UPCtv, based in Amsterdam, is the television channel creation, marketing and distribution arm of one of the most innovative broadband communications companies in Europe, United Pan-Europe Communications (UPC). The channels are delivered from the state-of-the-art UPC Digital Media Centre television broadcast facility in Amsterdam, for analogue or digital retransmission. These services are available from the Telstar 12 satellite, providing total pan-European coverage. The UPC Digital Media Centre provides a totally ‘server-based solution’ – with no ‘tape-to-air’ – ensuring consistent delivery of optimum quality signals. This project was designed in conjunction with the Janson Design Group.
The project site – located in an industrial part of southern Amsterdam – offers full digital editing, broadcasting and storage functionality. The digital media wing consists of a variety of audio and media rooms. The main attraction are the two full audio studios capable to handle multichannel/multilanguage live transmissions, each with a dedicated recording/voice over suite. This complex is complemented by eight surround sound edit studios (most often used for multi-language editing, sub titling and other tasks) and two high-end meeting/presentation rooms equipped with multichannel sound systems and high-end video replay. Comes to that the implementation of a Network Operations Center with a large format video wall and high speech intelligibility standards. The facility is approximately 60,000 sq ft. (6,000 s.m.) and broadcasts 20 channels in 9 languages across western Europe.
The acoustical specifications that were to be met for the project are significant, both in terms of sound isolation values and room acoustical properties. High numbers of loud rooms are located close to each other – which calls for custom solutions regarding doors, windows, walls and other partition systems. All rooms are equipped for full 5.1 surround sound editing and broadcasting. Common recording studio standards were used throughout the rooms.
The UPCtv facility is very sophisticated. Tapes are only used for interfacing to the outside world – internally, not a single tape based format is used, only digital data streams within a server based media storage and management environment. The audio systems include ProTools for most editing tasks, a SoundTracs DPC-II digital mixing console for live transmissions and Genelec audio monitoring for all rooms. All audio signals are routed throughout the facility in a customized AES/EBU data format that uses certain flags for language marking and transports 16 channels of audio. A StorageTek archive offers 4700 terabytes of storage (65,000 hours of programming) – playout is handled by a SeaChange Broadcast Server System with 360 hours of storage @ 25 Mbps. The facility is equipped with a fibre optic distribution network and directly accesses satellite distribution networks by its roof-mounted satellite dish farm. Services include 24/7 network monitor and control, video compression, multiplexing and encryption services, cable Head-End distribution and Direct-to-Home distribution.