Live From Pan Am Games: For Broadcast Services International, IBC Operations Are All in the Family

With 41 countries participating in 36 sports (10 more than were contested at the 2012 Summer Olympics), producing a world feed for the quadrennial Pan Am Games is no easy feat. Host broadcaster CBC tapped Burlington, ON-based (and family-run) Broadcast Services International (BSI) to design, engineer, and build the technical facilities for the International Broadcast Centre (IBC), the heart of the Pan Am Games production.

BSI began design work in 2013, working alongside the TO2015 Organizing Committee to ensure that the needs of both host and unilateral broadcasters would be met. In addition to host broadcaster CBC, the IBC provides facilities for CBC’s domestic coverage, ESPN and ESPN Deportes, Claro Sports Mexico, Rede Record Brazil, SporTV Brazil, TYC Argentina, TVN Chile, and ICRT Cuba, as well as for a pool of additional broadcasters under the Pan Am Sports Organization umbrella.

BSI’s Brooke Eady, director of IBC engineering operations, with dad Jim Eady, director of engineering, inside the IBC

BSI’s Brooke Eady, director of IBC engineering operations, with dad Jim Eady, director of engineering, inside the IBC

A Pan Am and Olympic Games veteran, BSI will oversee the engineering functions of the IBC and supervise the technical managers at the venues throughout the Games. It’s a true family affair: Director of Engineering Jim Eady works alongside daughter Brooke, director of IBC engineering operations, and sons Shea and Locke, both serving as coordinating venue technical managers.

Inside the IBC’s host-broadcast facility, the Production Quality Control Room houses CBC’s executive and coordinating producers. Their job is to monitor the content of the broadcast, including onsite production teams that focus too much on the Canadian team or misidentify a dignitary in attendance. The Technical Quality Control Room monitors the quality of the broadcast, including how beauty shots look and whether trucks are painting their cameras uniformly. This applies to additional camera feeds coming in from unilateral broadcasters.

Production Quality Control Room

Production Quality Control Room

“Any venue that has a unilateral feed, we have eyes on it,” says Jim Eady. “We’re providing that service to them: let’s make sure it’s good.”

Next door, an EVS room houses replay operators, who create and distribute highlights packages per venue and per day. In addition, the operators are available to feed a replay to an onsite broadcaster that misses a specific shot.

“All the incoming venues will be recorded here. So, if somebody misses something, we can immediately refeed it to them,” says Jim Eady. “It’s available as a resource: they can also come here and get a playout [of their content].”

An audio listening room rounds out the host broadcaster’s QC facilities, housing a lead audio operator in charge of listening to the quality of audio from each venue. In total, the IBC staff counts more than 85 technicians, including production and administration.

The IBC features gear from Grass Valley, Imagine Communications, Cobalt Digital, EVS, Evertz, and more.

The IBC features gear from Grass Valley, Imagine Communications, Cobalt Digital, EVS, Evertz, and more.

Server equipment, central racks, routers, and CATV and IPTV systems reside in a nearby equipment room. BSI installed a large contribution network featuring a Grass Valley NVision router with Imagine Communications and Cobalt Digital components; Telex Adam intercom; EVS replay, archival, and playout systems; Blonder Tongue CATV and IPTV systems (feeds are distributed to team hotels and selected venues); and an Evertz pipeline between the IBC and CBC’s Downtown Toronto headquarters. Because of CBC’s proximity to the IBC, the network is leveraging its existing edit suites and ENG operations, while also providing several bookable edit, voiceover, and browser suites at the IBC.

In addition to the IBC, BSI provides coordinating venue technical managers for each venue, handling design and implementation. BSI is also charged with contracting specialty camera systems required by specific events— a jib for beach volleyball, a rail cam for track and field — while staying within the Games’ budget.

A walkway built at the top of the IBC facility will ease teardown.

A walkway built at the top of the IBC facility will ease teardown.

“We try to use those in the best way that we can across all venues, creating the blueprints for that equipment and what they’re going to do after the Closing Ceremony,” explains Brooke Eady. “It’s a bit of a dance, but I think we’ve got it down to a pretty good science in making sure that all the venues have what they need.”

Located within the Exhibition Centre at Pan Am Park, the IBC is a temporary facility that will have to be dismantled and removed 72 hours after the end of the Games. To make the move out as quick and seamless as possible, BSI constructed a horseshoe-shaped walkway around the top of the facilities for the air-conditioning, mechanical, and power coming into the building. That way, the company can begin to dismantle the walkway equipment without disturbing the broadcasters.