BTN Celebrates 10th Anniversary With Increased Commitment to At-Home Production

New Sprinter van for the road and additional control room in Chicago support operations

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of the Big Ten Network, a pioneering media venture that played a major role in shaping the next decade of sports-video production and distribution.

Although it’s a significant milestone worth celebrating, don’t expect the team at BTN to dwell on it too much. They’ve got a lot of work to do.

“It’s going to be great to celebrate, but it’s something I don’t think we’ll be doing throughout the entire course of the whole season,” says Mark Hulsey, SVP, production/executive producer, BTN. “We will celebrate it, acknowledge it, and then move on to working on showcasing the over 1,500 live events we’re scheduled to showcase this year.”

One of the areas in which BTN has led the way over its first decade is in the advance of at-home production. Believe it or not, the network has been using elements of at-home workflows for nearly eight years, and 2017-18 promises to be its biggest year yet, thanks to the addition of a fifth Sprinter van and a fourth control room in the network’s Chicago-based facility, both dedicated to support at-home production efforts.

The new control room features an Evertz EQX hybrid (half baseband and half IP) router system and an Evertz DreamCatcher, which can ingest 36 channels and play out 12 for replay. There are also upgraded multiviewers using IP and an upgraded audio system that expands on the number of audio channels seen in other control rooms in the building.

The Sprinter van is loaded with Grass Valley LDX 80 and LDX 82 cameras paired with 80X and 100X lenses, an RTS Intercom with 16 channels of audio, and an Evertz EQX router to route all video/audio to the Chicago control room.

BTN has also added a Viz Libero system that, through IP connectivity, can be used to supplement production of any show whether done onsite or through the at-home control rooms. That adds a layer of high-end enhancement on even smaller events produced with slimmer staffs.

“We’re very happy … and we’ve made significant progress every year on our at-home productions,” says Hulsey, pointing out that BTN used at-home workflows for the first time on complex productions, such as track and field, cross-country, and tennis. “Every year, our engineering and remote-operations teams challenge themselves to push the envelope and make the events better.”

He also notes that BTN’s engineering team is working on incorporating super-slo-mo cameras into at-home workflows for use on some smaller, eight-camera at-home football games.

“As the technology improves,” he says, “we are confident that we’ll make that work.”

Hulsey also notes that at-home workflows have helped but BTN is in position to solidify a solid and outstanding group of production and operations professionals to work more games. Filling key technical positions with the network’s top talent more regularly has proved invaluable.

“It’s one of the main reasons these productions have improved,” he says. “To have that consistency with the best-skilled operators we have on staff has really benefited us.”

Advances for Football Season
Football is naturally the bread-and-butter for BTN in the fall, and the network starts in earnest with 16 football games scheduled over the first three weeks of the season.

On A- and B-level football games throughout the upcoming season, BTN will continue to roll up high-end production trucks provided by the Mobile TV Group.

On the graphics end, BTN will be switching over to use Fox Sports’ new, yet-to-be-released graphics package that is soon to be deployed across live college and NFL football.

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