CBS Sports Network Gives Itself a Makeover With New Studio Set

By its own admission, CBS Sports Network needed a facelift, and it got it this summer with a complete renovation of the studio set at its New York City home at Chelsea Piers.

CBSSN’s new studio set features a 54-screen video wall. Its processors are run by Evertz.

The network, which began broadcasting in high definition  in 2008, has increased its HD capabilities over the past couple of years. That overall enhancement has culminated in a shiny new set that promises to give the network a sleek new look heading into the fall sports season.

“We phased it in,” says Patty Power, SVP, operations and administration, at CBS Sports Network. “So phase one was doing the HD upgrade, and improving the set and the studio space was the next phase.”

No new cameras were added, and no enhancements needed to be made to the control room. Instead, the renovation served as a cosmetic improvement and as an opportunity to dispose of the last remaining SD wiring that remained stagnant on the previous set.

“Now that we’ve built the set, we have the pictures to complement the electronics,” cracks Walter Raps, chief technical officer at CBS Sports Network. “After 10 years, where you are always building upon something else and adding things here and there, it gave us a chance to pull everything out and start fresh in there. We have new, clean lines, and it really completed our transition to HD.”

No new cameras needed to be added because CBS Sports Network has made a full transition to HD over the past few years.

The crown jewel of the set design is the 54-screen video wall. Boasting processors driven by Evertz, the wall is flexible, enabling a single image to stretch across any desired number of screens. Currently, nine total images can be implemented on the wall, although Raps notes that, in a short time, it will be capable of up to 18 images.

The space typically sports a panelist desk, which can easily be removed from frame in favor of standing shots or a more informal lounge-chair setting for the host and analysts.

The new set was used for the first time last Wednesday for taping of Inside College Football: 2012 Preview, which aired last Thursday. It will serve as the home for studio programming during live events as well as for other programming, including Tacking the Trends, The Lemming Report, Fantasy Football Today, the newly announced NFL Monday QB, and a bevy of SEC college-football programs highlighted by the new This Week in SEC Football.

Behind the Curtain
With the addition of the new set came other enhancements to the Chelsea Piers facility: a new graphics room, transmission room, and a slight relocation of the New York-based set of The Tim Brando Show.

Over the past few months, the graphics team has been spread over as many as four  locations throughout the facility. Now 15 workstations, hooked up to the network’s Chyron graphics engine, can all work under one roof for on-air studio and remote graphics. The network also added Piero 3D graphics technology during the rebuild.

In a strange twist of fate, the new graphics center is positioned directly next to a bowling alley. According to Raps, construction personnel had to use a special sound-insulation sheetrock when remodeling the room to help keep the pounding music and crashing of pins from reverberating through the facility.

A revamped transmission room helps support the network’s file-based workflow.

A new, more spacious transmission room was designed to support the network’s nearly total file-based workflow.

Using media-asset–management (MAM) service Building4Media, Raps estimates, roughly 90% of all the content the network’s staff works with is file-based. Approximately 40,000 tapes exist in the CBS Sports Network archive, and they were moved to a nearby facility for backup storage, but Raps adds that about 90% of that has been digitized and added to the network’s FTP.

The small studio for The Tim Brando Show, a televised syndication of the CBS personality’s radio show, has a backup studio to account for Brando’s trips to New York City to host college studio programming.

To help open up space for the new primary set, Brando’s studio needed to be moved.

“We literally propped it up on wheels, moved it 60 ft. towards the back, and dropped it back into place again,” says Raps.

The move actually bought the studio more space, opening it up to 16 x 16 ft. The tiny room features two robotic cameras and a green screen, which allows for the crew to overlay the same backdrop seen on Brando’s Shreveport set. Viewers, for the most part, will never know the difference.

“Whether its in Shreveport or here, it really makes no difference,” says Raps. “We just take the feed and go.”

View a time-lapse video of CBS Sports Network’s studio renovation.

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