ITV completes major regional news upgrade with launch of Belfast operation

ITV will be launching its new UTV regional news facility in Belfast at the end of this month, marking the completion of a two-year project to rollout HD production and streamline news production workflows across six regional centres.

The infrastructure, designed and built by Systems Integrator IPE, relies on Axon Digital’s Cerebrum as the control and management hub at the heart of all news operations.

Regional news is an important part of ITV’s overall contribution to public service broadcasting in the UK. Great attention was given in the system design to provide a template-approach to streamline the workflow so that it efficiently delivers high quality content to the millions of viewers who tune in each week.

“Robust, reliable control was critical within the system design and simplicity, flexibility and ease of use were the main features ITV demanded,” explained IPE’s Director Ray Bragg.  “Cerebrum removes obstacles and over-complication in the workflow and with such operational ease, wide functionality and integration it was the obvious choice in our infrastructure template for all ITV’s locations.”

The first phase of the project saw the delivery of HD News facilities in the Channel Islands, Tyne Tees, Bristol and Birmingham Central within a tight timeframe of 4-week intervals, closely followed by East Anglia in 2017.

At each site, Cerebrum provides an overarching control hub for routing, signal processing, tally control with tight integration of IFB, audio and communications. It also supports remote access for additional control and trouble-shooting. Through a user-friendly, task-sensitive graphical interface, the workflow is simplified and operators can easily master customisation of tasks for specific local requirements.

“Multi-skilling is at the heart of ITV’s approach to News production and with Cerebrum control, you don’t need to be a technical expert to run the system,” says Steve Teague, ITV’s Head of Technical Services. “It simplifies the process with a powerful logic that shields the operator from complexity and gives them the freedom to focus on the content. Cerebrum has streamlined the whole process significantly so that tasks can be done in less time and that’s given our operators a greater degree of confidence.”

The latest phase to be delivered in Northern Ireland – perhaps the most ambitious to date — has seen the move to a brand new building and a complete technical infrastructure upgrade. Following pre-build and commissioning at IPE’s headquarters in Hertfordshire, the install was completed on site in March and, following training of multi-skilled operational staff, the system is due to go live at the start of July.

The UTV Belfast facilities, which will deliver a main news programme for the 6pm slot and shorter bulletins throughout the day, feature a studio with four Sony cameras and News-room with a Panasonic PTZ tilt and zoom camera; four Avid edit suites and an ingest traffic area. Core routing is provided by Grass Valley, with a Sony vision mixer, Black Magic graphics, SSL sound mixing and Clearcom talkback – all controlled by Cerebrum through its graphical interface.

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