RMIT University recently undertook a significant renovation of its Melbourne city faculty specifically to open their campus up by redoing its Swanston Street facade, and substantially renovating seven floors across four buildings. This undertaking was known as the New Academic Street, or NAS, Project. The existing buildings were where RMIT had its TV studios, originally built in the 1960s, were much used and loved, but long overdue for an overhaul. The NAS project provided an opportunity for RMIT to replace the old TV Studios with world class facilities to support both current and future trends in media production, as well as RMIT’s research requirements in the digital media realm. To help them with the design and build of the complete project they turned to Videocraft.
Before the project could start the university put out a tender for the design, construction and integration of four control rooms (two of which were to be UHD), five studio spaces and a virtual and augmented reality system. The tender also specified some unique components including a fully distributed routing system, UHD record and replay solution and the ability to quickly move any studio to any control room, or multiple control rooms.
Technical Services Manager School of Media and Communication College of Design and Social Context at RMIT University, David Beesley explained, “We required world class facilities with a future-proof and flexible infrastructure – a big ask – and we required a company who could work with us to enhance our vision of what these facilities would look like and how they could support our specific pedagogical needs. In conjunction with other industry leaders and after extensive research and consultation, RMIT came up with a base design which was subsequently put out to tender. Videocraft’s winning point of difference was their ability to add significant value to our vision and turn it into a functioning reality.”
Videocraft worked with RMIT end users to finesse the design and ultimately supplied and installed the kit for four TV studios and control rooms, a master control room (MCR), RMIT’s ‘Black Box’ research studio and multiple fibre-linked OB points throughout the NAS Precinct.
Videocraft Head of Engineering and Projects, Nick Maclean added, “We also designed a central apparatus room for the four control rooms and five studios, plus supporting spaces such as green rooms, makeup rooms and production offices. Given that this was not a greenfield site, but a retro fit of an existing building, there were considerable constraints with the spaces, but with clever design we were able to come up with a solution that met the brief.”
As part of the scope required a ‘distributed’ router Videocraft decided to install a large Riedel Mediornet system as, based on a 10Gig backbone, the system can handle up to 384×384 3G HD signals. For a distributed audio network they implemented a Dante audio network and ensured that all the audio mixers, stage boxes and tie lines were IP connected over a 10GigE IP network with a Cisco Nexus backbone. Videocraft also installed IP KVM systems, IP talkback using Riedel Smart Panels, and IP wireless comms using the new Riedel Bolero AES67 wireless keypanels. To tie all these systems together they used Lawo Virtual Studio Manager, a control solution that removes all the complicated backend components and presents a unified interface for operators.
Beesley continued, Videocraft also installed the first UHD EVS system in Australia, which included IP Director and XFile for file-based ingest and delivery of both HD and UHD studio content. Critically they also supplied and installed kit for our temporary TV studios, constructed for the duration of the major build, to ensure business continuity. It really was a first class job and they met our every requirement.”
Other kit supplied and installed by Videocraft included Panasonic 4K UHD camera chains, Sony vision mixers, a Zero Density ‘Reality’ virtual set and MoSys camera tracking, Ross Xpression graphics, Yamaha audio desks and ARRI lighting.
Beesley continued, “Videocraft took charge of face to face meetings, design workshops, numerous stakeholder and site meetings, design revision, installation, commissioning and testing. Their approach was professional and flawless.”
Now complete the new facilities are used for teaching, including live broadcasts, research and more. As a result RMIT students can now learn on the same tools they will encounter in the field to which Beesley added, “These are the first purpose built UHD studios in Australia. They are at the forefront of technology for anybody, but for a teaching facility they are undoubtedly the number one studios in Australia. They are flexible and their unique infrastructure ensures that they’ll be fit for purpose well into the future.”
David Beesley, clearly pleased and proud of RMIT’s new TV and production facilities felt compelled to highlight the real shining lights of the project, concluding: “There are many wow factors with the new facilities with their flexibility, extensive use of fibre, VSM, and 4K UHD capabilities but the real standout is the Zero Density Reality system. Videocraft installed a two-camera system with Star Tracker motion tracking which can render full virtual sets and augmented reality elements in realtime with unbelievable realism. The system uses the Unreal Engine for 3D design and rendering and the results are simply stunning. It’s the most realistic virtual system we have ever seen. I cannot speak highly enough about what Videocraft did for RMIT during this project. They were amazing to work with, incredibly patient, understood our unique requirements and worked with us to create something that is truly great, and the envy of many.”