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Wednesday 20 April 2016

Hands-on with Ericsson

Media technology students at Southampton Solent University will soon have access to a comprehensive MPEG head-end system, generously provided by Ericsson Television.

The new system, which allows students to compress up to six SD or HD video streams and combine them into a DVB multiplex suitable for transmission, is the latest addition to Solent’s huge range of industry-grade media technology – a range of equipment that covers every step of the film and TV production line, from lighting and camera lenses to broadcast and transmission.


Crucially, the new system includes Ericsson’s nCompass control application and spare hardware, allowing students to explore redundancy and statistical multiplexing. Paul Bourne, Lecturer in Media Technology, explains the opportunities this provides: “Students will be able to configure the head-end, explore the differences between encode profiles and how to build a compliant multiplex.

“Students will also have hands on experience with managing redundancy and be able to analyse the transport streams that they have built. It is significant that students will be able to connect, configure and fault-find using the equipment rather than simply operate it”.

This is a prime example of how Southampton Solent University and the broadcast industry is working together to enhance student employability and address skills gaps within the sector. Crispin Munns, Project Engineer at Ericsson, explains: “The architecture and hardware used in the University system is representative of the majority of Ericsson systems currently operating worldwide for mission critical applications for many of the world-leading broadcasters and content providers”.

The latest professional kit

In addition to fixed-place hardware like the University’s video laboratory, where the Ericsson system has been installed, the huge amount of professional-grade equipment made freely available from Solent’s media stores is a huge draw for most media students.

Part of Solent’s 2015 lens collection on display

“The level of kit we offer is remarkable – we spend something like 15k a year on camera lenses alone,” says Micah Gates, Head of Specialist Facilities. For the media stores team, it’s a constant race to keep up with the latest technology. “You have to choose carefully and make sure the University’s getting value for money from its kit – balancing lifespan with cost, and providing students with access to equipment which wouldn’t be out of place in a professional environment.”

The primary purpose of all this kit is helping students build hands-on experience, and Solent does everything it can to encourage extracurricular activity. Micah: “We prefer they’re out practicing and building experience than the kit’s just sitting on the shelf.”

Inside the media equipment store

Some of the more recent developments include a 3D cinema and incorporated Dolby Atmos surround sound studio, and a range of other specialist facilities that includes sound studios, foley booths and three high-definition TV studios – one of which is a large HD studio capable of seating an audience of 200 people and running ten cameras.

Out in the field, Solent students will soon be gearing up for their eleventh year of filming and broadcast from the legendary Glastonbury Festival, just one highlight of a busy summer working with our industry-standard outdoor broadcast vehicle – providing technical support and HD broadcast capability across the UK festival circuit.