SEC Network Preview: Mizzou Network Lays Groundwork for Missouri’s HD Ramp-Up
It has been a whirlwind three years since Stan Silvey arrived on the University of Missouri Campus in October 2011. First, he helped spearhead the launch of the school’s HD digital network, Mizzou Network, that fall. Then came the Tigers’ much ballyhooed move from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference prior to the 2012 football season, which attracted plenty of media attention and national-television exposure. As if that weren’t enough, as director of the Mizzou Network, Silvey has now been tasked with building up the Athletics program’s video-production infrastructure in anticipation of the SEC Network, which launches next week.
“I came in when we built a digital network, and, as soon as that was over, we got this, so it was a pretty quick turnaround,” he says. “The SEC Network is going to allow us to really up our game and do truly professional broadcasts. And, of course, the exposure is going to be fantastic for all the SEC schools. It has allowed our department to take a step much quicker than we would have been able to without this. It is a great opportunity for us.”
A Pair of New Control Rooms
Previously, Mizzou Network productions used NewTek TriCasters and a handful of cameras to produce live streams of athletic events, and the university didn’t produce videoboard shows in-house. However, to meet SEC Network requirements, Mizzou Network must take its production model to the next level.
First on Silvey’s docket was construction of not only a new control room inside Mizzou Arena to produce SEC Network and streaming shows throughout campus but also a second control room specifically for in-venue football and basketball videoboard productions. The primary control room is connected via campus-wide fiber to all major Athletics facilities on campus: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field (football), Hearnes Center (volleyball, wrestling, track and field), Taylor Stadium/Simmons Field (baseball), University Field (softball), and Tiger Performance Complex (gymnastics).
“We were lucky enough to have campus help us, so we were in pretty good shape in terms of fiber [connectivity],” says Silvey. “The campus already had a lot of fiber in place to venues, but we did have to run some, especially within venues and to camera locations. For gymnastics, volleyball, wrestling, and those [smaller] venues, there was no usable fiber inside; there is now. Then we needed to get connected to the ESPN SEC Network backbone and be able to have satellite trucks pull up and transmit anytime for a linear show. We had a lot of help from folks inside athletics and within the University of Missouri as well.”
A Helping Hand From BeckTV
After a comprehensive bidding process, Missouri selected BeckTV to integrate the two control rooms. No stranger to the SEC, BeckTV also built out the University of Florida’s GatorVision control room just last year and successfully refurbished it this year in anticipation of the SEC Network launch.
“Those guys were great from, really, day one,” says Silvey. “They did a custom job for us from the space we had. I was quite worried we didn’t have enough space, and now it actually seems quite spacious.”
Control Room A, specifically built for SEC Network productions, is built around a Ross Carbonite 2M/E production switcher and features a Yamaha O2R96VCM audio console, Evertz Xenon 4RU 32×32 HD router, two-channel Ross Xpression graphics system, and Abekas Mira eight-channel instant-replay server. Mizzou deploys four Panasonic AG-HPX600P P2 HD cameras outfitted with FUJINON 55X and ZA17X7.6BERM wide lenses and Sennheiser PC 363d announcer headsets.
Meanwhile, Control Room B (for videoboard shows) features a Ross Video Carbonite 1M/E switcher, single-channel Ross Xpression graphics system, Click Effects Crossfire, and Abekas Mira four-channel replay system.
During Athletics events produced for both the SEC Network and the videoboard shows, the two crews will share a handful of game cameras as well as operate unilateral cameras.
“There were minimum standards that everyone has to meet, and so that was a starting point. We just built it up from there,” says Silvey. “I come from broadcast, so obviously my concern was having enough money. Back in the day, something like this was several hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have found that you can build something really nice and have it be affordable.”
Staffing and Students
Missouri is slated to produce at least 40 live telecasts for the SEC Network and will use the same control room to produce dozens more live streams for the Mizzou Network Website. Each SEC Network show will require approximately 20 positions plus talent (which Mizzou Network is responsible for), including five camera operators, director, producer, technical director, graphics, graphics assistant, two replay operators, a video-shading operator, stage manager, A1, A2, and an EIC.
To fill these roles, Missouri has hired three new full-time employees: production manager (who also serves as the primary director for SEC Network shows), broadcast engineer, and graphic artist. Several students who have worked on Mizzou Network shows have been brought on as part-time employees, and Silvey plans to gradually work more students into the SEC Network productions as the year progresses.
“I think September will be different than how we’ll be using them in March,” he says. “Hopefully, students will get more and more experience and be able to take on more roles. There’s no question [the SEC Network] has allowed us to accelerate our plan of putting in a control room and being able to hire more staff. Now we really have the need for that, so we are trying to get the best people possible.”