College Football Preview 2014: Pac-12 Networks Capitalizes on Production Talent at Home

In its first two years of operation, Pac-12 Networks quickly established itself as a pioneer in at-home production workflows and multipath connectivity.

Pac12NetWith a national network, seven regional channels, and 12 campuses’ worth of content to cover, it’s no wonder that SVP, Production and Operations, Leon Schweir wants to accomplish as much as he can under one roof.

This summer, Pac-12 Networks finalized substantial technology investments to ensure that its San Francisco-based home continues to grow as a production mothership. Among the highlights the two production-control rooms were fully automated with two Vizrt Viz Mosart studio-automation systems and a Viz Mosart media router and two Evertz DreamCatchers for quick replay turnaround for both in-studio and on-site needs.

“The idea being that we have great graphic artists and editors in San Francisco who can do more to support remote football telecasts than if we to try and send all of these people out to four or five different locations each weekend,” says Schweir, a 30-year veteran of the television industry. “I know how hard it is to get quality people who really know how to do high-level events. If you can find a way to use that [group] across a greater series of events, you’re going to be able to put better quality on the air.”

At-home workflows allow key production personnel to work on numerous live events at once, instead of being restricted to a single event had they been deployed in a mobile production unit. For example, the DreamCatchers will quickly ingest content from the mobile production unit onsite, allowing specialty replays with graphical enhancements to be built in San Francisco and shipped back to the truck for use during the game telecast.

Schweir notes that, although this workflow will impact the football season, it will really show its value during the network’s Olympic-sports coverage.

“We produce numerous halftimes on a Friday or a Sunday where you might have multiple volleyball or soccer games going on the same time,” says Schweir. “So there’s quick halftime turnaround.”

Pac-12 Networks’ multipath connectivity system has six to eight fiber avenues linking each of the campuses and San Francisco. With so much content coming in via those paths, the company invested in a new, robust asset-management system from EMC, becoming one of that company’s first sports clients. Pac-12 Networks has added 200 TB of Tier 2 storage and 3 PB of Tier 3 (or object) storage.

“That whole underlying system we feel really good about,” says Schweir, “in particular with the 850 events and the fact that we do so many multicams bringing in six to eight paths, that storage is coming in very handy.”

Out in the field, Pac-12 Networks welcomes a new A-game production truck into the mix. MIRA Mobile’s MIRA 14 will debut tonight at Arizona State when the Sun Devils host Weber State at 7 p.m. PT. The unit features a Grass Valley Kayenne switcher with K-Frame, 12 Grass Valley LDK 8000 Elite Triaz cameras with FUJINON 101X and 88X lenses, and a ChyronHego HD Duet HyperX3 for graphics.

Notably, the network will add 4K elements to its HD productions this season. After experimenting with 4K extraction during spring-football coverage, Pac-12 Networks will deploy the Canon EOS C500 and extract any 4K replays via the Evertz DreamCatcher.

Schweir notes, “We’ve seen enough 4K extraction on other events on other networks, and we’re going for it.”

Production executives also worked with MIRA Mobile to add Grass Valley’s new LDX ExtremeSpeed 6X ultra-slow-motion system to its A-game production workflow.

All Pac-12 Networks football games will be produced in 5.1 surround sound.