NAB Perspectives: Beck’s Wright Sees Rising Interest in Central Control Room for Campuses

Colleges and universities are constantly looking for new ways to utilize production resources in an effort to cut costs while building up their broadcast infrastructure. One method that has caught on at schools across the country is the construction of a single control room to produce sporting events from venues across the campus as well as studio programming.

“That seems to be a major trend that we’re seeing now,” said Fred Wright, director of central region sales for systems integrator Beck Associates, at the company’s NAB booth (C9519). “You take a centralized control room, you run your dark fiber to the different venues, and then you drive all the venues from the central control room.”

Driving multiple venues from a single control room is a model that Beck Associates knows well. In 2010, the company integrated a multipurpose production facility on the campus of Brigham Young University, where a central control room produces sporting events from Cougar venues all over campus.

“Where it really becomes efficient is when these universities have a TV station on campus — such as a PBS [affiliate] — or a large [broadcast journalism] department on campus,” said Wright. “If there is a structure like that already in place, then you can build right into that facility. That is where you really start to find the economies of scale.”

In the case of BYU, there were four fully functioning stations on campus: two PBS stations (KBYU and Create), BYU-TV, and BYU International. Although this wealth of stations is obviously not the case at most schools, the presence of even a single station with existing broadcast infrastructure presents a valuable opportunity to deploy this economic model of a single control room to multiple venues.

“A lot of these universities are going to be using the resources from the [broadcast journalism] department to staff this anyway,” said Wright. “It is essentially an extension of that PBS station or that department, but it’s building in a lot more content.

The control room runs the entire show, allowing schools to deploy minimum resources at each facility, which is a major reason Wright and company have seen a growing interest in this philosophy.

“It’s all fiber transmission back and forth,” he said. “You have all your camera shading, switching, monitoring, and QC in one central location, and all you have out at the venues is basically cameras, intercom, and audio. It’s a very cost-effective, long-term [solution].”