Producing From Home — Graphics Edition: Technologies Being Deployed for At-Home Production Today

A look at graphics-production and -playout workflows from ESPN, MLBN, TUDN, and more

As the coronavirus lockdown has forced nearly every major sports broadcaster to work from home in recent months, content creators are discovering new tools that allow crews to produce, edit, manage, and deliver content reliably from the comfort of their own homes. Whether bleeding-edge technologies new to the broadcast community or well-established tools from traditional broadcast vendors, these tools are serving as a lifeline for sports-content creators to continue to serve fans during these unprecedented and challenging times. With that in mind, SVG is publishing a series of articles detailing popular at-home–production solutions being used for sports broadcasts, esports events, and live studio productions today. Check out previous editions of SVG’s Producing From Home series HERE.

Today’s edition focuses on remote graphics production workflows with a look at the work being done by ESPN, MLB Network, Univision Deportes/TUDN, and more. Want to know more about at-home tools for graphics creation and playout? Then REGISTER NOW for the SVG At-Home Virtual Series: Editing and Graphics, which will stream live on Thursday, June 4 at 2 p.m. ET and feature leaders from CBS Sports, ESPN, MLB Network, Reality Check Systems, and SportzCast.

ESPN Graphics-Design Team Goes Remote on the Fly
The ESPN graphics team was tasked with quickly transitioning from full-time on-campus staff to the entire design staff working remotely. The challenge was to give artists access to the tools they need to perform their jobs at a high level, according to Michael Chiplock and Matthew Tucker, senior managers, motion graphics design, Creative and Studio Direction, ESPN.

ESPN on-air specialist Anthony Lorusso operates a Vizrt graphics system remotely from his home. Photo: Anthony Lorusso/ESPN

Collaborating with multiple departments within Disney and ESPN, the design staff was equipped with remote resources, including access to Adobe, Vizrt, Cinema 4D, and other software applications. ESPN also created some rapidly evolved workflows to make the experience as one-to-one as possible.

For communications, ESPN’s design team boosted its use of Slack, Microsoft Teams, and BlueJeans and is using Unity intercom software to communicate with the production staff and others while also using point-to-point for direct conversations.

In terms of live programming, the engineering, DTCI, and internal technology groups collaborated to develop workflows enabling graphics operators to work from home on several live shows. For larger live productions on campus, the teams focused on various social-distancing procedures, including limited staff per room, proper distance between personnel, and use of multiple control rooms for a single event as needed.

MLB Network Is Ahead of the Game With Singular.Live
One of the most popular graphics tools being used is Singular.Live, a cloud-based graphics-overlay platform that allows users to create and control custom from anywhere.

MLB Network creates graphics for several of its studio shows remotely using Singular.Live.

MLB Network had been working with Singular.Live prior to the lockdown but had yet to find the right fit for the software in its operation. When the graphics team was forced out of its Secaucus, NJ, broadcast facility MLB Network Senior Director, IT Production Systems, Brian Perkins saw an opportunity to leverage Singular.Live for remote graphics production. His team is now using Singular.Live in conjunction with vMix Software video mixer and switcher to create and play out graphics for several MLB Network and NHL Network studio shows.

Besides MLB Network, sports- and esports-content creators using Singular.Live and Reality Check Systems’ cloud-based tools for remote graphics production during the pandemic comprise Activision Blizzard Esports, EA Esports, Sky Deutschland, Sunset+Vine, and more.

Univision Connects Miami and Mexico With RGS and LeoStream
Univision is using a combination of RGS and LeoStream to simplify its graphics and editing workflow. According to Alexis Salinas, senior director, technical services, Sports TUDN, Univision, the solution was originally implemented for the dual-production model deployed for Univision’s coverage of soccer in Mexico last year, but it has proved to be very valuable for the remote graphics and editing workflows through VPN.

Univision has created a remote graphics-production workflow for TUDN on-air content, including the eLiga MX BBVA tournament.

Instead of dealing with RGS connections with specific IP addresses and scheduling, Leostream is a connection broker that assigns available machines within the pool to remote-access requests. Flexible design allows users to add or subtract machines dynamically and makes scheduling much easier to manage. As long as the maximum number of concurrent connections requests is not exceeded, the application will assign each user an available machine. Univision is even using this workflow through regular internet from editors’ homes in Mexico to access the editing system in Miami.

Previewing the SVG At-Home Virtual Series on Graphics
If you would like to learn more about at-home tools for graphics creation and playout, make sure to check out the SVG At-Home Virtual Series: Editing and Graphics on Thursday, June 4 at 2 p.m. ET, featuring a panel of representatives from CBS Sports, ESPN, MLB Network, Reality Check Systems, and SportzCast.

Komal Bhukhanwala, art director, CBS Sports, will address how the team shifted to a remote graphics workflow on the fly after the CBS Broadcast Center was abruptly shut down early in the lockdown. Pam Neff, senior director, project management, animation and design, ESPN, and Brian Perkins, senior director, IT production systems, MLB Network, will take a deeper dive into their respective graphics workflows. And Andrew Heimbold, president, Reality Check Systems/CEO of Singular.live, and Mike Connell, president, SportzCast, will detail how their products are being deployed for remote production and playout of graphics during the lockdown.

This article is by no means comprehensive, so, if you are a content creator using an at-home–production solution that you would like to share with the SVG community, please email details to SVGalerts@gmail.com for potential inclusion in a future edition of SVG’s Producing From Home series.