Case Study – ITV’s Production Facility
ITV Production Facility’s Move to Mediacity
“We didn’t skip a beat during the transition and we can now look forward to working in a much more collaborative and efficient environment.”
If moving house is supposed to be one of life’s most stressful events, imagine the enormity of ITV’s move from Manchester’s Quay Street, home to some of UK broadcasting’s most iconic productions, to its new premises in Orange Tower, MediaCityUK.
The coordination required to move the production staff and infrastructure over a five month period while maintaining the facility’s 15+ hours of programming every week was extensive.
The fourth floor at the new home in Orange Tower was initially almost a clean sheet. The Central Apparatus Room (CAR,) serving the facility demanded a reinforced floor to support more than 60 bays of equipment, and its location was therefore determined between the building cores. Apart from that limitation, the broadcaster was free to draw up its wish list. ITV Technical Manager Taig McNab takes up the story.
“Given the physical constraints of the Quay Street building (it was a sprawling site where the production facility had organically expanded to cover every corner of the building across multiple floors,) we struggled at times to make best use of the space. We were determined to create a flexible and collaborative environment in our new home.”
Flexibility is Key
“Apart from specific task spaces, for dubbing and grading for example, we were keen to make the working areas task unspecific and flexible. In that way we wouldn’t tie up suites for particular jobs. We also wanted a mix of daylight and controlled lighting suites – colourists tend to prefer the latter – so we also ensured all the picture finishing and grading areas were consistent in colour and lighting to create calibrated environments. “
“We consulted with both operators and producers on suite layout, discovering that many producers prefer to work alongside editors rather than at the traditional producer desk. Consequently we had AKA design some furniture which admirably meets this requirement.”
ITV were handed the keys to the space on November 2012 with reseller and systems integrator root6 appointed to handle the installation. Importantly, this needed to be smoothly transitioned between the two working environments with the minimum of disruption.
Off Site Preperation
The first phase of the job took place in root6’s North London workshops where the individual bays (39 in all) were fitted with Mains Distribution Units and wired for power. The complex wiring for the Blackmagic 288 x 288 router and the majority of the internal CAR cabling was also pre-prepped off site. Bays were then either shipped to Orange Tower or held in temporary storage at Quay Street to fit the installation schedule. Once on site, root6 dealt with the run-outs from the CAR, dressing them into the relevant bays and installing the equipment as it arrived from Quay Street, “A lift and shift” operation as McNab describes it. Where possible, audio was embedded over HDSDI with all edit suites more than 100m from the CAR connected by fibre. The staff moved into the new facility a production team at a time, and the first edit was completed on January 6th 2013.
“It was a logistical challenge,” McNab understates. “An all-new infrastructure including a workflow overhaul, was up and running in just two months with Christmas in between.”
ITV’s key consideration was the flexibility of its spaces and root6 provided the solution in the form of Amulet KVM, a technology it had successfully employed in a number of other installations. The deployment of Amulet throughout the production facility – there are more than 80 locations in all – enable operational spaces throughout the facility to access multiple systems in the CAR, eliminating the need for additional hardware in the suite, saving space and greatly improving flexibility. At the click of a mouse, users can switch between say, Media Composer and Pro Tools, transforming an edit room into a track laying suite.
“We looked at a number of KVM solutions,” said McNab.”However, when root6 introduced us to Amulet we were very impressed with its responsiveness – there’s no noticeable lag at all. In fact we’re using the system in Quay Street where some remaining kit is connected to the CAR in Orange Tower over a private network.”
In addition to the CAR, root6 supplied the technical infrastructure to support 13 craft edit suites, 6 finishing suites, a grading room, 4-8 graphics workstations, 3 dubbing theatres and 2 voice-over booths, together with 12 media management workstations and a number of flexible operational areas around ITV’s flagship production facility.
“It’s been quite an experience,” concludes McNab.”Importantly, we didn’t skip a beat during the transition and we can now look forward to working in a much more collaborative and efficient environment.”