Axon enables SABC’s High Definition coverage

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One of SABC’s current OB vehicles that now feeds content to the broadcaster

The South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) has become the first broadcaster in Africa to integrate Axon Digital Design’s versatile Cerebrum control and monitoring software platform with Utah Scientific’s powerful router technology.

The equipment has been installed in SABC’s new High Definition mobile Master Control Room (MCR), part of the broadcaster’s Johannesburg-based High Technology Operations Centre (HTOC). Built by local coachbuilder New Installation Company (NIC) with design support from Systems Integrator and Axon distributor Inala Broadcast, the mobile MCR controls between four and six Outside Broadcast trucks and receives 20 external feeds in from SABC’s news regions. It also monitors incoming signals and sends outgoing broadcast feeds to an uplink vehicle

Close collaboration between SABC, Inala, Axon and NIC was imperative to the success of this project, which had to be completed in just four weeks so that SABC could deliver coverage of the 2016 South African national elections in full HD.

“Due to the tight timescale, Inala and NIC built a temporary installation to ensure HD coverage of the elections, which took place at the beginning of August,” says Anton Van Staden, Inala’s executive broadcast consultant. “The equipment is now being decommissioned and moved into a brand new OB vehicle. It will be used as a mobile MCR for all types of productions and should be fully operational by April.”

Inala’s long-standing relationship with SABC meant that the broadcaster was happy to comply with its equipment recommendations. As ease of use, flexibility and versatility were key criteria, Inala had no hesitation in recommending Axon’s Cerebrum control and monitoring system.

“Cerebrum offers a modular, scalable and open system that is perfect for SABC’s requirements,” Van Staden says. “The system supports virtually every piece of broadcast equipment on the market and acts as the nerve centre for all routing. It is also very easy to use with a fully customisable interface and significantly speeds up production workloads by enabling complex tasks to be completed much faster.”

SABC’s Cerebrum system is now being used to control two Utah routers – a compact 7RU UTAH-400/144 and a 4Ru UTAH-400/72s2 Frame, the smallest member of the Series 2 Family.

“By combining Axon’s Cerebrum control and monitoring with Utah Scientific’s routers, we have been able to provide a streamlined workflow that delivers against budget and production requirements,” Van Staden says. “Also, Utah routers offer IP interface capabilities and this is a major advantage because it will simplify the switch to IP broadcasting, when SABC decide to make that move.”

Other equipment installed in SABC’s mobile MCR includes a Riedel communications system, Tektronix waveform monitoring and an Axon Synapse modular HD monitoring distribution amplifier with embedded 3G/HD/SDI.

Peter Knevitt, principal technologist and TV OBs Engineering Manager at SABC, says the close collaboration between Inala, Axon and NIC made the entire project much easier for his team. “Switching from analogue to High Definition is a large step for any broadcaster, and with the national elections our target, we only had four weeks to do it in,” he says. “In that situation, it is really important to have supportive and proactive people around you. Inala and Axon made things very easy for us and we’re delighted with what they achieved.  The temporary installation worked perfectly and we are looking forward to having all the equipment operational in our permanent mobile MCR.”

Adrian Richmond, Axon’s director of Sales for UK, Ireland and Africa concludes: “The key thing with such a time sensitive project is that everyone works in concert. There was the fixed deadline for the elections, which served as a hard target for delivery that could not be stretched. Axon, Inala and New Installation Company (NIC) all worked in partnership with the SABC team to deliver the project on time. Once the wiring was completed and the equipment installed and pre-configured, Axon sent an engineer, Rob Fransen, to Johannesburg to assist with the Cerebrum control system’s final setup and training. The Cerebrum control system is the heart of the systems operation and manages not only the Utah routers, but Tally and the Under Monitor Displays on the Axon multi-viewers, so this was a key component that had to be fully operational. Inala Broadcast managed the timing of the various elements. The date that Rob travelled to South Africa had to be perfect, not too early that the equipment wasn’t ready and not too late to ensure the work was completed. However, despite the challenges the project was managed perfectly and due to close teamwork between all parties the project was delivered on schedule for the election coverage.”

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