Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish Digital Media Adds Second Control Room, Expands Fiber Infrastructure

The University of Notre Dame is home to one of the most impressive college video-production outfits in the country, and things are only getting bigger in South Bend.

Fighting Irish Digital Media (FIDM) has added a second full-scale control room to its video-production facility and expanded its fiber infrastructure across the university’s campus. The additions allow concurrent production of two live shows — whether broadcast/streaming or in-venue.

“We’ve really been embraced by the athletic-department leadership here, and certainly, I think, they are seeing the value that we can bring to teams, in terms of exposure in streaming games and telling stories,” says Dan Skendzel, senior associate athletic director, digital media and branding. “It helps us extend and promote our brand.”

Added Opportunities
At the core of the new control room is the Ross Carbonite production switcher, the NewTek 3Play replay server, and the Ross Video XPression platform for graphics. It is a converted edit room that now doubles as control room and edit room.

New fiber connectivity to the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center enabled Fighting Irish Digital Media to produce, stream, and archive The Echoes, Notre Dame football's annual awards ceremony.

New fiber connectivity to the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center enabled Fighting Irish Digital Media to produce, stream, and archive The Echoes, Notre Dame football’s annual awards ceremony.

The second control room opens up a world of additional opportunities. For one, it is not uncommon for men’s or women’s basketball and men’s ice hockey to be playing simultaneously at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center and Compton Family Ice Arena, respectively. Now, with fiber to both facilities and dual control rooms, FIDM is capable of producing shows for both venues.

FIDM also specifically invested in Ross’s Xpression graphics system to open up the opportunity to partner with ESPN and stream events to ESPN3 through the school’s new digital Olympic-sports-rights deal via its joining the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

Connecting the Campus
The second control room powers the venues recently added to FIDM’s fiber infrastructure throughout the campus, establishing the FIDM broadcast center as the hub for all video content.

Thanks to added Telecast Fiber Systems hardware at Purcell Pavilion, FIDM was able to dispose of an old production trailer and run all HD videoboard shows from FIDM’s facility. Fiber pulled to the men’s and women’s basketball auditorium enables live streaming of the coaches’ press conferences. With plans being made to add fiber to Frank Eck Stadium, the home of Irish baseball will join the lacrosse and soccer facilities as additional venues connected to the broadcast center.

“The volume of the sporting events is about the same, but now the quality has increased dramatically,” says FIDM Lead Technologist Scott Rinehart. “[Where] you would go out with one or two SD cameras, now we’re out there with professional Panasonic HD gear fibered back. It just makes a better show.”

Perhaps the most notable addition to the fiber network, however, is the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Pulling 12 strands of fiber to six positions in the Center has helped FIDM grow into more than just a sports-production facility.

“That was a big step for us and opens up the door to a lot of non-athletics programming, which we’re thrilled about,” says Rinehart. “That’s part of our vision to become more and more integrated with university programming.”

FIDM first tested out its connectivity to DeBartolo in producing The Echoes, Notre Dame football’s annual awards program, in December. FIDM produced the entire in-venue video show, streamed the show to the Web, and archived the entire production.

The successful production now sets the stage for FIDM to produce other events at DeBartolo, including various arts performances and awards programs.

Building Network Relationships
The growth of FIDM has made Notre Dame the ideal school for networks to produce their own live events from and to partner with on production of original programming.

Notre Dame has strong relationships with both ESPN, its basketball television rightsholder through the ACC, and NBC Sports, its self-negotiated football and men’s ice hockey television rightsholder. ESPN trucks pulling in to broadcast Irish hoops games from Purcell Pavilion this winter have had an easy setup through FIDM’s direct fiber link to Bristol, CT.

As FIDM continues to grow into its own, it has also begun working with its television partners on development of original programming. The department has produced 12 original shows for NBC Sports and, in January, partnered with 3 Penny Films to premiere a piece on ESPN, 88 and 1, a documentary celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Irish men’s basketball team’s historic win that ended the UCLA Bruins’ record 88-game winning streak.

Just the Beginning
In January, the university unveiled major plans for a $400 million construction project adjacent to its iconic football stadium. The plans include a digital media center, academic office and classroom space, a student center and football stadium upgrades including premium seating and WiFi access. A new scoreboard is planned for the south end zone, but the decision has yet to be made whether it will include the capability for a FIDM-run in-venue videoboard show with replay.

Plans for the digital media center are still being finalized but the facility will be the next evolutionary step in media production at Notre Dame including the production of academic, faith and athletics content.  “The new digital media center will provide capability to produce Notre Dame events and stories well beyond athletics,” says Skendzel.  “The goals for this facility are much bigger than just Fighting Irish Digital Media.”

The construction project, called The Campus Crossroads Project, is expected to be completed for the 2017 or 2018 season, depending on fundraising progress. 360 Architecture is the project’s sports consultant, and Barton Marlow is the general contractor.