RAI enters IP territory with major renovation of its Broadcast Production Center in Rome by Lawo

RAI, Radiotelevisione Italiana, has recently upgraded its Broadcast Production Center in Rome. They have installed a control and signal distribution network based on Lawo IP infrastructure solutions.  The deployment, in five production galleries and six studios, comprises V__matrix clusters and a VSM system for studio-related and overarching system control as well as signal distribution management. ARET video and audio engineering, Lawo’s Milan-based partner and system integrator in Italy, was appointed to revamp the whole production complex.

This technical upgrade is RAI’s first step on the way towards a full-IP environment. “In the public tender that RAI issued for this upgrade project, we described the concept and quality of the installation in detail,” says Enrico Briziarelli, Head of Control Rooms and TV Studios Engineering at RAI. “Along with modernized studio control rooms, our aim was to create a new, IP-based and 12G-capable central equipment room, with all connections between studios, control rooms and the equipment room based on IP technology. The project also involves some new postproduction audio suites, four live Dolby ProTools facilities, five graphics areas for LED walls, and augmented reality. After scrutinizing all aspects of the proposals we received, we found that the best match was ARET and the IP-based equipment they presented”, explains Briziarelli.

The five production areas host distributed clusters of Lawo V__matrix units. Each studio is equipped with two replicated V__matrix frames with two cards each, which allows processing of up to 40 incoming and outgoing signals. This setup is symmetrical, with ten-by-ten rear plates and every blade providing 10 SDI inputs and 10 SDI outputs. This setup is completed by an additional V__matrix cluster used as IP router for overall signal distribution. Three C100 blades are reserved for connections with OB vans, providing remote access to the networked infrastructure. The IP infrastructure in place can be scaled up by adding extra V__matrix frames and processing blades.

The project furthermore includes three studio lighting control rooms and accessory areas like translation booths and voice-over cabins. RAI has also created an OB van parking position where trucks can tap into the facility’s infrastructure by connecting to a dedicated V__matrix frame.

For control and signal management, a Lawo VSM (Virtual Studio Manager) broadcast control system manages the equipment of individual galleries and studios, and provides overall control in all facilities. A so-called IP orchestrator, configured and maintained by Lawo directly, is installed on top of all clusters – a bigger cluster of two VSM servers and four gadget servers. The IP orchestrator glues together studio and the stage clusters, enabling interaction between signals across the facility via the clusters of every image gallery and also between facilities.

“We started the installation in January 2021 and completed the first three control rooms in August 2021. In a second phase, we began installations in the last two control rooms in November 2021 which were completed in August 2022,” states Gabriele Vaccaro, Head of Video Systems Engineering at RAI. “One major challenge was installing the IP infrastructure while in parallel still producing live programs. But with ARET’s and Lawo’s support, our RAI team managed to churn out productions while renewing the production area,” Vaccaro notes.

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