AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh Launches Steel-City–Themed Studio
Revamped facility features the largest LED wall of any RSN in the country
As the only U.S. city whose pro teams sport the same colors, Pittsburgh, with its signature black-and-gold motif, boasts the most unified aesthetic of any sports town. Add in its unique cityscape and blue-collar sensibility, and AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh had plenty to work with in designing a new Pittsburgh-centric studio in advance of the 2019-20 Penguins season.
“The concept of the studio was to incorporate the city of Pittsburgh and its strengths,” says Doug Johnson, VP/executive producer, AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh. “Couple that with the latest technologies to give our analysts multiple options to tell a story.
The RSN’s previous studio launched in 2012, and Johnson and company felt it was time for a new look for its Penguins- and Pirates-focused studio shows. Taking down one of the studio walls and expanding the available footprint allowed the network to wholly revamp the space and opened up a new realm of design possibilities.
“[AT&T Sports Networks VP, Content,] Bill Roberts wanted to reinvent the studio, and the idea of making this Pittsburgh-centric and using LEDs took off from there,” says Johnson. “We wanted to align the new Pittsburgh set with the overall look and feel of the sets in [AT&T SportsNet] Southwest and Northwest while tying it to the visual aesthetic of Pittsburgh.”
AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh enlisted Studio1Group to design a studio that reflected the soul of the Steel City. The RSN partnered with the Turner Studios team — now under the same AT&T ownership umbrella as the AT&T SportsNet RSNs — to build the set at its Atlanta headquarters and ship it to Pittsburgh.
“Our goal was for this studio to represent the City of Pittsburgh in the architecture, and you can see it throughout,” says Johnson. “Wayne Elliott [founder/principal, Studio1Group] really took time getting to know Pittsburgh, and you can see it in the usage of yellow steel beams along with brick and stonework from PNC Park and PPG Paints Arena.”
With the wall torn down, AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh had 2,600 sq. ft. of studio space to work with and has used the larger footprint to deploy a 10- x 20-ft. LED wall — the largest of any RSN in the country, according to Johnson.
“[The larger footprint] allowed us to really experiment with the LED wall we are calling ‘The Hub,’” says Johnson. “So many times you see walls using traditional broadcast monitors, but, even with the thin edges, you still get the windowpane effect. That was something we wanted to avoid.”
Grant Advanced Video Technology (Grant AV) designed the LED wall, which has a 1.9-mm pixel pitch, and the wall’s concave shape drops the pitch closer to 1.6 mm. Overall, between The Hub, a 7- x 15-ft. LED wall behind the main desk, and the LEDs on the desk, the studio is equipped with 310 sq. ft. of LED walls (239 total LED tiles).
The RSN also purchased a Ross PIERO telestration system and a new 86-in. touchscreen monitor for the studio. In addition to physically using the touchscreen, analysts can also remotely telestrate by using an iPad anywhere in the studio, and the telestration appears on any of the studio’s LED walls.
“Our analysts now have multiple options to break down plays,” says Johnson, “which has been great.”
He and his team also upped their lighting game in the new studio, bringing in Emmy Award-winning lighting designer Scott Wolfeil and the very latest in LED technology. The new lighting grid features 60 LED fixtures with complete color-changing capability, allowing the production team to create any number of looks for various shows and times of day. The studio also uses a mixture of Chauvet Professional Ovation LED ellipsoidals, ColorDash Accent quad LEDs, and ColorDash Par-Quad 18 LEDs. The system is controlled by an ETC Element 2 lighting-control console paired with two 24-in. touchscreens.
“We now have the capability to completely change the look and feel of our set for different events and coverage,” says Johnson. “By touching a light on the [lighting-board] screen, you can change its level, color, and even the saturation.”
The studio went live on Nov. 4 prior to the Penguins’ faceoff with the Boston Bruins. It will now serve as home to all the RSN’s Penguins road pregame/intermission/postgame shows and all Pirates road pregame/postgame shows, as well as in-game cut-ins. Johnson notes that the studio’s added versatility will give his team the ability to tape segments to run during home pre/postgame shows, when the studio shows are produced at the stadium/arena.
“The feedback has been pretty incredible from team partners, our talent, and the viewers,” says Johnson. “Our production crew loves the flexibility of the new space. Five minutes after our first show, the crew and talent were throwing around ideas that came out of the first broadcast. The space we have along with the new toys presents a ton of options for us that we didn’t have before.”