Bexel Helps FS1 Talent Work from Home via Self-Contained, Crewless Studios
Bexel, a unit of the Vitec Group’s Services Division, recently built, tested, shipped, and installed 16 self-contained, crewless home studios for some of FOX Sports 1’s top talent. The innovative systems are permanently installed in the analysts’ homes, allowing them to go on air immediately when something pertaining to their specialty occurs.
“We had less than 30 days to procure, build, test and distribute all 16 systems, but we were more than ready for the challenge,” says Senior Vice President of Bexel ESS Scott Nardelli. “We were able to manage logistics and get the gear needed, where they needed it. From staging the units in various holding locations around the country before deployment, to installing the bonded T1s from the point of presence to the interior of the homes, to running the cables in a way that hid them from view and worked within the existing décor and framework of the houses, our team delivered at every step in the process.”
Since the network’s August launch, the in-home location segments have become staples of FOX SPORTS LIVE, FOX FOOTBALL DAILY and other FOX Sports 1 programming. Brian Billick in Queenstown, Md., Ken Rosenthal in New York, Mike Garafolo in Hoboken, NJ, Jon Paul Morosi in Ann Arbor, MI, Reid Forgrave in Des Moines, Iowa, and Alex Marvez in Miami, FL, are among the analysts who have been prominently featured from the new installations. FOX Sports 1 simply connects into any of the in-home studios via a bonded T1 pair, and goes live with HD quality video.
The systems include AW-HE60SN Panasonic cameras that can be manned remotely from the FOX Sports 1 control room in Los Angeles, allowing them to pan, tilt, zoom or adjust color and saturation. Litepanels 1×1 Bi-Color panels were chosen to provide key light, fill light, and back light on stands, and can also be controlled remotely. The backdrops, approximately 6-by-6 feet and featuring the FOX Sports 1 logo, are customized to the individual home locations. Beyond the standard backdrops are smaller pull-up devices, and in one case, a motorized unit that comes down from the ceiling.
Rack mounted cases, approximately 48-by-24-by-30 inches, are at the core of the systems. Their contents include a UPS that controls power, an IP Power Switch which allows the system to be turned on and off remotely from Los Angeles, a network switch that keeps the circuit open, a Haivision Mako encoder, and audio and video support that provides the IFB and camera feeds.
While most functions of the in-home studios are controlled remotely, the units were designed to make it easy for the on-location users to complete the tasks they do have to perform. “We used a very straight forward audio system, so the talent doesn’t really have to do anything beyond plugging in their microphone,” adds Nardelli. “They also have a volume control for their earpiece right on the desk, so they can control the volume of the IFB easily, without having to go to the rack and figure out which knob to turn. We worked closely with the FOX team to create clear and concise ‘cheat sheets’ for the talent, so they’d be comfortable with the technology around them.”
“Speed to market is crucial in the world of sports news, and these in-home studios have been very effective for us in delivering breaking news,” notes Doug Levy, VP of post production for Fox Networks Engineering and Operations. “In approach, it really represents a sea change. Everyone worked incredibly hard to make this work, and it was a unique learning process for all those involved. We felt from the beginning that Bexel was the most appropriate choice for this project. They have a long and extremely good track record as both a rental house and an integration company, and we knew their team could get the job done.”