New York Giants’ Video Production Gets a Jump on Stadium Upgrade

By Carolyn Braff

The New York Giants will move into a state-of-the-art football stadium for the 2010 season, but the team’s in-house production team is already taking advantage of the forthcoming facilities upgrade. The Giants’ new training facility is also home to a fully HD studio, control room, and radio room, where they will have the opportunity to produce top-quality content beginning this May, a year before the team takes the field in its new stadium.

“The timing is really good, because we’re moving into the new stadium the following year,” explains Don Sperling, VP and executive producer for the Giants. “We have a full year in our new facility before we open up our new stadium, so we can use this year to prepare for all the opportunities that we’re going to have to program the new stadium. The timing really works out well.”

With the help of consultants from Diversified Systems, Sperling and his team designed the studio and chose the equipment that will bring the Giants’ production facilities from SD to HD in one fell swoop. The bulk of the equipment came from Sony” HD studio cameras, optical camcorders, switchers, displays, decks” but Apple Final Cut will play a large role in the new facility.

The Giants chose Sony HD XDCAM optical camcorders for work in the field and switchable HDC-1400 studio cameras for use indoors. A Sony MFS-2000 production switcher, HDCAM decks, and LUMA LCD monitors are also being installed in the facility, and HD XDCAM will serve as the Giants’ house recording format.

“We have a control room, a main production-area workroom, and a pretty large studio space to do our shows in. But the key here is that we’re not a classic live facility,” Sperling explains. “We’re not a network. We’re basically a postproduction facility; however, we do need to have the capacity to go live, for when our broadcast partners need to do live hits.”

With that postproduction focus in mind, the new control room is less a classic control room than a scaled-down version.

“The idea here is to be light and nimble, to make this more of a routing and patch bay,” Sperling explains. “Yes, we can switch and do shows when we need to. However, we want that room to be versatile, to be able to rout and patch and be able to serve as a central headquarters.”

Critical to that process was creating a common workflow that ensures that everyone working for Giants Entertainment uses the same system for metadata and logging. Sperling has worked hard to create a consistent system of digital-asset management that will allow his entire team to use that workflow effectively.

Sperling’s group creates as much content as any linear television network, but most of the production is live-to-tape, with all graphics added in post. For that reason, the Grass Valley video/audio-routing and signal-distribution system and Ross digital-signal-processing equipment is just as important as the production switcher. Clear-Com intercom systems and Shure and Sennheiser microphones also have a home in the Giants’ new facility.

Live coverage does come into play when it comes to Webcasting, but most of that content flows through a NewTek TriCaster, not the HD studio.

“We want to be virtual,” Sperling explains. “Whether an event is happening at training camp, in the locker room, or on the practice field, we’ve built a workflow system where we have drops everywhere. The way we’re engineered, if we’re taping in the locker room, cafeteria, or outside on the field, we can cable into a drop triax and ingest right away.”

An Apple Final Cut server will provide the basis for the Giants’ archive system, from which everyone in the office can share content.

“We will archive everything onto that: old tapes and every tape going forward,” Sperling says. “We already owned three Final Cut edit systems, so we’re just adding a fourth for the new system.”

Most important for the Giants, however, is ensuring the ability to produce content in multiple formats.

“Starting in May, we’re going to be HD, but we’ll still be able to format in whatever format our partners need it in, both in ingest and output,” Sperling explains. “We’re trying to create an efficient workflow that brings us to the next level by delivering the content to our broadcast and media partners that they’re accustomed to.”

Sperling’s team provides content for television partners NBC, Fox, and WWOR-TV, but the bulk of the Giants’ produced content is destined for the Web.

“The high-end product will obviously be the TV and in-game stadium entertainment that we put on the video boards, but the volume is really the Website,” Sperling explains. “We program our Website like a television network, so we have scheduled product that hits the Website on specific days, and then it’s there on-demand. We get 10 million hits a month, so we’ve got a big fan base that has grown accustomed to the programming that we put on the Website.”

With the new HD facility, Sperling is sure that HD streaming is on the horizon as well; he’s just not sure how far along that horizon. In the meantime, the Giants will be producing plenty of top-quality programming for 2009, using next season as a test run for the big move the rest of the organization will be making in 2010.

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