Broadcast Canvas - Samsung LED at BBC Wales

A brand new location for BBC Wales has created an innovative and futureproof environment for the broadcaster.

The design and construction of a new facility in Cardiff for BBC Wales was created with the aim of providing a 21st century broadcasting environment. The construction of the new 155,000 square foot, £120 million (€139m) broadcasting facility at Central Square in the Welsh capital has been designed with flexibility in mind. The AV chosen for the project also ensures the broadcaster is futureproofed for emerging technologies such as xR.

The AV consultant working on the project was Jago Design, and the systems integrator tasked with the installation was White Light. As part of the set-up, Central Square was to include a dedicated studio for daily news programmes; supporting broadcasts from both BBC Wales Today (which is transmitted in English) and S4C Newyddion (which is transmitted in Welsh). To ensure that the studio could cater for both shows, part of the design brief was to enable the switching between the two programmes whilst maintaining the idiosyncratic look and feel of each one. Whereas this may have typically involved using 6 or 7 flat panel displays as traditional backdrops, for flexibility and ease of use it was decided that a single large 70 sq m LED screen would wrap around 3 sides of the studio. To do so would require close collaboration and input from all parties to deliver this ambitious and technical project.

Once White Light had received the brief from BBC Wales, it invited the client along to its London warehouse for a visual demonstration of various LED panel sizes from a variety of manufacturers. It was vital that numerous tests were undertaken to ensure that the correct product and resolution was selected, with consideration given to the wide variety of shot choices that the production team would require in order to get maximum flexibility out of the studio. It soon became clear that the design required a very close pitch, high quality LED screen. The ultimate test was looking at LED screens on camera and White Light invited both the engineering and production teams to undertake these tests at their Studio 15 facility in Wimbledon.

During these tests, which saw White Light use broadcast quality cameras and monitors in a controlled studio environment, it soon became clear that one solution stood out, so White Light requested Samsung to supply a small 3-metre sq section for further tests in Wales. This was to be installed in an integration workshop with set construction company Estdale Scenex and broadcast systems integrator dB Broadcast also present to offer guidance and expertise. Once the technology was agreed upon, the installation consisted of almost 70 sqm of 1.5mm Samsung IF-E series LED display. The LED is 25x2.7m of Samsung IFH-E 1.5mm pixel pitch LED, covering three sides of the studio (16,640 x 1,800 pixels), making it one of the largest 1.5mm pixel pitch screens in the UK. The display provides a huge digital canvas that can be used to show content from any of the sources within the gallery. The narrow pixel pitch means that the display can be used as a backdrop, but also as a news wall that can be presented from. The entire display is driven by 6 UHD processors which receive content via the BBC IP infrastructure from six Viz heads in the gallery.

The entire screen was delivered to Wales in parts, assembled by a team from White Light and aligned directly by engineers from Samsung, over a two-week period. It also had to be completed prior to the immovable deadline of the building’s official opening.

Because the LED tiles supplied by Samsung are 1.5mm pixel pitch it enables content to be presented on the wall at a high enough resolution that the presenter and, more importantly, the camera can take in all the information on the screen; even from close proximity. This technology also allows the presenter to have a much more engaging experience when interacting with the content. Traditionally, the moiré effect and pixelation is often visible on screen when filming LED. In order to overcome this issue, it was decided to use fine pixel pitch LED, with the camera being unable to differentiate between the individual pixels when both stationary and whilst moving, thus producing an uninterrupted hi-res image.

Conventional LED displays can struggle to present red, green and blue colour hues accurately and without distortion in low grayscale settings. Through grayscale management, Samsung’s IF Series displays meets these challenges with algorithms that maintain consistent R/G/B hues without distortion for improved colour accuracy when operating at low brightness (the BBC screen is working at 10% brightness). This means the client can be confident that the clear content they film on-set translates accurately to viewers watching in their homes.

The ability to offer flexibility was a huge part of the overall AV design, and the installation has provided the BBC with exactly what was required, a huge digital canvas that can be completely reskinned to offer an entirely different look in a matter of seconds. A traditional changeover of studios would require the movement of sets and take up several person-hours, but the flexibility built-in to this AV system means it can be changed with the touch of a button.

Reliability is also a huge factor in any live broadcast environment. As the system integrator, White Light can oversee the remote management of the Samsung LED screen, which allows for real time reporting on the health status of all of its components. This can be anything from the overall health of the entire display right down to identifying any modules that may have open circuit errors on individual diodes. This, in turn, gives the ability to troubleshoot over the network, making response time much quicker and simpler as no engineer needs to be on site.

Similarly, if a module or cabinet happens to go down, the calibration data is stored directly on the LED module, allowing a faster Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR) when replacing a module. Also, the colour/brightness matching of individual modules can be carried out quickly and effectively using the Colour Expert LED Software which can be downloaded onto any Samsung mobile phone.

The collaborative work between White Light and Samsung means the broadcast centre is one of the first facilities in the world to be built around IP technology for both its production and broadcast operations. The client is understandably delighted with the end result; “Central Square has the most advanced broadcast facilities anywhere in the UK and is the first BBC centre in the UK to use IP technology across both its production and broadcast operations, future-proofing the facilities for years to come,” said Duncan Wheelhouse, BBC major projects, infrastructure. “We recognised the need for a specialist AV supplier with significant experience of designing, supplying and installing large LED screens and White Light have helped us to achieve our ambitions and ensure we have a screen that will deliver a fantastic experience for audiences in Wales watching BBC News
in both English and Welsh languages.”

To get in touch with a member of the Samsung Display Team, please scan here





Article Categories