Penn State Athletics Installs Abekas Mira Multichannel Servers

Penn State Athletics has installed 36 channels of Abekas Mira multichannel server in three HD production control rooms on its University Park campus. The Mira servers are used for both live Instant Replay and for clip playback of graphics packages, interstitials and other packaged media throughout the more than 150 live events the broadcast group covers annually.

Rec Hall, originally completed in 1928, has recently undergone several major renovations with the latest being the addition of the Steve Jones Student Sports Broadcasting Complex, which will be officially dedicated on April 19, 2012. Home to men’s and women’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s volleyball, and men’s wrestling, the venue also hosts special events throughout the year including playing host to President Obama, in the spring of 2011, when he visited campus.

Rec Hall houses two new control rooms with 24 channels of Mira shared between them. One is used to produce the video-board production displayed on the two large video screens installed in Rec Hall in January of 2011. The other possesses the capability to provide a live signal to the Big Ten Network headquarters in Chicago. There they can air the event in HD, on the linear Network, or stream it on the Big Ten Digital Network.  The upgraded facilities in Rec Hall enable the athletics department to make every event available to network air, where previously budgetary considerations would have limited the number to 7-10 truck events annually.

“The first thing that attracted us to the Mira system was the flexibility at its price point,” says Jim Nachtman, director of broadcast operations. “We can easily allocate the resources of the Mira to meet the requirements of each control room. Another major factor is its ease of use,” explains Nachtman. “Wherever possible we use students to produce our broadcasts, and intuitive operation allows the students to build confidence, which results in a higher-quality production, resulting in a more successful event overall.”

Another 12 channels of Mira are in use across campus at a third control room, located inside the Bryce Jordan Center. This control room handles video-board productions for both men’s and women’s basketball, football, and beginning in 2013 both men’s and women’s ice hockey. The department also operates an edit suite, adjacent to the two control rooms in Rec Hall, with four Apple Final Cut Pro non-linear editing systems. Another advantage of the Mira over competitive systems is how easily operators can select clips for live highlight replay. In addition to melting post-event desirable content in either JPEG2000 or DVCPRO formats directly to the editor for packaging and finishing. This process dramatically streamlines the production workflow, and delivers an interim cost-effective archive solution to the department.

“The Penn State athletic department is taking full advantage of the Mira’s flexibility and rich feature set,” says Junaid Sheikh, CEO of Abekas. “Their Athletic program is first rate and their broadcasts are a match; the results speak for themselves. We are thrilled that Penn State is finding the Mira so valuable.”

With 31 teams and more than 800 students in the athletic program, it is the goal of the athletics broadcasting operations group to create content that informs and entertains the audience at every event. The student and freelance operators can be assigned to any room and it’s vital that they are immediately familiar with the set up and functionality at each event and each venue. One thing is clear: at Penn State Athletics, the Mira Instant Replay multichannel servers get a thorough workout.