To mark the opening of nominations for the EBU Technology & Innovation Awards 2021, we're looking back at the projects honoured in 2020. RTBF's Control Room 42 project was a joint winner of the T&I Award 2020. This article first appeared in Issue 46 of tech-i magazine.

Hugo Ortiz (RTBF)

Control Room 42 – or CR42 – was born out of RTBF’s desire to reinvent its working methods by taking advantage of the latest technological developments on the eve of the construction of its new Mediasquare production facility. CR42 represents a new approach for creating flexible, easy-to-use and universal media production control rooms, adapted to the convergence of media.

In a classic production environment, the user works at a technology workstation dedicated to a single specific task and must learn the proprietary techniques of the equipment manufacturer. CR42 allows each user to configure their multi-task workstation in the most appropriate and ideal way, whether they are producing television, radio or digital content.

On the front end, we have replaced traditional equipment with a unified universal user interface. On the back end, all the processing is done by real-time software cores running on IT servers.

Extreme customization

Each interface can be built from a blank page, programmed in a simple and user-friendly way. The operator can customize their tool to the extreme, deciding what priority and visibility they want to give to each function. They can then concentrate on getting on air with an intuitive tool that is controlled at the touch of a fingertip.

Automation and manual control are natively mixed in the same ecosystem, shared by all users, enabling the construction of complex scenarios specific to each production, while retaining the improvisation capabilities essential for news production.

CR42 offers a lighter, more flexible and more scalable tool that adapts easily and quickly to user needs. It becomes possible to start a simple production in a few minutes with just one operator, and dynamically grow this production as additional operators come in.

Using compressed IP streams for monitoring feeds, CR42 can be used for remote production, allowing the control room to be moved away from the studio. Control interfaces can also be accessed from home through the internet, something that has emerged as a key feature during the COVID-19 crisis.

CR42 symbolizes the digital transformation of broadcast production. All its core processing is done by real-time software running on standard servers, removing the need to renew expensive dedicated equipment that requires complex learning.

Audio, video, live graphics, lighting, interactive sets, virtual reality: all these elements are integrated and controllable within a customizable single paradigm.

With CR42 we can rapidly build and test new ideas in a real production environment. Its role as a laboratory projects RTBF into a digital future, where the synergy of artistic and technological talents enables us to achieve our ambitions of modern public service, in line with the expectations of our audiences.

What’s behind the touchscreen?

CR42 brings together several software building blocks. On-Hertz’s Artisto provides the real-time audio engine; the live graphics and virtual studio environment come from Smode; and the user interfaces and video core are designed using TouchDesigner. While processing is done on uncompressed signals in the data centre, audio and video transport to the control room is handled via Dante and NDI on the RTBF campus network.

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