Live from the US Open: Big Screen Networks Makes US Open Debut
This year’s US Open tennis tournament has not seen a lot of changes and new twists in broadcast and video-related technologies, but new production partner Big Screen Networks — best known for producing the in-venue video services for the Super Bowl (next year’s game will mark 30 consecutive years), the Final Four, the Olympics, and more — has brought its talents to the Billie Jean King Tennis Center and the bowels of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“They built a new control room from scratch in less than two months. They had good people working on it and a good design, but it still took us a week to get where we wanted to be,” says Bob Becker, EVP, Big Screen Networks. “But we have well-planned control room that is great for multiscreen needs.”
The control room is built in the room where the world feed used to be produced and is used to handle the videoboards in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the food court, Armstrong Stadium, and the South Plaza. The technical highlight is a Ross Vision Octane 3G production switcher (actually a Beta version of the switcher with three mix effects).
“We’re also tied into the EVS IPDirector,” says Becker. “That helps us process video more quickly, and we can grab clips.”
According to Big Screen Networks CEO Paul Kalil, the production philosophy for the seven-person team (and the 25 additional freelance staffers) is similar to that for other multiscreen events, like the Ryder Cup or Olympics. With play taking place on multiple courts simultaneously and ultimate output demands varying at each location, those events involve a lot of juggling of content.
To help make that juggling easier, Big Screen Networks has one main editing area. Mac towers with Adobe Creative Suite CS6 and Apple Final Cut Pro 7 are used to cut packages that are then send via Aja IO HD, Telecast Rattlers, and fiber to the control room where they are fed directly into the EVS.
“By tying our edit functions together in one location and sharing resources, we don’t have to digitize things three times,” Kalil says. “We have all the assets and resources at our disposal.”
Content created includes highlight packages, daily recaps, music videos, and graphics for the videoboards and the ribbon boards. Inside the courts, the focus is on the action on that court; screens outside the courts show messaging and live footage from around the courts.
“For the show inside Arthur Ashe, we have three cameras, two hard and one wireless, and we can also tap into the broadcast. As for one of the most popular video elements, the Hawkeye graphic that displays whether a ball is in or out, that is actually triggered automatically to interrupt the Big Screen Networks feed without any intervention from the control room.
“We incorporate the philosophies and mission of whoever we are working with,” he continues. The US Open is definitely a Tiffany brand that is on a higher level, and the make-up of the audience is also different for the day sessions and night sessions.”
As for social-media integration, while that continues to be a growing area of interest for venues, Kalil cautions that embracing social just to be social is a losing move: “Social media is something venues and teams aspire to, but you can muddy the waters if it does not effectively reflect the spirit of the game. You don’t want it to make it more difficult for the fans to experience the event.”