Sky’s Build New HD Facility Around Calrec Consoles, Routers

Calrec Audio has sold Sky five of its latest-generation Apollo consoles, each in an 88-fader configuration, along with multiple smaller consoles and Calrec Hydra2 audio networking technology and infrastructure. The sale forms part of the ongoing build-out of Harlequin 1, Sky’s new combined HD studio, post-production, and broadcast control center, currently in Phase 1 of construction in Osterley, West London.

Calrec Audio is also actively involved in helping Sky to define infrastructure for the new facility. For example, Calrec’s Hydra2 audio networking, the routing technology that forms the backbone of the Apollo console, was designed and developed in part to serve Sky’s audio requirements within Harlequin 1.

“Calrec hasn’t just sold us five consoles. Rather, we are together building many of the protocols, workflows, and technologies that will drive this facility for the next few years,” says Martin Black, Sky senior sound supervisor. “It’s a joint effort with a new platform, Apollo, and with new requirements from our side.”

These requirements are considerable. All of the planning for Harlequin 1 is designed to create a state-of-the-art, future-proof transmission center that will create and distribute Sky’s HD programming over the next decade and a half. Capture, origination, post-production, new media transmission and broadcast control, along with all of their requisite infrastructure, will be housed under one roof, with tapeless, HD video and discrete-channel surround sound workflows throughout.

To deal with the sheer volume of required audio inputs and outputs in the new center, Sky has purchased two additional standalone Hydra2 routers from Calrec, in addition to the single router supplied as part of each Apollo console. Both these stand-alone routers have been expanded to their maximum I/O capacity from 16 to 32 fiber-optic connections, each capable of accepting and outputting 512 simultaneous channels of audio I/O.

Managing and assigning these channels is a matter for the Calrec Hydra2 audio networking protocol, which Calrec developed partly in response to Sky’s requirements for Harlequin 1.

“One of the design briefs of the Harlequin project was that any gallery would work with any floor, and Hydra2 allows that flexibility,” says Black. “In fact, every port on every I/O box is available to every console — unless you choose to specify otherwise and deliberately restrict access. More importantly in some ways, all of the output buses from all the galleries can be made available to other studios, which makes for an extremely flexible system.”

Calrec also worked with Sky to produce its recently launched Hydra2 modular stageboxes, a series of chassis that accept cards with a variety of I/O connectors, as well as 3G SDI embedder and de-embedder cards.

“In combination with the very versatile Hydra2 network management tools, the modular stageboxes offer us maximum flexibility, allowing any stagebox connection in almost any common physical format to be routed anywhere in the building,” says Black.

In addition to the five 88-fader Apollo consoles and the Hydra2 infrastructure, Calrec is also supplying a 56-fader Artemis desk for mixing in Harlequin 1’s planned international commentary area, and three other sub-mixers: one for dedicated use on sports broadcasts, and two more on casters that can be used as mobile sub mixers in any of Harlequin 1’s studios.

The 88-fader Apollos will be installed in the five studios that are set to open when Harlequin 1 first goes on air sometime in the second half of 2011. There will eventually be eight HD studios in the facility, but the remaining three will come on stream at a later date. As of today, the first of the five new Apollo consoles has arrived at Sky and is being tested, while the other consoles are still under construction at Calrec’s headquarters.