For video producers, multi-viewers may truly be the best thing to come along since sliced bread. These digital units can ingest a wide range of inputs, and then direct them to whatever displays the user chooses. Better yet, the multi-viewer has the ability to display multiple video windows on a single screen, with the user able to change the feeds displayed, and the window size allotted to each of them.
Calvert County, Md.’s Emergency Operations Center. Photo courtesy of Calvert County EOC
Producers of government broadcast content say multi-viewers are a welcome advance over the “single dedicated monitor per feed” design found in older production facilities that typically relied on walls of dedicated-feed cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors. That is why multi-viewers are showing up in master control rooms and video production booths large and small.
MIRANDA’S KALEIDO SERIES
Miranda Technologies makes a range of multi-viewers all branded under the Kaleido family name, and those units are found in video installations operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Defense, the White House and at the presidential retreat popularly known as Camp David (in Maryland) among others. However, the need for security prohibits Miranda from providing details of the multi-viewers installed at those facilities, says Peter Wharton, Miranda’s director of sales for systems and solutions. However, Miranda can provide an overview of the benefits multi-viewers provide for those, and other government clients, he said.
Those benefits include that multi-viewers can handle whatever feeds are sent to them; including video, data and computer graphics, making them highly useful for government applications. Multiviewers can display all of those feeds on computer monitor-resolution HDTV displays.
Because they are based on computer technology, Miranda’s Kaleido multi-viewers integrated easily into digital television systems, including those integrated into IP networks. That also makes them very easy to configure into “presets” (menus of predefined inputs/outputs that can be implemented with the click of a mouse directly on the screen).
CALVERT COUNTY’S EOC
Calvert County, Md. covers 345 square miles between Chesapeake Bay on the east and the Patuxent River on the west. Nearly 89,000 people live in Calvert County in the shadows of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant and the Dominion Cove Point Liquid Natural Gas terminal, which receives and stores liquid natural gas brought in by ship. Both facilities are located in Lusby, Md.
To improve its ability to manage any potential disasters, the Calvert County government recently upgraded its Emergency Operations Center (EOC). As part of that upgrade, the EOC was equipped with four 55-inch Samsung LED televisions to display video and data feeds.
All of the feeds are switched through a Miranda Kaleido-X16-D multi-viewer. “This 3Gbps/HD/SD/analog-compatible rig is a compact, quiet multiviewer that handles 16 inputs, and has two multiviewer outputs, plus two router outputs,” says Paul Lipp, the EOC’s audiovisual technician. The Miranda system also allows EOC staff to open up audio feeds associated with the video, so that everyone can hear what is being said.
Prince William County (Va.) School-TV’s production booth. Photo courtesy of PWCS-TV
T ypically, the EOC displays up to 14-security, broadcast and computer video feeds on its main screen. “Being that we are in a hardened basement facility capable of weathering a nuclear meltdown from our plant, we need to be able to see what’s going on outside,” Lipp says. “But we also need to be able to switch between feeds at a moment’s notice. This is where the multi-viewer comes in handy,” he said. “Changing feeds is controlled by a mouse click, while our menu of presets lets us prepare for different scenarios such as a nuclear incident or natural disaster.”
Prince William County, Va. is considered part of the Greater Washington D.C. area, and the Prince William County Public School system serves nearly 80,000 students in the state’s second largest school district. To help serve students, parents, teachers and staff, the school board produces its own television channel, PWCS-TV, which is broadcast on Comcast and Verizon FiOS. Providing a mix of educational, entertainment, school activities information and school board meeting programming, PCWSTV has a busy broadcast schedule.To meet that broadcast schedule, PWCS-TV recently moved into a new, modern facility inside the board’s administration building in Manassas, Va. By making the move, PWCS-TV moved away from its old wall of dedicated CRT monitors and adopted flat panels with multiviewers, says Bart Young, PWCS-TV’s video system engineer. “Specifically, we purchased a Miranda Kaleido-X with 32 inputs and four multi-viewer outputs,” he said. “Two of these are sent to a pair of Panasonic 65-inch monitors in our master control room. The second set of feeds goes to two more Panasonic 65-inch monitors in our video production room.”
When used in combination with the Kaleido-RCP2 remote control panel, the Kaleido-X allows staff in both rooms to easily access and change the feeds to their HDTV monitors. “What really helps us is the availability of presets,” Young said. “We can configure a series of display feeds for, say, a live board meeting, and store those under a ‘preset name’ in our server,” he said. Once stored, when a school-board meeting occurs, the engineer monitoring the shoot just needs to select the appropriate preset when a member of the board is on camera. That “is a big help” because PWCS-TV not only uses its full-time staff to cover those meetings, it also uses part-time staff and interns, who may not have the experience level or hands-on time with the system, he said. “The presets make it much easier for them to select their display layout,” he added.
Since PWCS-TV switched to the Kaleido-X, managing the feeds has become “simpler and easier,” said Young, who added it has eliminated the “clutter” of dedicated CRT monitors, as well as all the heat CRTs generate.
AN EFFECTIVE DIGITAL TOOL
Multi-viewers such as the Miranda Kaleido series streamline the managing and display of multiple feeds within any kind of video control room. At the same time, this technology supports multiple configurations, so that one facility can serve a wide range of production and monitoring missions. Add the ability to fit multiple video windows onto a few large HDTV displays, and multi-viewers are an economical option for video producers, no matter how large or small the production space they are outfitting.