives, certified for use in the new studio recorders, are still very expensive. Typically, for this kind of digital media, over time costs will fall to a much more affordable level.

MCM hopes to see a lower cost for certified drives in about 18 to 24 months. Until that happens, MCM will provide temporary recordable media for studio uses. Users will be able to use the Studio Media during their scheduled production. At the completion of the shoot, producers and tape operators will need to transfer the show recording from the studio media to an external hard-drive, either one from the Facilities office, or the Producers’ personal drive.

The Studio Media will then be erased and reused for the next production.


Since I will be creating my programs as a computer/video file can I submit my program as a File?


At this time no. MCM does not have the necessary computer storage infrastructure to house or care for the quantity of computer files necessary to allow file submission, and the cost of digital storage is still too expensive for MCM to add that capacity any time soon.

However, we do expect to allow High Definition Submissions on Blu-Ray Disc in the near future. Currently those discs are not too expensive and should work in our Master Control System soon.


When can I submit Blu-Ray Discs?


Hopefully soon. MCM’s master control, Facilities and Engineering personnel are currently evaluating BluRay and hope to be able to approve its use soon.

I am a producer and I mostly work in studio B. I have been giving my guests a copy of our production on DVD, so that they can view the production at home. Will I still be able to record on DVD or on Blu-Ray directly in the studios?


No. Although MCM Technical Staff tried to match or better the current user experience as much as possible, until very recently there were no stand alone Blu-Ray recorders available for either home or professional use. The ones that have just come onto the market are still too expensive. Technical Services will continue to search for more affordable options, but it will be some time before that type of recording is available in the Studios.

What about Program Opens?


MCM will provide a separate Studio Media Drive for program opens as well as PSAs. These will be shared units, so ALL Program Opens and all PSAs will live on these drives. Eventually, as drive prices drop over the next several years, producers will be required to provide their own.

What about Bumps & PSAs?


MCM will provide a separate Studio Media Drive for Bumps and PSAs, as well as Program Opens. These will be shared units, so ALL Program Opens and ALL PSAs will live on these drives. Eventually, as drive prices drop over the next several years, producers will be required to provide their own.

I‘ve been using the same show open for many years, it is kind of a signature for my show. If the Studio is moving to HD will I have to redo that?


Your question is somewhat complex and should probably be discussed with your Training & Volunteer Services Representative.

On a basic level, Studio B will only function in a High Definition format. If you want to use or bring in any outside image content, it will need to be formatted to work and playback in that HD format. So if you want to do as complete a program using Studio B as possible, then you will need to provide properly formatted Opens/Closes/Roll-Ins/ & PSAs. And that includes an HD formatted Open.

Standard Definition video can be converted to work in a High Definition environment, but the results are often disappointing. For most producers, this is probably the time to consider updating your show open, and any other video content, like PSAs.

For further information please see your Training & Volunteer Services Representative, or one of the technical staff members.


I understand that we are using a new Character Generator for Studio B. Can you tell me what that is?


Yes, we do have a new Character Generator (CG). The move to HD requires new equipment in many areas, and Character Generation is one of those. MCM took this opportunity to look at available systems and decided to move from the Inscriber system to a new line of CGs from Ross Video, the maker of our Studio Production Switchers. The new CG is called Expression, and it is much more than just a Character Generator. Expression has been designed as a very powerful, real-time, 3D Graphics Engine.

What is the largest change I can expect?


For most of the tasks related to production in Studio B there is no change. You are working with a wider image size, so framing will change a little, and in High Definition focus is critical. Those are important, but minor items that you will pick up very quickly through experience.

The largest change for working in HD is that productions will require an after production session to finalize the show, and “print” to a final release media. That media could be a DVD, miniDV tape, DVCPro tape, or a Blu-ray disc, the choice is up to the producer. That after production session will take more time than is available on show day, so producers will need to plan accordingly. This is the same process that field producers have been using for the last couple of years, so it is doable, but requires a little extra time and planning.


I am embarrassed to say, but my crew and I often “bust” one or more times during a show. We reset tapes and move on; mostly it’s not a problem. Will we still be able have a complete show at the end of our scheduled production is Studio B?


Unfortunately not in the way you describe. Although working in a computer file based environment has many benefits, one of the downsides is that you lose that video-tape like ability to do instant in-studio edits.

In the computer file recording world, you create a file, then append, append, append, more files to the end. In the case where a production has had to bust one or more times, those production segments would need to be deal with during the after production “printing” session. Because you are dealing with true digital media, repairing a bust should be a simple fix.

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