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Monday 23 July 2018

It has been said that engineers are pessimists as they're always thinking about what could go wrong and planning for the worst case scenario. But this is crucial for the reliability of major broadcasters such as Sky.

Media Technology were pleased to lend our outside broadcast (OB) truck - as well as a few staff - to help test their disaster recovery (DR) infrastructure this week. Nobody wants to consider major incidents but if an event took out Sky's hub in London then other sites need to be able to carry production and distribution of key output such as news. This is partly a commercial consideration, but also meets a commitment to maintain communication channels during emergencies.

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One option is to directly connect a number of OB trucks and mobile production vehicles to the master control room (MCR) at Chilworth. Having recently upgraded their wall boxes, our truck was in place to check connectivity. This may sound simple, but there is considerable variance in the interconnects and signal formats used by OB vehicles. Equipment must be in place to distribute power and time synchronisation as well as connect sound, vision, network and communication signals to the MCR. We've already identified several conversions required to interface our equipment, which is useful feedback for Sky. The course team have learnt a number of lessons too, having never used the truck in this way before - for example we had to synchronise our systems to Sky whereas we're used to being the master timing reference. The process has also allowed the support engineers to practice synchronising and routing feeds within the facility.

Our truck is due to be on site for the week, with a simulated DR coordinated with London. In due course a large sports OB truck will be diverted via Chilworth for a similar test and the lessons learnt over this week should allow Sky to make the most of the full-scale test.

Links with major companies such as Sky are invaluable for keeping our courses relevant and up to date. The week promises to be extremely informative for the course team but it is also great that we can help them out in return.

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