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The Nine Network in Australia recently undertook the complete build of a modern studio and headquarters at its new location in North Sydney. The studio’s Live Technology and Automation Specialist Stephen Willmott said, “We required a mixture of fibre-attached system cameras, set-up as a mix of robotic pedestals, traditional pedestals, jib and handhelds. We also needed comprehensive, multi-purpose pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) capable cameras for the smaller studios.  

“Overall we aimed to include SMPTE 2110 compatibility where possible, ease-of-use and a networked camera control system to allow access to multiple control rooms and control over the cameras. The cameras were also going to be used across five floors of a high-rise office block. We also looked for a potential path to 4K and very high picture quality.”

All-Sony Fleet

Many elements of the core installation are pieces of Sony camera gear that the network chose to buy. The Sony cameras’ quality, functionality and reliability were what impressed Stephen and the Nine engineering team the most. He said, “They also met our requirements in terms of native 2110, which is available when using the system cameras and the HDCU3100 CCU.

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“The Sony multicamera system has different control options including a traditional Multi-Camera Control Unit and RCPs, as well as a software MCU. The BRCX 1000 and BRCX 400, which are PTZ cameras, also integrate directly into our Vinten robotics control servers.”

By choosing to work with an all-Sony fleet, Nine’s operators are able to control any camera in the facility, and match it with others to set up a multi-camera shoot.

Stephen said, “Their familiarity with the systems has given our team a head start. The further ability to remotely manage the HDCU base stations through a web interface now means they can make configuration changes relatively easily. Picture-wise, the images coming out of the range of Sony cameras has been consistent and of high quality – they haven’t missed a beat.”

Studios and Control Rooms

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Nine use the Sony equipment across all of their studio programs, starting with six hours of live morning television to sports hosting and panel shows, and their news programmes at night.

A typical environment in Nine’s new HQ consists of a studio with a mix of mainly Sony HDCU3100 or HDCU3500 system cameras, with a number of BRC cameras for additional angles. Their smaller studios use BRC cameras only, and have established a few ‘stand-up’ style positions using BRCX 1000s, where on-air talent can just walk up to a camera, put on a mic and start broadcasting.

“These studios can be accessed in any of our control rooms,” said Stephen. “When we’re on a manual production, the cameras are controlled from a central technical position in the operations centre. For automated productions, control is passed to the co-pilot automation operator in that control room, where they can be assisted by a TD if required.”

Before each production, cameras can be assigned to different control rooms to make sure the tally and returns are correct using Sony’s integration with Lawo VSM broadcast control and monitoring system, which has integration and control interfaces to all of the equipment.

Centralised Cameras

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“The cameras’ ease of use and picture quality stand out for us. The consistency of the picture across the range of products make productions more flexible and efficient. The Sony equipment also opens a complete range of cameras from various types of fibre studio camera systems to box cameras, to PTZ style all-in-one. All of these operate in a coherent control system,” Stephen said.

“The Sony equipment has given us the flexibility to move cameras around the facility, from show to show. In effect, this continuously expands our camera inventory while maintaining familiar functionality. Since launching the facility, we have commissioned another studio with five more of the cameras to service our expanding sports commitments, a commentary booth with a BRCX 1000 and a temporary guest Covid isolation studio.

The Sony cameras are central to all of this infrastructure and give them options to create and broadcast varied types of production quickly and efficiently. With the cameras, Nine deploys about 90 Sony LMD series monitors throughout the facility. These are LCD monitors with full-HD resolution, used for reference, editing and general review, and have been combined with a number of large display panels used for multiview applications.