Manhattan Center Studios Case Study

Manhattan Center Studios Sets the Stage for Digital Technology With FutureFLEX® Air-Blown Fiber® Optic Cabling System

Renowned NYC production studio deploys state-of-the-art LAN for optimum flexibility and eventual migration to digital signal transmission.Located on West 34th Street, in the heart of New York’s “Silicon Alley,” is a premier provider of professional audio, video and multimedia production services: Manhattan Center Studios. The firm’s audio clients include Elton John, Branford Marsalis, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Clients for video services include top U.S. broadcasters: ABC™, NBC™, CNN™, A&E Network™, Disney ChannelSM and the Fox® Network. The century-old building also plays host to lavish musical shows, concerts and award ceremonies, as well as special events for companies such as Microsoft®, Sony®, American Express® and Citibank®.To retain its “blue chip” client base in a fiercely competitive industry, Manhattan Center Studios decided to revamp its cabling infrastructure in preparation for the coming “Digital Age.” Rather than attempt to upgrade the existing coaxial cable system, management wanted to install an all-new fiber optic system. Such a system would ensure top-quality signal transmission − whether analog or digital − to support current production activities, and also lay the foundation for fast, cost-effective migration to digital.The need for optimum flexibility between production venues, plus severe space constraints in existing cabling raceways, made installation of a traditional fiber optic system too impractical and expensive to consider. That’s why Manhattan Center Studios decided to install a FutureFLEX® Air-Blown Fiber® (ABF) Optic Cabling backbone and horizontal distribution system for its studio-to-studio and studio-to-stage transmissions.FutureFLEX ABF: Ideal for Broadcast ApplicationsBryan Keen, Senior Systems Engineer for Telecast Fiber Systems, Inc. of Worcester, Massachusetts, was the person responsible for recommending FutureFLEX ABF technology to Manhattan Center Studios. Telecast is a prominent broadcast industry consulting firm with a vast global network of sales and rental facilities that provide fiber optic equipment and systems. Keen joined Telecast following a distinguished career as Technical Manager for NBC Broadcast and Network Operations plus he is the recipient of ten Emmy Awards.According to Keen, air-blown fiber optic technology is an ideal solution for the broadcast industry, which is being pressed into readiness for High Definition Television (HDTV). “Fiber was once considered to be a specialized solution designed to eliminate noise or grounding problems in video transmission,” he explains. “Today, fiber is evolving as the technology of choice for cabling large television studios, sports stadiums and audio/video production facilities because a fiber solution is now an economically sound and technically superior alternative to copper. FutureFLEX ABF is a prime example of this trend.”For Manhattan Center Studios, FutureFLEX® cabling was the clear choice. According to Chief Engineer Marvin Williams. “With FutureFLEX, we could link all or most of our studios and ballrooms while retaining flexibility and headroom to make moves, adds and changes (MACs) as our production needs change and evolve. At the same time, in an older structure like ours, the cabling pathways are already overfilled, so space also became a key factor. The fact that FutureFLEX tube cable is so compact was a big plus.”Proven Technology and a Sound Business DecisionFor the installation, Manhattan Center Studios turned to PRISM Technology Group, Inc. of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, a leading provider of quality voice, data and broadband communications solutions to the business community, and a certified designer and installer of FutureFLEX ABF systems. Kevin McErlean, a principal at PRISM, designed and specified a structured network that would meet both the connectivity goals and budgetary requirements of Manhattan Center Studios.“This was a sound business decision,” notes McErlean. “FutureFLEX ABF has proven time and again to be an extraordinarily successful and cost-effective cabling solution for local, wide and metropolitan area network applications, as well as for building-centric structured riser and plenum applications such as this.”Anatomy of an A/V Broadcast NetworkWithin its classically designed exterior, Manhattan Center Studios holds several audio and video production studios of varying sizes, including two major ballrooms − the historic Hammerstein Ballroom (named for Broadway legend Oscar Hammerstein) and the Grand Ballroom of the adjacent New Yorker Hotel.Within its classically designed exterior, Manhattan Center Studios holds several audio and video production studios of varying sizes, including two major ballrooms − the historic Hammerstein Ballroom (named for Broadway legend Oscar Hammerstein) and the Grand Ballroom of the adjacent New Yorker Hotel.For PRISM’s design and installation team, the challenge was to implement two-way links between as many of these venues as possible to provide maximum production flexibility. Unlike most premise-based structured cabling systems, which primarily support data communications, Manhattan Center Studios’ cabling system must support a multitude of audio and video channels, plus control panels and intercom systems. In addition, it must support new and emerging digital technologies, such as the Virtual Television applications being pioneered here. The coaxial cabling systems typically used by production studios for analog broadcasting simply do not have the required bandwidth.In this installation, the FutureFLEX ABF backbone rises from the Hammerstein Ballroom stage on the first floor, in the front of the building, to the 6th floor mezzanine, where it traverses the depth of the building and rises again to Studio 7, the 7th floor stage of the Grand Ballroom. Horizontal runs extend from the main riser to the 4th floor and Studio 4, the 6th floor and Studio 6. Tube Distribution Units (TDUs) are strategically placed in each of these locations to ensure that there is ample tube cable to accommodate future MACs. FutureFLEX Fiber Termination Units (FTUs) are installed in the two ballrooms, as well as in Studios 4 and 6, enabling existing fiber bundles to be supplemented or replaced and new fiber to be blown in as needed.The production system’s main hub, located on the 6th floor, contains a sophisticated array of audio and video control equipment and electronics. To simplify maintenance and upgrades, tasks which have been contracted out to PRISM, the installation team designed an easy-to-use, color-coded cable labeling system.McErlean notes that the entire ABF network utilizes approximately 1,000 feet of FutureFLEX® 19-cell tube cable (both riser- and plenum-rated), as well as six FutureFLEX TDUs and four FTUs. Six multimode and six single mode fibers are used for each of the studio-to-studio links, with six multimode and 12 single mode fibers being used for the studio-to-ballroom hook-ups. “The 19-cell tube cable and flexible configuration ensure maximum headroom for expansion. As the installation now stands, Manhattan Center Studios is utilizing only one-third of the tube cable capacity, leaving a full two-thirds for future needs. This positions the company well for the digital age to come,” McErlean concludes.Interesting to note: once the network design was approved and the contract signed, the entire FutureFLEX installation was performed in near-record time, based on a production deadline posed by Manhattan Center Studios. “I have to credit both Sumitomo and Prism for service above and beyond the ordinary,” says Williams. “To meet our tight schedule, Sumitomo managed to expedite product delivery and the PRISM team pushed the envelope to install the product over a single three-day weekend.”Poised and Ready for the Digital FutureWilliams describes the decision for an air-blown fiber broadband network as a giant step forward for Manhattan Center Studios. Not only does the new system provide optimum flexibility to handle the most sophisticated multimedia productions, but it also paves the way for eventual migration from analog to digital transmission. “Upgrading our infrastructure for digital technology gives us a strong competitive edge,” explains Williams. “In addition, the signal clarity and site flexibility provided by fiber optic cables are essential to our core mission to deliver to clients state-of-the-art audio, video and multimedia production services.”