Concom Crew Covers UFC for Three Audiences
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has made the transition from an event that garnered chuckles to one that garners big bucks in PPV, TV, and gate revenues. This past weekend, TV-production company Concom and its president, Allan Connal, stepped up for UFC 113 from the Bell Centre in Montreal, continuing a 14-year run handling production duties.
“It is really amazing to see where we started with it and where it is today,” says Connal. “I truly feel that, with the international market, they have not even scratched the surface of where the UFC can end up.”
Concom provides all the technical facilities for multiple feeds on every show, as well as coordinating and managing the entire venue, from PA to lighting, and producing the venue video.
“The emphasis is to give not only the fans at home a great show but the fans in the arena the best live experience possible,” says Connal.
To cover the event for the PPV, regular-TV, and venue audiences, three TV crews are on hand. “We spend a great deal of time preparing for each show well in advance,” he says. “That is the key to our success.”
Greg Louw, senior director of technical operations for Concom, says the team is responsible for getting broadcasts to more than 26 downlink sights and to more than a half dozen Web streams (as well as to ESPN for pre- and post-fight coverage).
Randy Quick, director of venue operations for Concom, manages all the venue logistics. “Although we have traveled to many venues, each location offers its own logistical nuances and obstacles,” he says. “As in the case of this show, UFC 113, we had to go to plan B when the Montreal Canadiens advanced to the second round of playoffs. We usually would have access to the building on Thursday to put together a show of this size, but, because of a hockey game, that was not possible.”
As a result, the team had to come in at 3 a.m. Friday morning to begin to construct what would have been completed Thursday. TV-truck parking and power also had an early morning/long day. “We began Friday morning at 5 a.m., and we needed to be show-ready for broadcast of our live weigh-in by 2 p.m. for a 4 p.m. show on Friday,” says Louw. “It doesn’t leave much room to chance.”
Game Creek Patriot served as the main broadcast truck, and Bexel equipment was used to create a small production truck out of the B unit for the French PPV broadcast. During the event, 16 cameras are used, 12 around the octagon (including an important robotic camera above the center of the octagon) and four in the locker room. ESPN will also have its own additional three cameras.
“On the ESPN side, we have deployed NEP SS27,” adds Louw. “All of these shows will have networked EVS units via a file-transfer manager so that any of the nine EVS servers can access the Avid Unity server in our edit trailer via an IP director in the host truck.”
VER (Video Equipment Rentals) is also on hand to provide the in-house production equipment and Telecast and Evertz fiber equipment to get the HD and AES signals to and from the editing facilities and ESPN’s truck.
All the technical setup ultimately funnels through Strategic Television, which coordinates and manages transmission.
Up next for Concom and the UFC circus? A show in Las Vegas at the end of May and a closer look at 3D productions, as a 3D test has already been completed. The challenge, from a 3D perspective, is that there is not a lot of depth once the two fighters are on the mat. But Louw sees potential for 3D in both UFC on-demand events and videogames.
“We average a show every two weeks for this client,” he says. “Besides both the domestic and International PPV events, we are responsible for the live portion of the Ultimate Fighter Reality series on Spike and the live WEC fights on Versus, and now we coordinate the UFC on Versus as well. The landscape is constantly growing with our client, and we are there every step of the way making sure it all runs smooth.”