Game Creek Video’s Amazin’ Truck Proves Just That for SNY’s Mets Coverage
SportsNet New York and Game Creek Video have teamed up to blur the line between the regional-sports-network truck and the national-network truck with the SNY’s new HD mobile unit, aptly dubbed Amazin’.
“Since we launched [in 2006], our philosophy has been to bring a national sensibility to our network and, most important, to our Mets coverage,” says Curt Gowdy Jr., SVP of production/executive producer, SNY. “By having this new truck, we will have a noticeable improvement in the quality of the picture, super slow motion, and audio. We are going to continue to serve our viewers even better than we ever have.”
The ‘Truck of the Future’ for RSNs
Amazin’ builds on Game Creek’s design for NESN’s 94 mobile unit, which debuted last fall and was billed as Game Creek’s ‘truck of the future’ for RSN production. Both Amazin’ and 94 feature much of the same file-based technology and interconnected infrastructure seen in Game Creek’s top-end multi-truck Glory and Pride (NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football trucks) but scaled down to a standalone double-expando A unit.
“Traditionally, in the past, we always had two kinds of trucks: single standalones and our big network trucks,” says VP of Design and New Technology Jason Taubman. “But that has changed a bit with NESN and SNY. We actually took a big network-level truck — the highest shelf we have — and brought that thinking in terms of layout and infrastructure to SNY and NESN standalone trucks.”
Like 94, Amazin’ features a production-room layout that is aligned side-to-side rather than front-to-back. As a result, Game Creek was able to cram in a nine-rack-wide monitor wall rather than the eight-wide seen in the majority of Game Creek’s RSN trucks, totaling 144 monitor frames when accounting for all quad-splits.
“94 and Amazin’ are very much cut from the same cloth,” says Taubman. “We started from a common design point and expanded on it a bit for SNY. The monitor wall was one of the big innovations, and we were a little skeptical that we could do it because of weight concerns. Once we turned the production room sideways, we realized we had more real estate to cover, so we added that extra rack of monitors and all the infrastructure to support that.”
All together, Taubman, VP of Engineering Paul Bonar, and their design team pulled out 2,000 pounds from the original design and added back 1,500 pounds with the new design elements.
“We really overachieved in a lot of ways, but weight was one of the biggest,” says Taubman. “That eases the complication of trying to stay under weight when we are on the road for SNY.”
Preparing for Today — and Tomorrow
Amazin’ is built around a 5M/E Grass Valley Kayenne switcher (96 inputs, 48 outputs) and Evertz 3G EQX video router (396×684). In terms of replay, Amazin’ carries three six-channel EVS XT3 servers, two four-channel replay-only XT3s, and a four-channel XT3 SpotBox. Other key gear includes a ChyronHego Duet Hyper X3 and Mosaic XL for graphics and a RTS 272-port Adam intercom system.
The truck carries 10 Sony HDC 2500s with half-rack-size CCUs (a major weight-saver for Game Creek) outfitted with Canon glass (a mix of 76X, 100X, and ENG lenses) and four robotic cameras. In addition, the truck will feature an Ikegami/NAC Hi Motion II ultra-slo-mo system for every home and away game, as well as an Inertia Unlimited X-Mo ultra-slo-mo system (featuring a Vision Research Phantom V642 camera) for all home games — one of the most substantial high-speed–camera complements to date for an RSN show.
On the audio side, the truck boasts a 64-fader 5.1-surround Calrec Artemis Beam console, Evertz EMX audio router, and a mix of Sennheiser (26 handheld and shotgun), Audio Technica (four shotgun), Electro-Voice (six handheld), and Sony (12 lavalier) microphones. These tools are part of SNY’s enhanced-audio plan for the 2014 season, with the network aiming to “capture more of the essence and sounds of the game to make the viewer hear as if they’re on the field,” according to Gowdy.
Per SNY’s request, Game Creek built plenty of technological headroom into the truck to allow for future expansion, wiring the truck to carry up to 20 cameras and nine EVS XT3 replay servers if necessary.
“With a customer like SNY, you don’t know what kind of future expansion they might have or rights they will end up pulling in,” says Game Creek President/owner Pat Sullivan. “So this truck has to have a lot of flexibility and upward growth even compared to the substantial show that SNY is currently doing. There is a lot of room to grow into whatever SNY dreams up moving forward.”
Born a Ramblin’ Truck
Amazin’, which has already been working Mets spring-training telecasts in Port St. Lucie, FL, will serve as SNY’s new home for every home game and will also travel to a handful of northeastern markets — Philadelphia and Washington, DC, for example — depending on scheduling. Game Creek will also supply SNY with facilities for its other away-game productions.
“They will have Amazin’ for their northeastern rivals, but, when they go out west, they will be sitting in another large-scale Game Creek truck like one of our NFL Network trucks,” says Sullivan. “[SNY] will see there is no drop-off in facilities or talent when you go on the road with us.”
Customized to a T
According to Gowdy, SNY’s home and away Mets telecasts had grown to the point where it was time to upgrade to a new truck and put it out for bid near the end of last season. Game Creek went as far as bringing an existing truck out to Citi Field last spring so that director Bill Webb, producer Gregg Picker, and the rest of the production team could test it out and identify custom modifications for the new build.
“Everything was custom-built from A to Z,” says Gowdy. “Everything from pullout drawers to printers and fax machines to storage. For Picker and Webb and those guys, that is really their office, so little things like comfort and space are huge. We worked on those little things with Game Creek, so, when these guys sat down during spring training, it felt like home right away.”
Cornering the New York Market
The addition of SNY to its client list represents a major win for Game Creek, which now provides mobile facilities for the three primary New York City RSNs: SNY, MSG Network, and YES Network. It didn’t hurt that Gowdy and Sullivan have known each other since the seventh grade — when Gowdy’s father served as the voice of the AFL and Sullivan’s father, Billy, owned the league’s Boston Patriots. With SNY SVP of Operations Bill Clarke and Game Creek Video VP Garret Sullivan helping to engineer a deal, the two sides were able to begin construction and integration on Amazin’ late last year.
“This is a piece of business that we have always wanted to have for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that SNY is a very forward-thinking company and could be good partners in terms of our future initiatives — not only in this truck but in the trucks we will be providing on the road,” says Sullivan. “So it was a natural partnership.”