Article Overview

Broadcasting better than visible

Studio at MDR

Following a restructuring of the "ARD-Mittagsmagazin", Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk MDR has been responsible for the program's extended program on a weekly basis with ZDF since the beginning of the year. The new Studio 1 went into operation on May 27, 2024. The television broadcasting operations of Norddeutscher Rundfunk and Radio Bremen were relocated to MDR in Leipzig at the end of April 2024. We took a look around there.

As part of the ARD public broadcaster network, Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk MDR broadcasts its programs on television, radio and the internet in the federal states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The MDR building complex is located in the south of Leipzig, is connected to the city center by S-Bahn and can therefore be reached in a short time from the main train station. Two important infrastructure projects have been completed there in recent months.

MDR Studios


For the production of the "ARD-Mittagsmagazin", for which MDR has been responsible in weekly rotation with ZDF since the beginning of the year, the new Studio 1 was built and equipped with state-of-the-art technology. In addition, as part of an ARD-wide restructuring, a new broadcasting center was set up to take over the related tasks of NDR and Radio Bremen.

New Studio 1

The new Studio 1 for the "ARD-Mittagsmagazin" went on air for the first time on May 27, 2024 with presenters Tino Böttcher and Mariama Jamanka. The space for the presenter duo is located on a dark gray platform with different levels and white LED light strips behind transparent plastic strips. A table in the middle, two side tables and a dark gray stool complete the set. The back panels consist of light blue illuminated surfaces with transparent plastic elements in front of them. An all-round panel contains white LEDs that shine towards the floor and thus also visually highlight the edges of the plastic elements.


"In a record time of just ten months, a functional, ultra-modern and visually outstanding studio was designed and built that can be used for multiple purposes - with a defined budget and at the same time extremely high quality. This effort was only possible thanks to the perfect collaboration between the set design (Rico Chiari), screen design (Alpenblick), MCA and MDR teams," explains an MDR spokesperson.

Despite the tight time frame, the costs remained within the originally planned budget of around two million euros for studio construction and design. The LED walls accounted for around 820,000 euros of this. According to MDR, initial plans for further utilization of the studio are already underway.



The four permanently installed LED video walls in the "ARD-Mittagsmagazin" studio frame the studio and are therefore an important design element. They each consist of 3.66 x 2.06 meter LED walls with a surface area of 7.53 square meters, which are made up of 6 × 6 AX1.2Pro cabinets from the manufacturer Absen. The resolution per element is 1,620 × 2,880 pixels, the pixel pitch 1.27 millimeters. The maximum brightness of the LED walls is 1,700 cd/m², as Robert Ackermann, Head of Studio/Directional Production from MDR's Media Production Department, explains. Redundant Brompton Tessera SX40 and Brompton XD10G are used as LED controllers. In addition, three Sony FW-85BZ40L 85-inch monitors mounted on edge can be moved and positioned anywhere in the room.

MDR Studios


Studio 1 has four Sony HDC-3500 system cameras, each with three 2/3" 4K CMOS sensors for fiber optic operation. Each camera has a Sony viewfinder, a teleprompter and a program monitor mounted underneath. The cameras are mounted on Vinten pump stands and are each connected to a Sony HDCU-3100 HD Camera Control Unit. A Sony BRC-X1000 PTZ camera is also used. The lighting in Studio 1 consists of 87 ARRI Studio 2000 stepped-lens spotlights, which have been converted to LED operation using Coemar Relite kits. The entire ambience, including the lighting, literally invites poetry: "The interior of the new studio, including the LED artificial lighting with 3,700 degrees Kelvin, resembles a summer's day in the midday sun."

Drawcard Mittagsmagazin

According to MDR, "the 'ARD-Mittagsmagazin' invites viewers to understand the world and also sees itself as a showcase for the regions - with in-depth information and key topics. We are live on location - with strong links to the realities of life. We explain the rapid social changes in the lives of our users and provide information on politics, society, services, culture, climate issues, the economy, sport and the weather." In the new Studio 1, all introductions to reports, conversations with guests and switches in the 110-minute live program can be presented in a new setting each time.


Contributions to the "ARD-Mittagsmagazin", or "MIMA" for short in internal jargon, are usually supplied by the state broadcasters. "The content of the lunchtime magazine is also made available to all other editorial departments via the Trimedial Newsdesk (TND) of the MDR main editorial department Information and Innovation. As a result, regular reports and contributions from MIMA are also broadcast as news on MDR AKTUELL on radio and television. In addition, interviews in MIMA with national political voices or experts are also taken up in the short news on the radio or the app," explains an MDR spokesperson.


The LED walls and monitors in the background did not show any artifacts in any of the studio cameras' settings for video recordings and photos, not even when slowly zooming in on the presenter. There was also no difference in quality or color between the LED video walls and monitors when using the same ones.

Joint broadcast processing

Since 2019, ARD has been pursuing the project of merging the television broadcasting operations of the nine state broadcasters into groups. This is part of a fundamental structural reform of ARD. The aim of the measures is to reduce costs. The North-East Broadcasting Operations (SAW) for MDR television started on March 28, 2023 in Leipzig. Four weeks later, the broadcasting operations of Norddeutscher Rundfunk and Radio Bremen were relocated to MDR in Leipzig, explains Stefan Schilk, Head of the Material and Broadcasting Center department in MDR's Media Production department.


MDR Studios

"A 2-zone concept is used, whereby all components are redundant and can be switched seamlessly between the zones. This scenario is used in the event of a service or emergency. The signal switching between the two zones is implemented using Grass Valley IQHC0103-2B3 changeover switches," says the head of department. "We use MirconN-UHD frames from Riedel as routers. These are controlled via hi! from Broadcast Solution. The core of the broadcast processing is the automation system from PixelPower, which belongs to Rohde & Schwarz. The system consists of the actual automation server 'Gallium' and the playout servers connected to it, the so-called 'StreamMasters'."


Eight StreamMasters are available per zone: four for NDR with the regional programs Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, one for Radio Bremen and three for MDR with the regional programs Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Broadcasting is handled from four workstations. There is one operator workstation per station and an additional workstation for the supervisor. The various signals can be accessed from all workstations.

"The StreamMasters work like a channel-in-box solution: all graphic insertions such as fonts and station logos, audio routings and the actual playbacks are carried out internally in the StreamMaster," explains Stefan Schilk. Live axes from NDR are provided via HYBNET lines. HYBNET (hybrid broadband network) is the name given to ARD's internal fiber optic cable network that connects the various locations. Pre-produced material or archive material is transmitted from Hamburg to Leipzig via the media file transfer. In addition to the video content, the broadcast schedules are transmitted from the broadcast planning systems located in the broadcasting centers.


"This reform provides for a division of labor and the merging of competencies in order to reduce costs. In order to achieve synergy effects, we are bundling the technical part of broadcasting with our new joint broadcast processing at the Leipzig site. The individual program elements for the linear television programs of NDR, Radio Bremen and MDR will be efficiently compiled for all distribution channels," explains MDR Operations Director Dr. Ulrich Liebenow.

In addition to the structural measures, the ARD directors have decided to set up an "ARD Tech Unit". "With the central "Tech Unit", ARD will become more strategic, efficient and faster in the production area. By setting up this unit, ARD is taking up a suggestion made by the Future Council and consistently pursuing the path towards more cooperation and division of labor," explained ARD Chairman Kai Gniffke.

The "ARD Tech-Unit" apparently does not yet have any concrete plans regarding the picture and sound quality to be broadcast in the future, but there is a need for action here. The current picture quality issued by the MDR's Northeast Broadcast Processing department in Leipzig is 1080i/25 for DVB-S and 1080p for DVB-T2. If the content of the program allows it, stereo sound or 5.1 surround sound is output together with the picture signal. Nevertheless, this higher-resolution picture signal is down-converted and broadcast in the ARD Play-Out Center into the more than 14-year-old and now technically obsolete "HD-ready" (720p) picture signal.

MDR Studios

The new Studio 1 of Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, which has so far only been used for the "ARD-Mittagsmagazin", could be technically on a par with the news studio at RTL in Cologne, for example. The only prerequisite for this would be that the Sony HDC-3500 cameras in Leipzig, which are already 4K-capable, are equipped with UHD lenses.

For the planners of the new news studio for "tagesschau" and "tagesthemen", which are based at NDR in Hamburg as "ARD aktuell", a visit to MDR in the new Studio 1 is also recommended, not least because NDR's broadcasting operations have also found a new home in Leipzig.