While Yankees Entertainment & Sports (YES) Network has broadcast New York Yankees games in high-definition since June 2004, its launch of a full-time, 24/7 HD network last spring required the regional sports network to step up its game.
YES created a new high-definition production control room within its broadcast facilities at Ascent Media's technical hub in Stamford, Conn., installed new HD cameras in its studios and increased its high-definition editing and replay capabilities. That allowed it to produce live pre- and post-game shows for both the Yankees and the NBA's New Jersey Nets, as well as other studio-based shows such as This Week in Football, in true 1080-line-interlace (1080i) HD.
Construction of the 2,500-square-foot HD control room was a collaborative effort between Ascent's systems integration team and YES' engineering staff, says YES VP of operations Ed Delaney. But YES made the final call on all design and equipment decisions. Production gear is a mix of products from different vendors.
For example, the production switcher is a Snell & Wilcox Kahuna multiformat 4 M/E (mix/effect) switcher. That differs from the Grass Valley Kalypso switcher in the Yankee Clipper, the mobile HD production truck from Game Creek Video that YES uses to produce Yankees home games. While the popular Kalypso was familiar to the technical directors who might be working on a live game, training wasn't an issue for the production staff in Stamford, and YES liked the Kahuna's internal upconversion and downconversion capabilities for mixing SD and HD material.
A Calrec Sigma digital audio console is used to mix the Dolby 5.1-channel audio. The Sigma board, which will also be used by NBC for its Olympics coverage, has Calrec's Bluefin HDSP technology, which allows all of the console's digital signal processing functions to be performed on a single card. That saves on physical space while doubling the number of available channels; the Sigma console provides 320 channel processing paths that can be configured to handle up to 52 full 5.1 surround channels.
“It's state of the art,” says Delaney.
Other key equipment includes Sony HDC-1500 cameras with Canon HD lenses, a monitor wall consisting of three Barco 60-inch DLP (Digital Light Projection) displays controlled by Miranda's Kaleido-X multi-image display processor, an NVision router and a six-channel EVS replay server. New fiber-optic paths, running uncompressed HD video with embedded AES audio, connect to editing and graphics facilities.
Embedding the audio eliminates a lot of the audio/video synchronization problems associated with Dolby 5.1-channel audio, says YES director of technical operations Jack Kestenbaum, but dealing with digital audio in a live production environment still requires extra attention.
For example, YES “de-embeds” the audio in the control room for monitoring purposes and puts it through a simple Rane analog delay before it hits the speakers, so production staff can listen to the audio and see the person speaking without a time delay. Otherwise, he jokes, it would be like staffers “watching Godzilla movies” because of lip-synch problems.
YES has moved most of its editing and graphics facilities from its New York location to the Stamford facility, where it occupies about 30,000 square feet in total. It has five edit suites, two of which are new hi-def Avid DS Nitris systems tied to an Avid ISIS content server with 3.5 terabytes of storage. The three standard-def suites are Avid Symphony systems tied to a Unity server with 2.5 terabytes of storage (YES will convert one of these suites to HD this month). YES's upgraded HD graphics are created by a Chyron Duet and Macintosh G5 computers running Adobe After Effects and Maxon Cinema 4D software.
The network has also upgraded its Encore room, which is used to cut a Yankees game into a two-hour replay telecast. The room is outfitted with Sony HDCAM tape decks, which are used by the Encore producer to record games and generate a paper edit decision list (EDL). That EDL then directs which segments are ingested into an Omneon Spectrum HD playout server, and which are skipped over, to create the telecast.
But YES has also installed a Pinnacle MediaStream server, which will eventually be used to ingest games, edit them on disk to create Encoreshows, and then play them out. YES has already transitioned its highlights production from tape to a disk-based workflow, using four DirecTV HD consumer set-tops to receive games and record highlights onto an EVS server.
CAPTURING 'MIKE AND THE MAD DOG'
YES has developed an interesting remote production technique for its telecasts of the Mike and the Mad Dog sports radio talk show, which broadcasts from a location in Queens. It uses four DS-3 (45 Mbps) fiber-optic paths connected to Tandberg MPEG-2 encoders to backhaul video from Sony HDCX-300 cameras, and a T-1 connection to remotely control them through a Telemetrics robotic system.
Because production for Mike and the Mad Dog shifts between YES' standard-definition and high-definition control rooms based on whether or not YES is broadcasting a Yankees or Nets game that day, YES has created a portable cart with the joysticks and other remote control equipment for the cameras that can be wheeled from one control room to the other and plugged into a T-1 line to operate the cameras.
“If there's not a game, we use the HD control room for Mike and the Mad Dog,” says Delaney. “We're at the seminal moment now where everything we do, we ask, 'How can we do it in HD?'”