Comcast SportsNet Bay Area Goes Deep With Avid, Sony for New Facility

By Carolyn Braff

When opening day of the 2009 baseball season arrives in April, MLB Network will not be the only channel sporting a new studio. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area will also open the doors on two new fully HD studios, paving the way for four hours of original nightly programming focused on the Northern California sports scene.

“This is programming that we don’t do right now,” explains Peter Schofield, operations director for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. “It’s not like we’re moving a legacy facility; this is all built from scratch, all to be 1080i HD.”

The 37,000-square-foot facility is being built in HD from the ground up, but, since CSN Bay Area was previously a Rainbow Media station — which was all 1080i from day one — the HD buildout is an expansion of what the network already had in place.

The main studio will contain three sets; the secondary studio has one. Each studio has a dedicated control room and audio-control room that are redundant to each another, so either studio can be operated from either control room.

Sony is one of the larger equipment providers for the studios, outfitting CSN Bay Area with HDC 1400 studio cameras with Vinten robotics and six PDW 700 XDCAM HD field cameras. A Sony MVS-8000 switcher “with all the bells and whistles,” as Schofield says, ties them together.

The installed Evertz router will solve some common technical difficulties in the new facility.

“We’re only building one layer into our router, and it’s an HD layer,” Schofield explains. “Everything going into the router is embedded, which solves a lot of the problems that you have with getting audio out of sync when you’re HD and you’re encoding and decoding. To have everything embedded into the router solves a lot of those issues.”

A Solid State Logic audio board provides audio control, and the studios’ playout, editing, newsroom-management, and media-management systems are all provided by Avid.

“We are going to be using Avid iNews, Interplay, and we have a mix of Avid NewsCutter edit systems, Media Composers, and Symphony Nitris edit systems for the marketing department,” Schofield says. “Everything accessed is shared storage.”

The art department will work with Chyron XClyps and CAMIO graphics systems that will interface to the Avid system.

“Because of our opening date, we weren’t able to get the newest version of the Avid Airspeed systems, but it’s been planned that we will go to a 50-megabit workflow very soon after we open,” Schofield explains. “Once we’re able to implement that, we will get triple the amount of storage that we had before.”

Approximately 100 new employees will staff the studios, bringing the total Comcast SportsNet Bay Area workforce up to 140 — an auspicious beginning in a cold economic climate.

“Comcast is committed to this regional sports network,” explains Chris Olivere, news director for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. “It’s a tribute to the company and the vision that, especially given the current state of affairs, there has been no expense spared to build this regional into what will hopefully be the best regional sports network in the nation.”

News shows and hourly updates will originate from the new facility seven nights a week, as well as pre- and post-game shows, breaking-news conferences, and original programming. A camera positioned on the rooftop of the new facility offers unique beauty shots for the station, providing a view of the city skyline as well as a look directly into AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants.

“We’ll bring something new and dynamic to Northern California that has never been done,” Olivere says. “We will become the source for sports news in Northern California.”