New Pitt Studios Furthers the University’s Commitment to Broadcast Education
The space houses NEP custom consoles and gear common to other ACC studios
While other schools around the country continue to gear up for the launch of the ACC Network in August 2019, NEP helped the University of Pittsburgh and Pitt Athletics in the effort, providing consulting services, buildout, and integration solutions for a new state-of-the-art broadcast facility in the university’s Petersen Events Center. The opening of Pitt Studios on Oct. 4 is the conclusion to a whirlwind of on-campus initiatives — and the start of broadcast programs.
Between the addition of a broadcast-studies course, education grants, and a co-op program that alternates classroom instruction with full-time fieldwork in broadcast engineering, as well as the newly renovated Pitt Studios inside an area renamed NEP Production Hub, Associate Athletic Director, Broadcast and Video Production, Paul Barto summarizes this exciting time: “Everything good that could have happened to us happened within a couple of months.”
The Beginning of a New Era
On Director of Athletics Heather Lyke’s first day, May 1, 2017, representatives of ESPN and the ACC visited to check on the university’s progress in meeting ACC Network requirements.
“[Assistant Athletic Director, Broadcast and Video Production,] Kelly Hammonds and I had a vision of what we wanted to build,” Barto says, “but we had no space allotted and no guaranteed budget. We didn’t have any concrete things that we could move forward with at that moment besides this idea.”
As he recalls the encounter, Lyke and Deputy Athletic Director/COO (FB) Christian Spears were the key to bringing the deal home. “I can give a great deal of credit to Heather and Christian. [Before they came along], we had been basically sitting at the red light and had nowhere to go,” Barto says. “They got in the room with [NEP CEO] Kevin Rabbitt, [NEP CFO] Gerry Delon, and [NEP US President] Glen Levine and said, ‘We are sincere, and we want to do this.’ From there, everything started moving forward very rapidly.”
A Hands-On Approach
In early 2018, Bexel VP, Business Development, Joe Wire put the project in full swing for NEP and its Bexel systems-integration team. “We took an approach that was a bit different from what other SEC and ACC schools were doing,” he explains. “We looked at it as ‘Can we make the infrastructure close to what we have in our mobile units and what we’re building in our global broadcast hubs.’”
NEP and Bexel’s approach also included building an infrastructure that would allow students to get hands-on, real-world practice to develop familiarity with professional-grade equipment, such as Pitt Studios’ three Grass Valley Karrera K-Frame switchers with Korona control panels and Calrec Brio audio consoles.
From the university’s standpoint, working with NEP as its facilities consultant made perfect sense: the company is headquartered in their backyard. “When it comes to asking for advice in regard to technical and system design,” Barto says, “you have NEP 15 miles up the road, so you don’t really need to go anywhere else.”
On July 9, NEP began installing equipment in the 6,000-sq.-ft. space, which houses three redundant control rooms and multiple editing suites. The team continued the Grass Valley trend, selecting 13 LDX 80 Worldcams, including one with super-slow-motion capability. As is common at many SEC and ACC schools, an Evertz DreamCatcher and Ross XPression graphics were deployed to allow cross-functionality and use across campuses.
The system consists of an Evertz EQX router to manage all sources, both internal and from the five venues. A total of 500 strands of fiber was laid down, including 96 to five venues (softball, baseball, soccer, swimming, and volleyball/wrestling) and 24 for basketball (the studio is located inside the arena). With additional work, the fiber connectivity can be expanded to include Heinz Field for Pitt’s home football games. Says Wire, “You’re starting to see this as [an at-home–production] infrastructure.”
Paying Dividends in the Long Run
Barto and the Pitt production team produced their first broadcast out of the new space on Oct. 9: a 10-camera shoot of Women’s Volleyball vs. North Dakota that aired on the ACC Digital Network. In the long term, the new Pitt Studios facility will provide both educational and professional opportunities.
“Our control rooms are incredibly functional in terms of workflow because they were built by the leading experts in the industry,” says Barto. “We may not be driving distance from Los Angeles, and we may be six or seven hours away from New York City, but everything a student needs to learn and be successful in this business, is all right here for Pitt.”
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