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Datapath and Densitron provide intuitive live video content solution at ITV News headquarters

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Datapath and Densitron provide intuitive live video content solution at ITV News headquarters
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Datapath and Densitron provide intuitive live video content solution at ITV News headquarters

Datapath technology is prominent in prestige control rooms around the world. Their video processing know-how is now operating alongside the Densitron IDS platform at ITV News’ headquarters in London to manage newsroom video walls and digital signage displays.

With its first broadcast dating back to 1955, ITN has long been respected in the news industry as a source of reliable information and balanced reporting. Headquartered at Gray’s Inn Road in London’s renowned legal heartland, the company provides news services to ITV1, ITV London region, Channel 4 and Channel 5 as well as its multiple other non-news production divisions.

Now known as ITV News, the familiar ‘bongs’ of its news broadcasts are a staple of British society and the service has won many awards for their programmes, including News at Ten being previously named best news programme by both the Royal Television Society and BAFTA.
With three ITV News broadcasts a day – lunchtime, evening and News at 10 – the organization needs to rely on trusted technology to manage the many dozens of video sources being fed into the newsroom throughout the day. These sources include multiple external broadcasts, displaying internal messages and useful crewing information, other televised news feeds from broadcasters across the world, in-house content and so on.

Working alongside Broadcast technology specialists Densitron, Lee Sanders, technical director at ITN, has designed a system powered by Datapath and Densitron that serves a multitude of purposes, from greeting displays for visitors that automatically change to ‘On Air’ notifications, to multi video walls in the newsroom that can switch sources both automatically and manually when circumstances dictate.

IDS from Densitron is a control and content display system, that interfaces with equipment from any vendor. The IDS control system allows users to control multiple connected devices through an elegant and intuitive user interface. For the ITV newsroom, source feeds are initially received by the IDS hardware before being sent to a powerful Datapath VSN1172 processor for distribution to its selected source. The system uses Datapath’s renowned WallControl 10 management software, with Densitron driving the system using WallControl’s application programming interface (API).

Lee adds: “The big problem we always had was that, when we switched control rooms or studios, we’d have to change all the feeds to our video walls in the room manually. Because it’s all now automated, the displays will switch sources automatically – and that’s a Datapath switch from the VSN1172. This is being controlled by IDS, sending the correct IP feed and name to ensure the right content goes to the right display without the need for manual operation.

“This means that, for example, whenever we switch TV galleries, everyone can see which production control room is in use, which is so, so vital. We can see our rosters and the crew for a particular production on the newsroom displays and phone numbers for who to call are just a glance away. Now, everyone is so used to having it, we can’t imagine operating without it.”

Lee has also designed his own crisis controller, which works in much the same way as a stream deck, but can be completely customised. The touchscreen pad works with the IDS software and Datapath processor to manually switch all video wall content to pre-programmed layouts in the event of breaking news – allowing the entire newsroom to view events in real time.

At the heart of the pixel crunching and video processing of content is the Datapath VSN1172 processor. Containing 2 x VisionSC-HD4+ capture cards, 5 x Image4K graphics cards and 4 x ActiveSQX IP decode cards, the Datapath VSN system works in harmony with Densitron’s IDS Control platform to send content to three video walls – consisting of 55-inch Samsung 4K displays in a 5×2, 2×1 and 3×1 formation – in the newsroom.

There are also five additional 65-inch Samsung displays on the fringes of the newsroom which serve a dual purpose. With custom content, these display welcome messages and key programme information for visitors and guests, but auto-switch to ‘On Air’ signage whenever a studio and/or production gallery is in-use, giving notice to everyone on the bustling newsroom floor – from reporters to visitors alike.
Densitron have over 50 years of innovation history, with their core focus on Broadcast solutions. Their IDS system is widely used throughout the Broadcast industry and is designed to be flexible to bespoke requirements. However, as Reuben Such, Densitron’s Global Business Director explains, the technical expertise at ITN meant that system design and implementation was all done in-house, with the excellent relationship between the two parties ensuring the project ran smoothly from start to finish.

Giving credit to the ITN team, Reuben says: “The initial requirement for our IDS platform was for timing control within their broadcast gallery for when they go out to the studios. The production assistants could see when a programme is going to start – the countdown to and the countdown from – and, as with everything within IDS and the Densitron range of products, once the customer uses it and understands it, they can then use in a multitude of ways, including live microphone indication or On-Air control flash displays for example.”

The use of IDS in broadcast environments has grown from there. Lee works across both ITV News and Channel 4 News so when he saw the initial design in Channel 4 News, he then expanded IDS across the whole company to ITV News, Channel 5 News, Jeremy Vine, broadcast support and more – all operating from the prestigious building at Gray’s Inn Road.

Reuben adds: "ITN is one of the very few Super Users who we work with globally. Working with them for several years, we know we can just provide them with a basic system, and they then build it themselves to their requirements.”

The result is a smooth and automatic transition of relevant information to wherever it is needed in a state-of-the-art news environment – from live news feeds and studio status on three video walls, to visitor greetings and information wayfinding using digital signage.

In an age where reliable information is of primary importance, Densitron and Datapath are playing their part at the UK’s key independent televised News provider.

Matt Tibbitt, product manager for Datapath and a key figure in the design of its award-winning VSN product portfolio, concludes: “Our video processors are utilized in a broad scope of markets, in thousands of control rooms across the world. We have over forty years’ experience in providing innovative video processing solutions and we take great pride in seeing our technology used in such a vital and effective way at ITV News’ flagship premises.”