11.08.11

Christie MicroTiles back French studio

Financial information radio station, BFM Business recently made its television debut on French channel TNT. It created a new set for the event that utilises a Christie MicroTiles videowall.

After ten years on the FM band, BFM became BFM Radio in order to minimize any confusion with BFM TV, a continuous news channel that is also part of the NextRadioTV group. At the end of the first half of 2010, BFM Radio was broadcasting on about thirty frequencies in France. In November of that year, BFM Radio became BFM Business, a “media outlet unlike any other in the world” according to its CEO Alain Weil. BFM Business is distributed via all ADSL TV packages and on TNT in Paris. The channel targets high-level professionals, particularly managers.

In converting its radio studio into a TV studio, the major considerations were space and cost and a 60m² studio was located in the middle of the BFM Business editorial offices.

“Contrary to our continuous news channel, BFM TV, we chose a ‘real’ rather than a ‘virtual’ decor, which generates additional operating costs because it requires additional staff," said Philippe Espinet, CTO of the NextRadioTV group. For BFM Business, which is still on the air as a business and financial information radio station, the challenge was to add a "TV layer" highlighting the presenters and financial information through the on-air look.

Among the goals laid out for the BFM Business visual environment was that it should model some of the foreign financial channels and use a view of the editorial area as part of the décor. At the same time a video wall behind the presenter was required to broadcast stock prices in real time along with assorted video and graphics.

"To create this kind of video wall, several technologies were available to us, each with its specific features and, of course, limitations," said Philippe Espinet. "As an initial choice, we had the option of putting together LCD or plasma screens. But given the size of the area to cover (11m²) and the extensive use throughout the day, there was a risk of the display becoming marked after some time and, in addition, the installation's lifetime would be limited to just two years. So we eliminated this option."

A second option was rear projection cubes but it was felt the products were too deep, compared to the area of the studio; too noisy given the sound environment and too time-consuming in terms of maintenance.

"The solution to this problem was proposed by TAV, the Christie MicroTiles distributor who installed the solution in our studio," said Espinet.

"When BFM Business explained their circumstances, we told Philippe Espinet he should look at Christie MicroTiles," said Madec Julien, sales director for TAV, "and we set up a demonstration of the Christie solution at our facility."

It's a solution that overcomes the restrictions required by the channel's set: the solution must produce very little noise, little heat, be fairly shallow, require virtually no maintenance and have very low energy consumption like LED and DLP technologies. In addition, the video wall should have a lifespan of about 7.5 years of 24 hr/day operation and automatic calibration.

"I was quite impressed by this product, which met all my expectations. As for colour reproduction and illumination, LED and DLP technologies produce images with saturated colours and a viewing angle of nearly 125°s," explains Philippe Espinet. This is quite an important feature when the intended use is on a television set with a video wall that has to be effective regardless of the camera positions. "At the same time, the texture of the image has a natural look, and not digital. That's a bonus in my eyes. We send the display a full HD signal without any pixelation. Over an area of 11m² with a base of 4.6m, the output is exceptional."

The 88 Christie MicroTiles that are used on the BFM Business set form a screen with an aspect ratio of 16/9, which means that the images and computer graphics created for broadcast can be used on the MicroTiles and switched freely. In addition, the HD SDI signal from the control room is converted to DVI to feed the Christie MicroTiles ECUs (External Control Units).