Dome Productions’ Unite Is MLB International’s IBC at World Series
The phrase International Broadcast Center has taken on new meaning this week during MLB International’s production of the World Series, thanks to Dome Productions’ new mobile unit, Unite. The ultra-versatile double-expando unit, which is making its debut this postseason, is designed to support multifaceted unilateral productions and can be customized to each client’s specific needs.
“This industry is changing, and budgets are changing,” says Mary Ellen Carlyle, SVP/GM, Dome Productions. “It becomes more about really looking at the clients’ needs and servicing them as specifically and cost-efficiently as possible. Unite allows us to do that in a unique way, and I can see this kind of thing catching on very quickly in the industry.”
A World Series Debut
For the World Series, Unite serves as the home to nearly a dozen international broadcasters covering the event onsite and is tied directly into MLB International’s A unit, Dome Atlantic, which is producing the world feed. MLBI worked with Dome to customize independent workspaces of various sizes to match each broadcaster’s individual needs, creating a de facto IBC in the process.
“Over the years, our production of the world feed has grown in terms of rightsholders who are now seeing the advantages of being onsite for the postseason,” says Russell Gabay, VP/executive producer, MLBI. “Quite frankly, our A unit is where we need to be, as we have a great relationship with our U.S. network partners in the sharing of facilities, which help us supplement our own coverage cameras. Dome’s idea of using Unite to solve the issue of having to increase our B-unit size to accommodate the growing demands of our partners was timed perfectly. These rightsholders are the same ones that hold rights to other marquee sporting events, and they are used to top-of-the-line facilities. I believe they will see this in this new truck.”
Dome acquired the Gerling & Associates-built double-expando trailer in October 2013, when Cameron-Pace Group sold its quartet of 3D–mobile-production units to the Toronto-based provider of remote-production facilities. The largest of those rack- and power-ready trucks was transformed into Unite, which is built around a 192×88 Grass Valley Trinix router, 96-port Adam intercom, and an extensive multiviewer infrastructure. Aside from these core items, Unite is entirely customizable to meet client needs.
MLBI’s multiple-broadcaster operation at the World Series offered the perfect opportunity to debut Unite, which allows broadcast teams from around the globe to customize modular workstations to their own exact specs. Program and individual camera feeds from the Atlantic unit, in addition to each broadcaster’s unilateral cameras (MLBI is providing Q-Ball robotic cameras for in-stadium booth positions), are routed to each pod and displayed on multiviewers. Intercom systems from both trucks are tied together to facilitate communications for all the separate MLBI units.
“We worked with the MLBI folks, and they dealt with all service requests, [making] sure we can make it all work out,” says Mike Johnson, director of engineering, Dome Productions. “If there is a space request or need to tie in other equipment or something unique like that, we can usually make that happen. That is the nice part of the way the truck is engineered: its adaptability to flex bigger rooms or smaller rooms, more monitors or less monitors, things like that.”
In addition, MLBI’s transmission team is using Unite to house all encoding gear and areas for sales teams to monitor the insertion of five, country-specific virtual-signage paths and for QC, commentary control, and engineering. Unite’s belly space also serves as a storage area for the broadcasters’ ENG gear and other equipment.
Although Unite had its official debut at the ALCS earlier this month, it served solely as an MLBI facility and did not house international rightsholders. This year’s World Series is being distributed to 204 countries/territories in 13 languages. Among the broadcasters located in Unite are ESPN International and Fox Deportes (the largest operations inside Unite), Canadian rightsholders Rogers Sportsnet (English) and RDS (French), NHK (Japan), Televise (Mexico), FTV (Taiwan), MBC (Korea), and RPC (Panama).
What’s Next for Unite?
The World Series is just the beginning for Unite. Dome sees the unit as an ideal solution for upcoming large-scale events with several rightsholders in 2015, such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup, PanAm Games, and International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championships all taking place in Canada.
“I definitely see it as a roving IBC, and you can really have any flavor that you want,” says Carlyle. “If the client wants us to supply the equipment, we can do that. If they have a deal with Bexel or VER to bring in the gear or if they want to bring their own, then we will integrate it. You can do any of those options, and we can integrate it into [the truck] for you. The key is knowing ahead of time what the plan is.”
Carlyle also sees it as a perfect fit for major annual events like US Open tennis or, in Canada, the English-French dual broadcasts or a multifeed production for TSN’s five national feeds (multiple sheets of curling, for example).
“I think this is the future of how remote television will be done,” says Gabay. “All the ancillary [productions] like Webcasts, studio shows, and international broadcasters require more space. As the demand for more content increases, the space in these trucks decreases, and you have only so much room. A truck like this can replace three or four mobile units doing two- and three-camera productions. This truck gives you the opportunity to have multiple productions come out of one unit.”