Live From Final Four: F&F Productions at Core of File-Based, 10-Gb Workflow

A major championship broadcast, two TeamStream telecasts, and multiple studio sets throughout Downtown Indianapolis have a 12-truck production compound buzzing inside Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend.

Bill McKechney, Vice President of Engineering at F&F Productions in front of the company's newest production truck, GTX-17.

F&F Productions’ Bill McKechney in front of the company’s newest production truck, GTX-17

As is traditional at the Final Four, F&F Productions mobile units dominate the compound and, this year, are at the center of a new fully file-based, 10-gigabit workflow that has all broadcast sites in Indy connecting and sharing more seamlessly.

“The CBS and Turner partnership has been a plus-plus everywhere,” says Bill McKechney, VP, engineering, F&F Productions. “It’s always a privilege for us to be invited back, and the only way we get that right is to put our best foot forward every year.”

More from the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four:

F&F’s GTX-17 is serving as the main game truck for all three games this weekend. It’s the company’s newest, having debuted for CBS’s coverage of last summer’s US Open tennis tournament. Support units B6 (replay) and B7 (graphics) are also onsite to help on the main game production.

For the second straight year, the Final Four production is so large that it actually spreads across two separate locations. In Indianapolis, the TeamStream, world-feed, and studio-programming trucks are located a floor up from the area where the main trucks are parked.

The replay truck is filed with EVS XT3 systems that make a file-based workflow possible.

The replay truck is filled with EVS XT3 systems that make a file-based workflow possible.

F&F’s GTX-12 houses ESPN International’s world-feed production, and GTX-11 is supporting studio programming coming from CBS Sports Network both in the stadium and up the block on Georgia Street, where an outdoor set at FanFest is bolstered by an additional pair of F&F units.

This year’s entire NCAA Tournament production marks the first time that CBS Sports and Turner Sports have deployed a complete file-based work at all game sites and the networks’ New York City and Atlanta command centers.

“It was always a struggle to get content back and forth,” says Tom Sahara, VP, operations and technology, Turner Sports. “We’d have to find a window within the game to feed it down the line, or we’d have to book people on the off days to feed material.”

“It wasn’t efficient,” laughs Patty Power, SVP, operations and administration, CBS Sports.

Inside the compound, the backbone of the file-based workflow is a truck full of EVS XT3 servers.

“We’ve added that extra layer onto the SDTI network and the 1-gig network,” says McKechney. “That part is really neat the way the package is all put together. This is the way workflows are going to be from now on.”