High-Tech Hybrid: Superior Surveillance for CBS

March 1, 2008

CBS uses analog/IP video to secure its Studio Center in Studio City, CA.

By C.C. Sullivan

Keen on integrating the latest in security surveillance technology, CBS Studio Center has installed a high-tech hybrid analog/IP video solution to monitor the media company's 40-acre campus in Studio City, CA.

The large-scale installation incorporates more than 150 Bosch Security Systems cameras to record activity inside the complex's 18 sound stages, three outdoor sets, 213 dressing rooms, and 180,000 square feet of production office space.

The facility is the production center for such network hits as "Big Brother" and "CSI:NY," so CBS image quality requirements for security video in the spaces are as high as their television production values might suggest. Consequently, the cameras stream high-resolution video to multichannel encoders, which convert multiple analog camera signals into digital format and transmit them across the studio's network.

Senior security professionals can then view video at PC workstations with CCTV keyboards inside of the new CBS Broadcast Center, where two 5,000-square-foot newsroom sound stages are located. System decoders also send video to a wall of 12 analog monitors for easy viewing.

By choosing a hybrid analog/IP solution, CBS Studio Center was able to use its existing analog cameras, in addition to taking advantage of the portability and flexibility offered by an IP system.

Providing a historical perspective, Rob Haggard, CBS Studio Center's security system administrator, relates, "Our security command center is a small room that was built when we had 10 cameras covering the entire property. Our facility has grown significantly and the amount of equipment and cabling has multiplied, quickly filling the command center to capacity." The IP-based recording system allows CBS to locate equipment in the field and in central MIS closets, allowing space for other storage.

Due to the new system's robustness, the decision was also made to install a separate network for the video equipment.

"Planning for the new video system required making sure that the replacement of 105 existing cameras and the addition of 65 new cameras all happened simultaneously with the installation of a new network on which the video system is housed," recalls Haggard. "By building a separate network for the video system, we made sure that the traffic on our regular computer network is not affected by our new large-scale video system. That entailed planning for the network drops and new devices located around the campus that run the security video system."

In addition, new cameras can easily be added onto the system, and any associated cabling only needs to run to one of 15 campus locations where network switches and encoders are housed.

So far, the quality and conveniences offered by the new CBS surveillance system, as compared to their old system, are many.

"The ability to view video is far superior. Combined with the Genetec software, we can now centrally access video from any camera instead of connecting to one of six separate DVRs, as was necessary with our previous system," Haggard explains. "The new system is also much more effective at alerting us to potential problems with the network, server, encoders, cameras, etc., so we can tackle any issues in a timely manner. Previously, we would find a camera or recording problem only when we tried to access the video from a particular day or time and discover it was never recorded."

Summing up the project's requirements and subsequent benefits, Greg Cortina, a regional manager for Bosch's CCTV division, comments, "For this installation, video needed to traverse a long distance to be viewed and recorded while maintaining quality. CBS Studio Center also needed portability and redundancy, and an IP solution with a dedicated security fiber backbone provides that benefit. By deploying encoders with internal storage, as well as central server-based recording, the system has enhanced fault tolerance."

Ultimately, whether it's ensuring the security of such television personalities as Gary Sinise and Julie Chen, CBS Studio Center employees, or customers who rent studio space, CBS's new video surveillance system is up to the task.

C.C. Sullivan ([email protected]) is an author and communications consultant specializing in design and construction.

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