July 21, 2011

Sky - Europe's greenest studios

The new Sky Studios, which started broadcasting recently, is Europe's most environmentally friendly broadcast centre. 

I visited the west London facility, which was  known as Harlequin 1, and talked to some of the people behind it, including Alistair Watters, Harlequin One programme director (pictured top).

It has eight studios (five of which will be in operation initially), 45 edit suites, 14 voice-over suites, four audio suites, on site post-production facilities, and room for some 1,370 staff.

Energy saving was a key priority, evident in its giant wind turbine on the roof, alongside all the heat-producing mechanical and electrical equipment normally found in studio basements – this use of natural air cooling extends to the studios and offices too. A Combined Cooling & Heating Power plant has also been built, which will provide about 20% of the complex's energy needs when it comes on line.

The green agenda also extended to demanding power savings from its broadcast equipment suppliers, and to devising smart ways of cooling racks of hardware.

Smart design was also applied to the infrastructure, to make it quick and easy for camera crews to shoot anywhere in the building, and to ensure the studios and galleries are as flexible as possible. To aid this, almost all of the galleries are identical, except for the Sky Sports News gallery (the first one to go into operation), which has more graphics. "It’s very bespoke. Equally it’s a gallery that works between two studios, and it has two galleries in one," said Darren Long, Director of Operations at Sky Sports (pictured in the master control room, which, unusually for such places, is filled with daylight).

Effectively one gallery area deals with the downstairs studio and another with upstairs. The smaller area allows the main gallery to work to the front desk while the downstairs studio shoots something for Sky News or does a pre record, "but when they swap from upstairs to downstairs they might want the smaller gallery to take control of upstairs so that they can swap all the infrastructure and everything to the downstairs area." This will allow them to change the look of Sky Sports News more easily throughout the day.

For the full behind-the-scenes report on how Sky Studios was developed, see my story from the July issue of TVBEurope.

By David Fox.

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