CNN, in a move that will expand the amount of programming it
produces in native high-definition, has lit up a new 5,000-square-foot HD
studio in Atlanta.
The Atlanta facility is the last of CNN's major production
hubs to transition to HD. CNN upgraded its New York studio to HD in 2007, when it launched its CNN HD
simulcast feed, and since then has upgraded its Washington, D.C., and Los
Angeles studios, noted Bob Hesskamp, senior vice president of the CNN Broadcast
Engineering and Systems Technology group.
The opening of studio 7A in Atlanta will allow the news
service to produce a number of additional shows in HD, including CNN Newsroom, CNN Saturday Morning, CNN
Sunday Morning, Sanjay Gupta M.D.
and Rick's List. These join the primetime
shows and content already produced in HD from New York, Washington and Los
The new studio features an anchor desk that rotates 270
degrees to allow a wide variety of angles and shots; LED lighting on floors and
walls that makes it possible to change the look of the studio for each show; a
large weather center that features a "magic wall" displaying much-improved
graphics and imagery; more than 45 miles of copper and fiber-optic cable buried
in the floors, walls and ceiling; and more than 50 HD monitors, including three
One of the 103-inch monitors has a touch screen that allows
anchors to call up a wide variety of graphics and images. Another 103-inch
monitor can track back and forth along the overhead track, depending on the
shot location, providing producers and anchors with more flexibility in the way
they cover a story during a newscast.
Construction work on the studio began last summer; broadcast
integration began in late 2009. Work on upgrading the control room to HD was
completed in late 2009 and the studio went live May 3.
During the studio upgrades, CNN has been deploying a number
of technologies, including fiber transport, Internet-protocol video delivery
and file-based workflow that will be important for both the quality and
efficiency of its HD news operations, according to CNN.
Matthew Holcombe, vice president of network support at the
CNN Broadcast Engineering and Systems Technology group, noted that the new
studio is on the 7th floor, making it difficult to run bandwidth-intensive HD
signals down to their main gear room on the 5th floor via copper.
"Because of the distance, we decided to almost exclusively
use fiber between the gear room and the studio," he said.
CNN's engineers also decided to use IPTV transport
throughout the studio.
"In the past we used a lot of RF technology - in-house cable
TV-type stuff - but in this studio we've taken advantage of the large IPTV
investment that the company has made and we're only used HD SDI or IPTV,"
The IPTV system makes it easier to access and feed content
to a variety of platforms and "to add feeds around the facility so that everyone
at CNN can see all the incomings, the control room outputs and whatever resides
on the system," Holcombe said.
The Atlanta facility is also in the process of installing a
major new file based system for handling HD content.
"We already have a smaller systems on air in New York and
Washington that allows us to record and re-edit and play back HD video, and we
are in the process of testing [a much larger system] in Atlanta that we will
deploying this summer," Hesskamp explained. "We have to serve multiple
platforms and multiple networks in all formats and the new completely
integrated file-based system we're deploying in Atlanta will really help us do
While the new Atlanta studio marks an important milestone in
the network's move to an all-HD infrastructure, "there are still some pockets
throughout" that are being upgraded to HD for CNN domestic infrastructure, according
"We still have some backup control rooms and other control
rooms to turn to HD," said Hesskamp, as well as "some infrastructure buildout
to do in Washington."
They also in the process of upgrading the "digital record
and edit system so we can provide all our video in HD," Hesskamp said.
Next on the HD roadmap is HLN. Its master control room
has already been upgraded to HD and "in the next couple of months, we will
upgrade one of their control rooms fully to HD," Hesskamp noted. "At that point,
we will have all the daytime programming that is produced in Atlanta in HD."