Take one step into the production truck compound at this year’s Final Four and it’s easy to tell who the big man on campus is.
Six F&F Productions mobile units – three “A” and three “B” units – are packed inside the concrete cave just outside the north doors of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
CBS has made F&F their truck company of choice for numerous years now at some of its biggest events, including the US Open tennis tournament. The Final Four in particular, however, is a gig that has proven to be a big win for the company over the years.
Bill McKechney, VP, engineering (left) and President and CEO George Orgera of F&F Productions oversaw six of their trucks – three “A” and three “B” units – in the compound outside the Georgia Dome during the Final Four.
“It’s fantastic, and what it proves is that we’ve done the job in the past and we’ve got the best guys that are doing the job,” says George Orgera, president and CEO of F&F Productions. “CBS wants us back every year and that’s quite an honor. I think we’ve come a long way. Just look at all the equipment we have here. We have about $30 million worth of equipment here.”
For the third straight year, F&F’s GTX-16 is the main game truck for this weekend’s broadcasts. Meanwhile, GTX-15 steers the pregame, halftime, and postgame shows.
The Georgia Dome is a very familiar building for the CBS Sports team. In addition to the occasional Atlanta Falcons game, CBS broadcasts the SEC Football Championship Game from the venue on an annual basis. That didn’t keep this Final Four from presenting its own unique set of challenges.
“This is a large stadium to cable,” says Ken Aagaard, EVP of operations, engineering, and production services for CBS Sports. “Our primary cameras are on the reverse side of where they normally are, so we had to run a lot more cable. We kind of like how it’s worked out because we like the angles we’re getting. But it’s a little weird being on the reverse side.”
According to F&F Productions’ Vice President, Engineering Bill McKechney, his company is working primarily off of fiber this year and transported 14 bins of cable to Atlanta to get the job done. In these bins are 22 500-ft. cables and five 650-ft. cables. That totals up to about 14,250 feet of just SMPTE and triax. On top of that, F7F also brought along approximately 25,000 additional feet of DT-12 cabling to help cover the Dome.
Under the Hoods
All of F&F’s trucks at the Georgia Dome carry Grass Valley production switchers, including both the Kayenne and Kalypso HD switchers.
GTX-16 has a 4.5 M/E Kayenne Video Production Center switcher with 96 inputs and 48 outputs and an integrated K2 Summit server for clip playback and storage (ClipStore). GTX-15 sports a Kalypso HD Video Production Center switcher and Grass Valley Jupiter software controlling a Concerto Series compact routing system.
GTX-16 also has five six-channel EVS XT+ servers, a Calrec Apollo audio console with up to 1,020 channel-processing paths, and a 3G Evertz router with 288×576 inputs and outputs. The router makes it suitable for both 3D and 1080p productions.