Trickbox TV, a leading supplier of equipment and services for studio and location multi-camera productions for broadcast, video production, webcasting and live events, has announced that it has installed a second television studio at popular arts, crafts and hobbies channel, Hochanda TV. The first studio installed by Trickbox TV was completed when the channel launched in 2015.

The equipment supplied by Trickbox provides Hochanda TV with a fully integrated studio and control room including: Ross Video Carbonite vision mixer – expanding Hochanda TV’s existing Ross Video NK144x144 router; Ross Video openGear signal processing; Ross Video PIVOTCam remote cameras; Sennheiser mics and IEMs; and a Playbox playout system. The control room furniture supplied by MW Video was custom designed to suit Hochanda TV’s unique operations. The project also included an upgrade of the existing camera robotics (in studio 1) to Ross Video CamBot robotic camera systems.

Stuart Russell, Senior Communications Manager with Ross Video says, “We are delighted to work with Trickbox on this second project for Hochanda TV. Our range of Smart Production solutions – arguably the most comprehensive in the industry – makes it easy for broadcasters to create engaging and compelling content; the fact that Hochanda have chosen to work again with Ross and Trickbox is complimentary proof of the fact”.   

Liam Laminman, Managing Director, Trickbox TV commented, “The studio and control room provide Hochanda TV with the requisite architecture they need in the fast-paced environment that comes with live TV production. Plus, there was no interruption in service; we enabled the channel to stay on air throughout the installation.”

This article first appeared in the December edition of Broadcast Film & Video’s publication.

TV studios come in all shapes and sizes and each have different facilities and purposes. Whether that’s a large LE (light entertainment) studio – like the type of studio used for the game shows and chat shows you watch at the weekend – or news studios or breakfast TV studios. But then there’s a new wave of TV studio popping up – the ‘in-house studio’. Whether it’s the shortage of available studios to hire, or perhaps the reluctance of companies wanting to continue to keep hiring studios (or perhaps a combination of both), companies are wizening to building their own in-house studios. The benefits are clear – accessibility, availability, flexibility. And if the finances are fully considered, it can ultimately be a more cost effective solution – in the long run.

As a system integrator, providing studio design and installation services, we’ve certainly noticed an increase in clients expressing an interest in designing and building their own TV studio. The types of clients range from production companies, to corporates, to PR firms, to communications agencies. It’s not just traditional broadcasters who need their own TV studio these days. I’m using the term ‘TV studio’ to cover all things video (and audio) related – from traditional broadcast, to webcasting, to IPTV. The distinction between the ‘use’ of the studio is of course important in terms of the output requirements and the operational design of the facility. And of course, the budgets will be different. As will the individual equipment you specify. The equipment and facilities you specify for a large LE studio will no doubt differ to a small corporate studio who produce online videos. But at the core of any studio facility, there will always be the fundamental ‘system’ of equipment, such as routers – video, audio, talkback, network – signal processing, monitoring and so on. And the process of getting from the client brief, to the day you hand over their new studio is also the same. The key stages are always the same – design, installation, commission and handover.

If you look at a video schematic or workflow drawing for any multi-camera studio facility, the signal flow of the key equipment (the ‘TX chain’) will always be more or less the same. We start with the ‘sources’, such as cameras, video playback devices, graphics machines; they feed into a video router, which feeds a vision mixer, which feeds back into the video router before it’s outputted to it’s final destination – an encoder, a recorder, an outgoing circuit etc. The signal processing, digital glue and monitoring, in and around that signal chain is likely to scale up or down depending on the individual studio facilities’ requirements. You may want to include DAs for certain devices and signals, there’s the supplementary infrastructure and processing equipment like timecode generators, sync pule generators etc. And then you need to consider the audio integration.

Advances in IP broadcast is of course changing how studios are designed. The above signal workflow is based on a traditional copper (or fibre) installation. With an IP model, the bit in the middle – the routers and the mixers – becomes streamlined. The start and end points will likely always stay the same. We’ll always have cameras and we’ll always have monitors and devices to ‘transmit’ signals to somewhere. But how they get from one to the other is changing and will continue to change.

So, what do you do if you want to design and build your own TV studio? The decision whether to go ‘IP’ or not, is obviously important, but that aside, your focus should be on designing a facility that’s resilient, redundant and as flexible as possible. Your current requirements will no doubt change as time progresses. You might only want a studio to produce simple training videos, or just for that one chat show that you got commissioned, but design your studio with greater aspirations than that. Think flexible. Think big.

And of course, if you need any help, or you want to outsource the whole studio project, get in touch to see how Trickbox TV can help.

This article originally featured in Broadcast Film and Video’s November edition.

So, you’re building your own studio? That’s great! But where do you start? Establishing what the requirements are and what content you’re trying to produce should be the first port of call to inform you of what type of equipment you need.

Everyone gets hung up on the glamorous parts of studios, like the cameras and the vision mixer, but behind every great studio facility is a strong and solid infrastructure that’s both resilient and flexible. Once you strip back all the operational tools that everyone sees in a studio facility such as the cameras, the lighting, microphones and so on, there’s some key components that everything is based on. These include video and audio routers, intercom systems and all the signal processing glue connecting everything together.

The cost of video and audio routers has reduced dramatically over the last few years, making it more affordable to design and build really flexible facilities. Ross Video’s NK Series routers are cost effective yet still quite powerful and the range starts from 16×4 up to 144×144. Their mid-size and large routers are modular card based systems. So if you know (or think) you might upgrade your facility in the future and increase its capacity, you can just add more IO. Ross Video’s new Ultrix router range builds on this and offers even greater flexibility with its capability of various and simultaneous different formats (including Ultra HD 12Gb/s) plus lots of great features like software multi-viewers and advanced audio processing. In simple terms, a large and flexible router is a good starting point for any studio facility.
Something that a lot of people forget about is all the signal processing and glue that holds a facility together. Of course I don’t mean glue in the ‘adhesive substance’ sense, I’m using it fondly to denote the equipment that connects and links everything together – like DAs, embedders, de-embedders, synchronisers, up-converters and down-converters. These types of equipment are the forgotten heroes of any facility – you don’t always know they’re there, but when you need them, you’re thankful! This sort of signal processing equipment can start at relatively low costs, with manufacturers like Blackmagic Design. Obviously the more money you spend, the more features you gain. Frame based systems, which accept various cards are a good option. Through IP control, all signal processing for your entire facility can be managed from a central console, and indeed remotely if required. This can be essential in a fast moving 24 hour facility.

A lot of care and attention should be placed on the equipment specification so that the facility can expand and evolve. Day 1 of a project doesn’t hang around for very long. New requirements will inevitably come and you don’t want to have to start from scratch or have to ‘undo’ any work that you’ve already done. So, thinking ahead and specifying equipment that can do more than the initial requirements and that are built around an adaptable workflow will be really useful. More IO where possible is never a bad thing, so where possible, always assume that you might need more inputs and outputs at some point! That low cost 16×16 video router might have enough IO initially, but if it’s fully populated on day 1, any cost saving will be undone (both in time and money) if you have to replace it for a larger one in the future. Due to the 24/7/365 nature of some facilities and crew shift patterns, the operation needs to be uncomplicated, plus all the equipment needs to be resilient with specific redundancy measures put in place. Good solid control room furniture from the likes of MW Video is a must. It may seem like a luxury to pay for a custom built control room desk but you’ll be thankful for it in several years time. They’re built to last and to take all the rigors of a television facility environment. Remember that that Ikea desk you had your eye on might have cost less, but it would never compare with something built for purpose.

Once you’ve got some of these key areas sorted, you’ll have a solid backbone to work from. Then it’s just a case of specifying all those lovely cameras!

Trickbox TV has designed and installed two brand new studios for Hochanda TV, a new Peterborough-based 24-hour arts and crafts channel.

The channel boasts 365 day transmission to Sky, Freeview and Freesat, broadcasting live for 12 hours each day.

Within an eight week time frame, Trickbox TV worked with the Hochanda team from planning and design through to build, commissioning and launch. 

The studios house three Panasonic remote cameras and an operated Panasonic camera, while the gallery features a significant amount of Ross equipment including a Carbonite vision mixer, 144×144 video router and openGear signal processing and glue cards. The supplementary kit provided included a main and redundant playout server, several ingest channels and a network attached video storage server for post-production, as well as Trilogy intercomms equipment. 

David Taaffe, Head of Television at Hochanda TV said, “We were really impressed with the efficient installation of the new studio facility in such a short time frame and Trickbox TV’s ability to respond to last minute changes.”

Watch Hochanda TV here:

Ever dreamt about having your own in-house studio? Well, it might not be such a far-fetched idea…

No longer are television studios reserved for broadcasters and news organisations. For production companies, having the ability to produce your own programmes in-house is an attractive option. Not only are there cost savings but it also aids workflow and the ‘convenience factor’ is undeniable.

So how do you go about getting hold of your own in-house studio? Well, let’s look at space first. Are you lucky enough to have a vacant area in your premises? At Trickbox, we’ve converted meeting rooms, offices and basements into studios, even large corridors! You might not want to lose that meeting room but, remember, if you turn it into a studio you can monetise that space.

Of course, then there are the costs involved with building a studio. It’s all very well assuming you can save money by doing everything in-house, but is it more cost effective? I mean, who wouldn’t want their own studio?! But let’s be realistic – there will be a fairly large upfront cost. Even if you finance all the equipment – which we’ll come back to later – there’s still going to be the cost of the build and the infrastructure. Plus, all the M&E (mechanical and electrical) services, such as aircon and power need to be considered. However, those costs can be recouped if your need for a studio is great enough.

An indicative example of an average cost of hiring a crewed multi-camera studio in London can be anything from £3,000 to £10,000 + VAT. Let’s say you’re hiring a studio once a week, every week for £5,000, that’s £240,000 over a year. And that’s just one year…

So what about all that expensive equipment you’re going to need to kit out your new studio? The last ten years have seen the cost of broadcasting and webcasting equipment reduce dramatically, despite the paradox of technology advancing. As well as costing less, video equipment is now more compact and can offer more features than before. Vision mixers – often the heart of any studio – are a lot more affordable these days.

One of the big areas where you might have to spend is on your cameras. The size of the studio and what you’re planning on using it for will dictate how many you need, and also what type. Will you want remote control cameras or traditional studio cameras? Do you need your studio cameras to double up as location ENG cameras when they’re not being used?

Over recent years the cost of broadcast cameras has reduced or, to be more accurate, a wider range of lower-spec broadcast cameras have hit the market and they come with attractive price tags. Cameras such as the Sony HDC-1500 and its newer replacement, the HDC-2500 are a mainstay of the broadcast studio industry. In the studio and OB world, these fibre-based cameras come as full camera channels including CCUs and RCPs. But at £75,000 for a complete channel, that’s not going to fit in everyone’s budget.

Recent years has also seen a rash of lower-spec, more-compact studio cameras come onto the market. Manufacturers like Panasonic and JVC make some cost effective studio camera channel solutions. Even Sony make a range of studio camera systems –aimed at smaller production companies, corporate firms and the events and AV market. These camera systems are perfect if you’re thinking about an in-house studio. They’re still broadcast quality, but they don’t have as many features as their more expensive counterparts. If you’re building a small in-house studio then you probably don’t need a camera system that runs on fibre cable (which can run for miles). You probably also don’t need to shoot slo-mo or at 50 frames progressive!

So how are you going to pay for it? If you’re lucky enough to have some spare cash under your pillow, then great! But if not, leasing and financing could the way forward. That may sound a bit scary, but it’s really no difference to taking out a mortgage –no one usually buys their house outright! The only difference is that a mortgage is usually spread over a long repayment period. When you finance equipment, specifically broadcast equipment, it’s usually over a relatively short period of time, often three years.

It’s also worth noting that any broadcast equipment you finance is eligible as part of your annual investment allowance (AIA).

So it looks like that in-house studio dream could be a reality. Contact Trickbox TV to see how we can help build your TV studio.