Live From Roland Garros: Tennis Channel Relies on VER for Tech Support and More
The play at the French Open this weekend might have gotten off to a soggy and slow start, but the production backend is up and running completely. And, once again, VER is providing the technical equipment, engineering, and support that gives Tennis Channel the required energy to meet the needs of tennis fans in the States as well as NBC Sports, ESPN International, and, new this year, Eurosport.
“This year, we have an entirely separate facility for Eurosport located next door,” says Mike Forman, project manager, VER. “It’s a separate package, and they have their own EVS systems and router, but it is tied together with the Tennis Channel facility so they can share resources. Almost all of the resources are shared.”
The core of the Tennis Channel facility is a 576×1152 Evertz router that sends signals to two control rooms, each housing a Grass Valley Kayenne K-Frame switcher and Calrec audio boards. A third control room for Eurosport and a fourth for ESPN International are also onsite and managed by VER. There are 14 EVS XT3 servers onsite for replay needs.
On the audio side, according to Audio Engineer Craig Lapsley, 32 MADI streams transport all the audio, and all audio signals are patched virtually, something unusual for an event the size of the French Open. Seven Lance Commentary kits scattered around the grounds use fiber to send signals to and from the courts. All audio is also backed up on a Calrec Hydra rack system and on separate paths so that it can be switched over to the backup as quickly as possible.
“We take the feeds from the host and then pass to the EVS replay servers and also de-embed the audio so that it can be mixed and the reassembled into the show,” explains Derek Whittington, engineer-in-charge for the project.
This is the third year that VER has been onsite at the French Open for Tennis Channel, and Whittington says the team gets better each year, especially since it has a better understanding of what tools and technologies the Tennis Channel production team needs.
“It’s about having good prep time as we build this system up at the VER facility in Glendale, CA, and then test it there so that, by the time it gets here, we are already 90% there,” he explains. “At that point, it is just cabling the system and then modifying it to improve efficiencies. But this is a good challenge that has a lot of moving pieces and keeps us sharp, as we all have to collaborate and work together. Plus, there are new technologies that need to be incorporated into the older system.”
The VER team, comprising staffers and freelancers, numbers about 15 people, and VER also handles hiring the additional production staff (EVS operators, camera operators) for Tennis Channel. Following the conclusion of the French Open, the VER team will prep for a busy summer that includes support of Tennis Channel at Wimbledon (with a scaled-down system that will use the Eurosport system onsite at the French as a starting point) as well as in Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Olympics.