Versus Set To Switch on New Denver Master Control

By John Rice

This weekend, the NHL All Star Game will take center stage at Versus, and the network is also using the busy weekend as a way to kick the tires on a new master-control facility in Denver. “We didn’t use any existing equipment,” says Director of Engineering Paul Koopmann. “We wanted to completely envision what our present needs and future goals were so we could meet them without using any legacy products.”

The facility goes live on Jan. 27 but, this weekend, will operate in shadow mode behind the current master-control system.

Occupying approximately 3,000 square feet in the heart of the Comcast Media Center in Denver, the facility features Omneon servers, an Evertz EQX router with MVP multi-image display processor, and a master-control switcher. It will handle master-control duties for six independent channels: Versus HD and SD, Versus Alternate HD and SD, and backup HD and SD signals.

Versus production operations in Stamford, CT, and the company’s creative-services division in Philadelphia are interconnected with the Denver facility.

“We basically have a media triangle to be able to share, move, and distribute content to air without having to go back to baseband video,” explains Koopmann. Level 3 provides most of the connectivity, with Comcast’s own backbone providing “some of the large data circuits we need to move media as digital files.”

Using the “publish to Sundance” utility on Versus’s Avid systems in Stamford and Philadelphia, the network can publish directly from an edit system to Denver because of the bandwidth between the facilities.

Involving systems integrator Diversified Systems Inc., headquartered in Kenilworth, NJ, and Comcast Media Center Director of Broadcast Engineering Paul Catterson, Koopmann says, the process engaged “everyone interdepartmentally from operations personnel through creative services to make sure that all the technology selected was ‘best of class’ and worked into our future programming needs. We met the timeline, we met the budget, and we were able to launch this strategically to meet our next phase of programming requirements.”

In addition to the broadcast signals, Versus will house its archives at the Denver facility. To date, more than 15,000 hours’ worth of digital content has been encoded and will be transferred to the Denver servers during the next six months. That content will be available for broadcast and for Versus’s Web and New Media groups, which can also distribute content, for example, as VOD programming.

Koopmann also says Versus will be “rolling out full-surround multichannel this year.” Although the technology and suppliers have not yet been selected, he says, company officials are hoping to have it in place in time for this year’s NHL Stanley Cup.