Archives for April, 2014

Live From the US Open: Broadcasters Rely on F&F Productions for Major Court Coverage

On the court, the US Open may be every man for himself, but not so in the truck compound. Located just outside Arthur Ashe Stadium, F&F Productions’ GTX-16, GTX-14, and an accompanying B unit provide resources for CBS, ESPN, and Tennis Channel, while sharing resources with fellow mobile-production providers to ensure that every network gets a smooth show.

GTX-16, a 53-ft. double expando, serves as the primary broadcast truck for Ashe (Court 1), supplying production facilities for both CBS and ESPN. GTX-16 features a Grass Valley K-Frame Kayenne Elite production switcher, Evertz 288×516 HD router, Calrec Apollo digital console with Bluefin2, and eight EVS HD XT2 replay servers.

GTX-14, a 53-ft. single expando, provides coverage of Louis Armstrong Stadium (Court 2) and supports the Tennis Channel. Anchored by a Grass Valley K-Frame Kayenne Elite production switcher, GV Trinix 256×256 HD/SD router, and Calrec Artemis Beam with Bluefin2, the truck has three six-channel EVS servers.

F&F Productions’ GTX-16

“The Calrec Apollo [in GTX-16] is the big main board, and that does both the ESPN and CBS stuff, and the Artemis in the GTX-14 does Tennis Channel [and] Court 2 effects,” says VP, Engineering Bill McKechney. “All the trucks are tied together with MADI so that all the trucks can get all the effects from each of the courts.”

Camera feeds from each court go through NEP’s ESU, which distributes the feeds to the appropriate mobile unit. For example, GTX-14 receives four cameras from every court, six cameras from Court 2, and any additional cameras that Tennis Channel uses. GTX-16 and GTX-14 broadcast in 1080i, which the various networks can choose to downconvert to 720p at their home facilities.

Last week, F&F Productions had six staffers on-site; this week, it has five. As the tournament progresses, the facilities dedicated to courts that shut down are added to the complement at Ashe. By the Finals, slated for Sunday and Monday if weather permits, GTX-16 will have three super-slow-motion cameras at its disposal.

“This is a show that it starts out at its biggest and then, as we progress and the courts drop off, it gets a little bit smaller,” explains McKechney. “But it’s totally managed throughout the two weeks that we’re here. Depending on the weather, after Friday or Saturday or whenever the first court’s finished, that equipment will be released. … It starts out the biggest it’s going to be, and it gets smaller as we go along, [but] it never gets real small.”

Live From Final Four: Teamcast Model Births Twin Production Compounds

It should come as little surprise that running three simultaneous live shows would produce a significantly larger production footprint.

CBS and Turner Sports have nearly doubled their equipment output over last year’s Final Four and, as a result, were required to lay out two full truck compounds on different levels of the stadium’s grounds, one for the main game production and the other for the Teamcasts and international shows.
L to R: F&F Productions’ Bill McKechney and CBS Sports’ John McCrae have laid out a robust pair of production compounds at AT&T Stadium.

Productions’ Bill McKechney (left) and CBS Sports’ John McCrae laid out a robust pair of production compounds at AT&T Stadium.

“It’s not something we haven’t done before,” says John McCrae, executive director of field operations for CBS Sports. “In a perfect world, it would all be together, but we do what we can here. This is not the worst run, and there’s a good amount of space down here, more than most venues.”

The indoor lower compound is the de facto “main” production compound and houses F&F Productions’ GTX-16 (the main game truck), Turner Sports’ TS1 (which powers each of the on-site studio shows), Bexel’s BBS1 (for technical support), and supporting B units for graphics, stats, and audio.

The outdoor upper compound hosts F&F’s GTX-11 and -12 (ESPN’s international telecast and CBS Sports Network’s studio show), NEP Supershooters 18 (Connecticut and Wisconsin Teamcasts), Game Creek Video’s Patriot (Florida and Kentucky Teamcasts), power generators provided by Filmwerks, and office trailers.
Nearly 50 fiber lines were run up an exit ramp to connect each of the two compounds.

Nearly 50 fiber lines were run up an exit ramp to connect each of the two compounds.

The challenge lay in connecting those two compounds. With all three crews working off the same infrastructure and EVS server, it was critical for them to be wired.

F&F Productions VP of Engineering Bill McKechney helped lead the way by running 49 fiber lines to link the two compounds.

“We’re very excited about being a part of this event again,” says McKechney. “Working with the Turner group as well as CBS, who has been a partner for a long time, has been fantastic.”