ESPN X Games coverage continues EVS revolution

By Ken Kerschbaumer

ESPN’s Summer X Games coverage began least with a dramatic plunge by skateboarder Jake Brown but ended with ESPN rising to the occasion as, for the first time, the Summer X Games moved to a tapeless workflow based on EVS video servers.

“We started moving towards tapeless at the Winter X Games and now we’ve pursued it at a higher level,” says Stephen Raymond, ESPN senior operations producer, technical and design. “Things went really well and it was both an editorial and technical achievement.”

EVS IP Director continues to be refined by ESPN and EVS, now allowing the network to be extended between facilities. The X Games has grown into a mini-Olympics, with multiple venues in use. Taking place in Los Angeles this year venues included the Staples Center, the Home Depot Center, and

Puerto Escondido, Mexico.

“With IP Director we were able to extend the network from the Staples Center to the Home Depot Center via AT&T digital circuits,” says Raymond. “We could browse clips from the Home Depot series at the staples center.”

NEP Supershooters supplied the production vehicles with SS25 serving as the main production unit and SS27 on hand at the Staples Center, SS20 handling the moto events at Home Depot Center, and SS16 handling the skateboard, BMX park and vert events.

EVS’s continued development of the system has already resulted in refinements from the first use during the winter games. The user interface is improved to allow 20 server clients handle video at once. “It’s more integrated than tools we’ve had in the past and it worked great,” says Raymond.

A new challenge this year was also building out the network to handle multiple layers of audio. Each year more and more custom feeds need to be made available to broadcast partners around the world and at the plant level ESPN’s X Games coverage can now handle up to 8 channels of embedded audio.

In terms of new technology the X Games used a Fletcher Chicago 300 frames-per-second high-speed camera. And while that camera may be capturing high-definition images the X Games remains one of the few ESPN events that are still in SD.

“The biggest challenge in going HD is the storage,” says Raymond. “Most of the EVS systems we use are not capable of storing more than a day or two of content. Also the transport of HD signals is a lot more challenging and would require a move to all fiber.”