Milan, Italy, Jan 2023 – Founded in 1980 and headquartered in Milan, mass media company Mediaset is Italy's largest commercial broadcaster. After merging with various local broadcasters to form the Canale 5 syndication, Mediaset has five large production centers located across Milan and Rome.
The end of 2019 was the kickoff date for a big migration mission to shift Mediaset's entire production and media infrastructure to IP – a journey which has now been fully accomplished after several COVID-related interruptions. Three key reasons drove this epic endeavor. Firstly, IP technology allows the company to realize their vision to maximize connectivity by having all baseband signals available for all users regardless of location; secondly, it allows a failure-safe redundancy concept to guarantee flawless 24/7 operation; and thirdly it enables the integration of different data formats and most of the network's legacy systems.
Experienced Italian RTS partner Professional Show S.p.A. was commissioned to work out an extensive integration concept that fulfilled the client's high standards. The Mediaset officials in charge, Luca Poloni (CTO) and Marco Di Concetto (Head of TV Production Systems Technologies), chose RTS intercoms because its product portfolio could fulfill all required functionalities and delivered the quality and extreme flexibility to perfectly integrate into such a complex audio network environment. Thanks to RTS being fully IP with built-in OMNEO IP architecture, the intercoms are compatible with Audinate's Dante, so the solution allowed all studios, including OB vans, to be completely IP-based and run on ST 2110. The RTS team was also very proactive in the installation phase, to find the best solutions for even the biggest challenges.
This concept quickly turned into a concrete plan, as the existing network infrastructure offered many prerequisites for changing over to IP – for example, all production centers were already connected via fiber optics spanning some 7000 km. IP technology running on ST 2110 standards offered Mediaset several advantages regarding constant availability without the need of a switching center, along with the highest level of flexibility and superior signal quality. The biggest challenge was to get all audio and video signals synchronized and to reach an audio exchange between the various sites with no audible latency at a maximum of six milliseconds, delivering a full, uncompressed audio bandwidth of 48 kHz at 24 bits. Another challenge was having multiple systems for all studios – which include a theater and control rooms – to be interconnected in one large network grouped in VLANs, allowing the resources to be routed and shared regardless of the location of each production site. The big advantage of such a network topology is clear – every device can see the other devices, no matter where they are physically located, as if they were in a simple, one-tier Ethernet network.
This was realized by Audinate's Dante Domain Manager running on three redundant virtual machines and the system intelligence provided by RTS Trunking systems featuring two TM-10K Trunkmasters in two different locations, serving as the fully redundant and high-availability main systems. The topology of this intercom network system, together with the Trunkmaster make it possible to share the local resources of any studio by creating a dynamically interconnected system.
To provide constant, uninterrupted operation of all production sites, an elaborate redundancy concept was developed – an imperative for Mediaset. In addition to OMNEO IP-architecture on board, the ODIN digital matrix offers built-in redundancies. Three flexible redundancy options are available for multi-frame ODIN systems: Backup and Restore, Frame Swap and Redundant Frame Operation. All RTS OMNEO and Dante devices are physically connected with two Ethernet cables to two different switches, so that in case of a cable break or port failure – or even an entire switch failure – full functionality is ensured.
Every Mediaset studio, including two OB vans, is equipped with at least two ODINs in full configurations of 128 ports, reaching a stunning total of 56 ODIN matrices. One frame serves as a main matrix, the second serves as a redundant device which can take over full operation in only a few seconds based on the number of ports used, such as during a matrix malfunction or network downtime. This also applies to all 506 of the connected RTS KP-5032 keypanels, 29 DKP-4016 desktop/wall mount keypanels and all beltpacks, which have the same status including all existing Dante subscriptions. This also works for system clusters when more ODINs are interconnected. At the Cologno main production site in Milan, seven ODINs form a cluster comprising 896 ports. One additional ODIN is available to fully take over anytime in case of a malfunction of the seven acting ODIN matrices.
After in-depth onsite testing of the coverage and topologies, the officials chose ROAMEO DECT-based wireless systems for the project. After using the site survey function of the ROAMEO beltpacks, a total of 83 access AP-1800 points have been distributed across all studios in the respective theaters, control rooms, dressing rooms and technical areas, so that each studio can use their TR-188 wireless beltpacks and also share them with other control rooms, making any of the 192 beltpacks potentially available from any control room. To assure double network path connectivity and also double PoE extraction for all of the access points, Professional Show designed a custom plate called "PoE merger" for the AP-1800, providing the power supply for two PoE connections (main and backup). Along the wireless beltpacks, 138 PoE-powered DBPs (Digital Beltpacks) are in use in various studios.
The intercom system also includes a fully redundant SIP server comprising 128 bidirectional telephone lines running on Dante, consisting of two main servers and two backup servers. Two VDI interface servers take care of the switchover between main and backup servers and also for the Dante interconnection of the 112 bidirectional audio channels toward the CSMT cluster where they are shared, thanks to the Trunkmaster intelligence.
GPIO16 interfaces are used to integrate the existing interfaces for camera CCUs and also for special automation functions regarding IFB signal management. Due to the high flexibility of RTS intercoms, different formats, protocols and standards such as OMNEO, Dante audio, ST 2110, RVON, and legacy are fully supported and made the integration easier.
"Transparency between all involved parties is always key to success," says Nico Lewis, RTS Senior Sales Manager. "Our Italian partner Professional Show, who was awarded distributor of the year for this project, as well as the project engineer from Audinate told me that without our close collaboration the high standards of such a big, complex project couldn't be achieved."