Article Overview

Single Snowflakes on Camera

ARD/ZDF HD Control Room with mc²66

A man is enjoying his coffee in a picturesque winter setting in front of a ski lodge. Suddenly, he is showered with snow and falls back, startled. A ski jumper is using the roof of the lodge for another leap into the deep snow! This is a completely normal commercial from German public broadcaster ZDF, who use its coverage of the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler as an underlying theme. Some details, such as individual snowflakes, and the mantle of snow covering the lodge, which stands out in sharp contrast to a bright white escarpment, will, however, only be seen by viewers with HD TV sets.

ZDF reports from Winter Games with new HD Control Room

The commercial is produced in HD and promotes ZDF’s HD channel, available since February 12, the start of the Winter Games. A new control room provides a simulcast output in SD and HD; the HD output always carries 5.1 surround audio. The ZDF control room can accept up to six 5.1 program feeds, and provides up to two 5.1 outputs (for transmission and recording). At this point Lawo comes into play – Lawo consoles with 5.1 technology are ideally suited for this application.

New HD control room with Lawo technology

ZDF’s new control room features a Lawo mc²66 with 48 faders (24/8/16) and 192 DSP channels; the associated router has a capacity of 8000 x 8000 crosspoints. An additional DSP card provides a monitor delay for lip-sync audio, enabling delay times of up to 10 seconds to be introduced. Additionally, the international sound (IS) can be isolated from the multi-channel audio and reinserted into the data stream – for instance, in the case of mixed audio channels that don’t comply with the international standard. These signals are mixed by the ‘Mobile Production Unit’ (MPE) on a mc²90 and a mc²56 in Vancouver and Whistler respectively. From there, they are fed to the broadcast output via the HD control room.

“The broadcast of the Olympic Winter Games from Vancouver requires a control room area where we can process all the different audio and video formats,” says Karsten Hammer from ZDF’s control room operations crew. These signals are partly available in HD format, and some in the traditional SD format. This requires up-, cross-, and down-conversion, and the creation of all the required audio formats. Dolby 5.1, stereo sound, and IS all have to be sorted out – all under live conditions. “ZDF are in ‘double-track’ mode here; we have to simultaneously control two different broadcast outputs. This is a special challenge!” explains Karsten Hammer.


Hot Productions

The first ‘hot’ productions using ZDF’s own HD studio are scheduled to start in March 2010. From then on, all ZDF sports programming will be handled via the HD control room. Upcoming projects include the Germany-Argentina friendly football match on March 3, and broadcasts of the national winter sports from March 13 – 15, both in HD.

“The most efficient way to realise our workflow was to use Lawo technology. In addition to the joint development of various features, the mc²66 console’s flexible functionality, and its hardware and software configuration, allows for perfect coordination of the mixing console and the workflow,” says Wolfgang Wacker, ZDF’s project manager for TV technology engineering, when asked why they chose Lawo. “Flexibility, quality of design, reliability based on extensive redundancy, and excellent service, as well as the personal support provided by Lawo technicians should the need arise, are further advantages of working with Lawo”, concludes Wacker.