F&F Productions Covers Massive Superdome for CBS at Final Four

As six of his finest mobile production units rumble and hum around him, F&F Productions president and CEO George Orgera is beaming.

Leaning slightly against the walking cane in his right hand, Orgera couldn’t be more pleased with the sight: an all F&F truck compound outside the Superdome in New Orleans for the biggest weekend in college sports.

GTX-15, parked outside of the Superdome, will handle the pregame, halftime, and postgame productions for CBS Sports at this weekend's Final Four.

Six production trucks – three “A” and three “B” units – line West Stadium Drive between the Superdome and New Orleans Arena, but F&F also provides nearly the entire infrastructure

Thirty six cameras, twenty five miles of cable, 36,000 feet of DT-12 cables, 30,000 feet of Triax. Even 45,000-feet of fiber was packed and shipped in bins with 25,000 feet of it actually being used. Due to the largeness of the Superdome, a significant amount of cabling is needed to get the production in line. Orgera and his team nearly stripped their home facility in Clearwater, FL empty for this one.

“We’re doing one of the bigger shows in the country,” says Orgera. “I think what that says is that F&F Productions over the years has developed the infrastructure to do a big event like this. I think F&F really has kind of arrived from a bunch of poor, starving country guys to something like this.”

The main trucks on site are GTX-16, GTX-15, and GTX-12. For the second straight year, GTX-16 – which has also served as CBS’s main unit at the last two US Opens – is the main game truck. Meanwhile, GTX-15 will steer the pregame, halftime, and postgame shows while GTX-12 handles ESPN’s work on the international feed.

“CBS and F&F have a long-standing relationship,” says John McCrae, director of field operations at CBS Sports. “These two trucks are the only double-expando units that anyone has built so far that afford you the space and comfort in production without going to a twin. The real reason why F&F is here is the infrastructure of these trucks, both 16 and 15, is enough of what we need to do both shows but also to tie it all together and to share things. There are only a few companies that can provide not only the trucks but the glue to put it all together.”

A total of 12 EVS replay systems will be working on GTX-16 for the game, while GTX-15 will be equipped with four. All are six-channel EVS machines.

“One Shining Moment” of Efficiency
Prior to last year’s Final Four in Houston, F&F Productions invested in upgrading all of its EVS servers to Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) networking capabilities and added EVS Xfile software.

That connectivity between all of the trucks has a tremendous impact on one of CBS Sports’ signature Tournament features, its “One Shining Moment” montage following the end of Monday night’s championship game.

“Normally [the editor] would have access to router panels,” says Bill McKechney, VP, engineering with F&F Productions. “Now he is part of the network. So he can use either SDTI or GigE and an IP Director to log his stuff and he is seeing every [EVS] machine that is in all of the trucks.”

This is the first year that CBS and F&F will use this method of building the montage, removing the need for tapes and other slower methods of delivery.

“It’s going to make things a lot quicker and easier. We’re finally climbing into the 20th century,” cracks Ken Aagaard, EVP of operations and production services for CBS Sports. “It’s a little bit different way of thinking and our editors have to think a little bit differently but they are all very comfortable with what we’re doing.”

“The speed at which he is able to cut that final piece of ‘One Shining Moment’ is critical because we don’t have a lot of time to turn it around,” says McCrae. “Doing it on EVS, we can actually begin airing it before the end of it is finished.”

Grass Valley’s Presence On-Board
All of F&F’s trucks at the Superdome carry Grass Valley Video Production Center switchers, including both the Kayenne and Kalypso HD switchers.

GTX-16 has a 4.5 M/E Kayenne Video Production Center switcher with 96 inputs and 48 outputs and an integrated K2 Summit server for clip playback and storage (ClipStore). GTX-15 features a Kalypso HD Video Production Center switcher and Grass Valley Jupiter software controlling a Concerto Series compact routing system.

ESPN will use F&F’s GTX-12 truck for the international feed. GTX-12 has a Kalypso Video Production Center switcher on-board with 90 inputs and 48 outputs. Also on-board is a Trinix NXT 256×256 HD/SD video routing switcher.

The 2012 NCAA Women’s Division I Final Four Weekend Tournament, on April 1-3 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo., will also be covered with a variety of Grass Valley cameras, HD video production switchers, and video and audio routers.

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