Archive for June, 2006

10 years at the cutting edge

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

by Neil Reed, Custom Consoles Ltd

Ten years is a long time in broadcasting. Back in 1996, flat panel touch-screens were a new technology. A typical master control room desk consisted mainly of dedicated panels controlling equipment that was either resident under the work-surface or linked by cable to an adjacent apparatus room. Custom Consoles was born in that year at a 100 square metre manufacturing facility. The factory was located in Leighton Buzzard, at the apex of the Timber Triangle formed with High Wycombe in the south and Chipping Norton in the west. An established furniture-making industry had developed in this area, sourcing from high grade beech trees which grew throughout the region. The first products were one-offs, custom-designed to fulfill specific contracts within the broadcast industry, working with veneered MDF, solid timber, laminates and hard-wearing Linoleum.

1998: System One
1998 saw the introduction of our first ‘standard’ design: the System One fixed-height graphics desk and side-table. Health and safety legislation was becoming increasingly strict with growing concern about employers’ responsibilities for repetitive strain injury so our thoughts were soon turning to practical ways of reducing RSI.

2000: System Two
System Two was introduced in 2000. Developed for use as an editing or graphics workstation with advanced ergonomic features, it incorporates independent electrically motorised height adjustment of the main desk surface and rear monitor shelf. Meeting BS EN ISO 9241, System Two is designed for 24/7 environments in which workstations are shared by different staff. The design also enables operators to vary their working posture during the course of a working day. It is supported by a range of accessories including a 13 U equipment storage pedestal, an under-shelf pod for central or side-by-side mounting, a VTR bay, a 27U standard bay and a 27U quiet-bay. System Two proved popular among broadcasters and post production houses. The design remained substantially unchanged until recently when we added an electronic anti-collision sensor which halts and reverses the desk or monitor-shelf on contact with an obstacle. The maximum height of the monitor shelf has been increased from 1106 to 1200 mm; minimum height remains at 660 mm.

2002: Another Move
We moved into our current premises: Leedon house, Billington Road, Leighton Buzzard, giving us 680 square metres of manufacturing space.

2004: M-Desk. Media Desk
The success of the motorised System Two convinced us that a lower-cost manually-adjustable height-adjustable desk would also prove popular. The result was M-Desk. Its extruded-aluminium support pillars brought the twin benefits of light weight and attractive structural design without compromising rigidity. The height adjuster used a coupling-rod arrangement to synchronise the level of the left and right pillars. The work-surface height can be set throughout the range of 660 to 900 mm using a telescopic crank handle that returns into the profile of the desk when not required. M-Desk incorporates cable management ducts as standard; with optional CPU holders and ergonomic LCD monitor arms as required. The M-Desk series is completed by a range of matching pedestals and storage items.
Designed for larger applications, Media Desk has a 1,800 mm width dual-level configuration with individual height-adjustment of the front and rear work surfaces. The raised rear platform enables studio and office designers to benefit from the compactness of LCD flat-screen displays. Like M-Desk, Media Desk allows users to make adjustments to suit their individual requirements and to vary their posture throughout the working day. The desk was developed in co-operation with the Furniture Institute Research Association (FIRA) to ensure conformity with BS EN ISO 9241 recommendations and all relevant European standards.
Studio designers generally take considerable trouble to reduce distracting background noise in control rooms and creative production areas. A further addition to the Media Desk range, the MD5003 noise-reduction bay enables noisy devices such as PCs to be used in relatively closer proximity without undue distraction from the buzz of hard-disks and cooling fans. Accommodating 27 U of equipment, it has a 6 mm laminated clear-glass front-facing door plus rear access doors, all with acoustic sealing. It provides up to 13 dB of acoustic isolation. Internal and external temperature sensors are incorporated, plus a rear-facing low-noise radial fan with continuously-variable speed adjustment. The main structure is of 19 mm medium-density-fibreboard with a variety of surface options.

2005: A bigger site, and Module-R
Responding to increased demand, we extended our Leighton Buzzard headquarters at the beginning of 2005. Five hundred square metres of ground-level space were added to the existing 680 square metre site. Measuring 30 x 17 metres with a 3.5 metre ceiling height, the new production area is used for final-assembly. The expanded premises also allow increased demonstration space to be allocated for monitor screen supports and workstation accessories.
With the aim of bridging the two techniques of customer-specific and standard-design furniture, we introduced the Module-R series which allows technical control desks to be produced to individual requirements from a range of desk pods, base sections, worktops, rear tops, end-panel modules and extruded legs. The desk pods are available as single sections with a choice of 3U, 6U or 8U chassis capacity. Cabinet construction is in high-quality grey-finished or maple-veneered MDF. Cable management is integrated into all desk sections.

2006: Media Wall
The improving quality of flat-screen displays over the past 10 years has resulted in their increasing popularity not just for machine supervision but for picture monitoring. Media Wall is designed to accommodate large or small arrays of flat-panel monitors and ancillary equipment. Media Wall incorporates height-adjustable horizontal beams suspended between 2,000 mm high silver-anodised aluminium supports. The beams are available in 1,500, 2,000 and 2,500 mm widths and are structured to allow easy attachment of large and small panels using pivoting VESA and plasma-mount fittings. Cable management is via both vertical and horizontal finger trunking mounted on to the extrusions. Equipment pods with 19 inch racking behind removable vented panels can be accommodated at floor-level.

Looking ahead
Furniture has remained a stable sector of the broadcast business in more ways than one. Our client base today includes major broadcasters such as the BBC, Channel 4 UK, Emirates Media, ITV UK, TV4 Sweden, NOB Holland and TSR Switzerland. The quality of our design ergonomics, finish and service is also recognised by other industries such as security, air traffic control, road traffic supervision, process control and network monitoring. The increasing use of software-based devices running on standard computer platforms has greatly increased the power of independent programme producers and in so doing helped expand the entire television, radio and electronic-publishing market. Our own productivity as a company has been increased by 3D computer-aided design, visualisation software and CNC machinery. The desktop is not yet obsolete.