Slovak TV

Slovak TV towerSlovakia, like many of those eastern European countries once under Communist control, is in a rush to catch up. Additionally, it has had to deal with the end of Czechoslovakia in 1993 which was its union with the Czech Republic. Small, mountainous and surrounded by five larger neighbours, broadcasting has never been easy here. In some areas very large aerials were needed to receive any TV while in others reception just wasn't practical. A possible solution to most of these difficulties lies in DVB-T or digital terrestrial broadcasting and this is not such a distant prospect. Slovenská Televízia, is undertaking a large investment programme to prepare for a fully digital future. It's base in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, is something of a local landmark being 30 storeys high in a low rise city. Built in 1975, the studios had always been well equipped but during communist times were restricted in where and from who they could source equipment. The current refurbishment is intended to prepare for a fully digital future while building on the existing studio facilities, and of course, with complete freedom in choice of equipment within available budgets. In May 2005, STV was halfway through the planned upgrade project. First had been the construction of a large news studio to allow the creation of virtual sets, where news anchormen wander against a green screen tracked by four robotic cameras, and are then matted into complex 3D environments as required. STV has used Centron, a Bratislava-based equipment and service company as a partner on many facets of this project. Centron's Richard Varkonda acted as acoustic/audio consultant and was able to optimise the acoustic environments within budgets that were primarily slanted towards equipment rather than the studio fabric. His company suggested much of the equipment, studio layout and designed the furniture to accommodate a Sony DMX-R100 digital console, peripheral equipment, and multiple audio monitors, while most of the installation was handled by STV staff. Slovak TV broadcast centerMonitoring here is Genelec, as it will be throughout the studios and outside broadcast vehicles, whenever a room comes up for refurbishment. STV's Technical Director Jozef Mracna said that of all the equipment choices standardising on Genelec had been the easiest. "The first priority when we started this project was quality; the second was to have the best monitoring of sound. We'd had some good experience in the past with Genelec monitors and felt that would be the best way to obtain good monitoring conditions for stereo and multichannel formats. And now it would have to be something miraculous to change our minds to another make."
Slovak TV studioOn the audio side, the flagship project is Studio 4, the largest of STV's studios with 400 square metres of studio floor, nine cameras, and comprehensive production facilities that have all been refurbished. This studio has been home to Slovakia's successful and popular version of 'Pop Idol' known here as 'Superstar'. Operational since November, the studio is based around an Euphonix Max Air digital console. According to Centron's consultant Varkonda, STV were looking for a console with at least 80 inputs, that had an analogue 'feel' and was 5.1 capable. The 'Pop Idol' series is typical of the demands that will be made on this studio with its orchestra, singers, groups and audience. The 5.1 surround capabilities of the new control room together with full Dolby encode/decoder units, are an investment for the future. The room had originally been planned for stereo use but the proximity of digital broadcasting changed their attitude. The Genelec system - 1032s all round with 7070 subwoofer - is currently being used in stereo and has been cleverly integrated within the video monitor wall. Slovak TV control room"The monitors sit upside down on shelves within the wall," explained Varkonda, "in a way that it is possible to adjust the vertical angle to put the speaker axis in the right position . They are then surround by a stiff foam to isolate then from the frame. The rear speakers are ceiling mounted." As is frequently the case in TV studios, STV had specific operational requirements that precluded placement of the audio monitors in the optimum acoustic speaker position within the studio, according to Varkonda. "STV insisted on rear access to the video wall and acoustically the front speakers are not in the perfect position but they do work well. Also the surround speakers had to be positioned further back. However STV and their engineers are very happy with the sound because this is still the best sounding control room they've had." The next phase of the studio upgrade is the completion of a digital infrastructure so that projects can be moved around the facilities. It is expected that the new 5.1 equipped Studio 4 will be handling more demanding audio work from other studios while also be used for music recording from its own studio floor. There are plans for further acoustic work in the control room before 5.1 mixing for broadcast becomes more frequent but that might be sooner than was originally planned. Digital terrestrial broadcasting experimental tests have found that coverage will be far better than that of the current analogue signal. The tall aerials aren't needed and interference with neighbouring countries will be easier to control. There is so much enthusiasm from the government, STV and the public that there are suggestions a changeover from analogue to digital might be able to be completed with 12 months, nearly eight years earlier than once thought!