UK-based audio mixing console manufacturer Calrec Audio has confirmed the sale to Sky of five of its latest-generation Apollo desks, each in 88-fader configurations, in addition to several smaller consoles and an extensive quantity of Hydra2 audio networking technology and infrastructure. The sales form part of the on-going specification of Harlequin 1, Sky's new combined high-definition studio, post-production, and broadcast control centre, which is currently in Phase 1 of its construction in Osterley, West London.
As befits its long-standing commercial relationship with Sky, Calrec Audio is not merely the console supplier for the Harlequin 1 project, but is actively involved in helping Sky to define some of the infrastructure for the new centre. For example, Calrec's Hydra2 audio networking, the routing technology that forms the backbone of the Apollo console, was in part created and defined to serve Sky's audio requirements within Harlequin 1.
"They haven't just sold us five consoles: together we're building many of the protocols, workflows and technology that will drive this facility for the next few years," explains Martin Black, Senior Sound Supervisor at Sky. "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, futureproof transmission centre which will create and serve Sky's high-definition programming over the next decade and a half. Capture, origination, post-production, new media transmission and broadcast control, and all of the infrastructure required to run these systems, will all be housed under one roof, with tapeless, high-definition video and discrete-channel surround sound workflows throughout.
To deal with the sheer volume of required audio inputs and outputs in the new centre, Sky has purchased two additional stand-alone 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 possible I/O capability from 16 to 32 fibre-optic connections, each of which is 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 has developed partly in response to Sky's requirements for Harlequin 1. Martin Black: "One of the design briefs of the Harlequin project was that any gallery would work with any floor, and Hydra2 allows that flexibility. 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 their recently launched Hydra2 modular stageboxes, a series of chassis which 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," explains Martin Black.
In addition to the five 88-fader Apollo consoles and the Hydra2 infrastructure, Calrec are also supplying a further 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 castors, to be used as mobile grams mixers in any of Harlequin 1's studios. These three desks are likely to be further Artemis consoles, but the specification has yet to be fixed.
The 88-fader Apollos will be installed in the five studios that are planned to open when Harlequin 1 first goes on air sometime in the latter half of 2011. There will eventually be eight HD studios in the facility, but the remaining three are planned to come on stream at a later date. At the time of writing, 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.