On this edition of the SVC Podcast, Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Paul Nijak of control room and production truck integration firm BeckTV about the new Athletics Broadcast Center that they just completed for the University of Louisville. Paul discusses the new capabilities of the facility and outlines the installation of the electrical system. The control room is fiber connected to all UofL sports venues.
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The University of Louisville needed a big leap in technology to broadcast all of their sports events. The control room specialists at BeckTV came in, installed the gear, ran the wiring and custom designed the consoles with Cardinal logos. Senior Engineer Paul Nijak is here to tell us about it, coming right up on the SVC Podcast.
Paul, great to have you with us on the SVC Podcast from BeckTV, senior engineer there, and we’re going to be talking about the brand new University of Louisville Athletics Broadcast Center. They called in the experts to build their new control rooms and studios so tell us a little about BeckTV.
Yeah. BeckTV does premier – almost boutique, we’ll call it – broadcast installations. We specialize in broadcast television, for instance TV stations, building from ground up all the way to sports production control rooms, like the University of Louisville. We also have a long history in broadcast trucks, network-level big broadcast trucks. Not necessarily the body construction, but everywhere from the furniture, the consoles inside the trucks, all the way through to the broadcast system and then out on the road. [Timestamp: 1:38]
Broadcast facilities like this are big, high profile projects and it’s no small task to get everything installed and wired so the monitors and sound sources really are what they say they are and everything works as advertised.
Especially in the production truck world. They do require a lot of attention to detail as there’s more sources crammed into the compact space than a facility, for instance. [Timestamp: 2:02]
And we’re talking about the new Athletics Broadcast Center at the University of Louisville. This is what they’re using now to connect with the ACC and ESPN and televise all of their sports events with connections to all of their sports venues. It was just finished in September wasn’t it?
Yeah, that’s correct. We were awarded the project earlier this year. Started onsite in mid-June and finished in the beginning of September. The timeline was really crammed due to their construction schedule. [Timestamp: 2:33]
So what were the improvements that this new facility gave them and what were they doing before? Weren’t they using some kind of remote truck to try to do all these things?
Yeah, that’s exactly right. They were using an old remote trailer that they had. I believe it was limited to four cameras and it was kind of an all-in-one little production system. And really what that trailer did was allow them to do big screen support for their venues as well as what they call linear broadcasts for ESPN, which is their internet broadcast or pass-through broadcast as well; which is where most of the time it’s just one camera and one announcer-type thing. You just hear someone doing a voiceover of the game for internet streams. The new facility that we built allows them to do full broadcast productions on ESPN-ACC network and everything from what you would expect if you’re walking into a full-sized remote truck. So positions for everyone to sit down – the director, producer, assistant producer, replay positions, a couple of graphics positions as well as an AD position in graphics. Not only the communication between all those people, but also the equipment to support a full broadcast. [Timestamp: 3:47]
And with a sports format this is primarily all live production.
That’s correct. These rooms are meant for live production. We’ve built them multiple control rooms so, for instance, their control room one and control room two are identical control rooms to do broadcast on ESPN-ACC network. Their control rooms three and control rooms four are meant to support a big screen production simultaneously with the on-air production. But it’s all specifically built for live production. [Timestamp: 4:16]
I noticed in a couple of the shots I saw they were set up for green screen in one of the studios so some interesting things could be done in there. Now, how is this facility connected to the sports venues they’re getting the live video and sound from?
That’s a great question. So each of the 13 venues connects via fiber and fortunately on this project we weren’t really that limited in fiber. It was all green space fiber pulled, so we really could tell them how many fibers we needed. So on the small venues where they weren’t doing many cameras, there were 24 fibers pulled. But on a larger venue, say like their basketball and their football arena, there were 48 fibers pulled to each of those locations. So it’s all direct-run dark fiber between each of the venues. [Timestamp: 5:01]
And that really future-proofs it as much as you possibly can.
It really does. I mean, what that allows the end user to do is when the technology changes, so let’s say that you move beyond the 1080p mark and you decide to go 4K, you’re just switching out the end pieces at that point. You’re not having to pull up concrete and asphalt to change anything out. [Timestamp: 5:20]
And one of the bare basics of this in getting the technical side of so many live events coordinated is having solid, reliable communications. What kind of intercom system did you design into this for them to use?
In this project we chose RTS. It’s a known quantity in the broadcast sports industry, reliable communication. We put in not only hardwired RTS – their newer series, the 5032 panels – in all the positions, but we also chose RTS’ ROAMEO wireless for use in their studio as well as in their venues. [Timestamp: 5:57]
So they can change their communication setup right down to talking directly to the A2s out on the field and all the other individual production people.
Correct. Yeah. It’s not only just the personnel associated with the broadcast, it’s also handling the communications for the PR folks, because they’re also doing the big screen production as well. So they may have times when they’re sponsoring fan T-shirts, or they may have kiss cam or whatever, so you’re also handling all the PR marketing communication as well for everybody across the wireless. [Timestamp: 6:27]
Yeah, those details can be critical so that you don’t end up with a Tower of Babel during a live show.
You went over this a little before. The size and features of the new studios.
I believe it’s approximately 7,800 square feet, is what the studio space is. Their overall facility, they took the shell of an old building that the university was using, I believe, for shipping and receiving and they built inside of that building the new facility. So in that new facility they have – I can paint you a mental picture: there is a studio that has two different sets in it and also a green screen production area for doing headshots and things like that, for instance. And then there’s also four control rooms. Two of them are two-tier linear control rooms, so they have large consoles in them – which a fun little fact about Beck is we’re one of the only integrators that actually builds consoles as well. So all the furniture inside the control room is built right here in-house. That allows us to customize it to the user. [Timestamp: 7:30]
And that’s really a full-service job when you can deliver custom-designed control room furniture and consoles as well as the electronics.
Yeah. We are a one-stop shop as far as that’s concerned. At University of Louisville, for instance, Jeremy Noe, who is director of the university broadcast center, he chose the colors and he wanted the University of Louisville red for a countertop and also for his end pieces. That’s not a color that is necessarily anywhere on the streets, but we were able to work with our suppliers to get that countertop and to build that countertop into his consoles and it turned out really sharp with a deep black finish on the frame and Louisville red on the countertop. [Timestamp: 8:12]
And the color coordination and Cardinal logos look really sharp. Now one of the first things you had in front of you on the design would have been the electrical system. What was involved in taking that shell of a building and putting a solid electrical system in there for sound, video and lighting? That must have been some task in itself.
It really was. The University of Louisville used a consultant. Anthony James Partners was there consulting, and then through the big process we won the big and we worked closely with AJP to come up with a design that Jeremy currently has. We do three onsite engineering meetings that are days long at a time and we go through our equipment list line item by line item and then talk about every aspect of the system to make sure we’re grasping from the end user what they want their system to do, and then they can communicate to us. And most of the time it’s not a technical person communicating to us, it’s the creative people that are communicating to us how they want the system to be used and then we take that back and design it to fit their needs. And that’s probably about a month and a half process for that job and then in terms of that we’re also designing, like I said, the furniture and working with that. And then the electrical system, calculating all the loads – the heat loads, the air conditioning gets sized right, that kind of stuff – and communicating that back to the general contractors. [Timestamp: 9:31]
Yeah, getting everything grounded right so you don’t have hum bars in the monitors and buzz in the audio.
That’s a remarkable job in itself and this has been really good learning about how you did it all. In Part 2 we’ll find out how the facility operates and how it’s staffed. We’ve been talking with Senior Engineer Paul Nijak from BeckTV about the new University of Louisville Athletics Broadcast Center. Up and running after a tight setup schedule. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about it Paul.
No problem. Thanks for listening.
With their new Athletics Broadcast Center the University of Louisville can televise their athletic events with the best of them now, thanks to the broadcast experts at BeckTV. Next week, Paul will be back to give us the details on wiring and checkout of the new facility on the next SVC Podcast.