Game Creek Takes RSN Production Into the Future With NESN

For Game Creek Video President Pat Sullivan, it was a partnership two decades in the making.

Game Creek Video president Pat Sullivan (left) and NESN Vice President, Programming and Production Joseph Maar were critical in the development of the new truck.

Game Creek Video President Pat Sullivan (left) and NESN VP, Programming and Production, Joseph Maar were critical in development of the new truck, 94.

Born in Massachusetts, Sullivan is New England to the core. As son of the founder of the old Boston Patriots — he was also the team ball boy as a kid — and the one-time general manager of those same, renamed New England Patriots, Sullivan has the accent, the sense of humor, and the confidence of a Boston-bred executive.

So it seems the perfect fit that the top sports network in the area, New England Sports Network (NESN), would turn to Sullivan’s company to collaborate on design of the mobile-production vehicle that will take the network into the future for Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox telecasts.

“When we started this business, the first client I wanted to get was NESN,” says Sullivan, standing in the shadow of his company’s newest mobile-production unit just outside TD Garden prior to the Boston Bruins’ season opener earlier this month. “It took a little bit of time, a lot of patience. Having grown up as a Red Sox and Bruins fan, to have [NESN] as a customer is a great honor.”

Together, the two have combined to launch 94 [9 for Ted Williams, 4 for Bobby Orr], what they believe to be the RSN truck of the future: a flexible, interconnected vehicle capable of producing top-of-the-line, national-network-quality broadcasts.

A panoramic view from inside Game Creek's new NESN truck. (courtesy Gary Roy, NESN)

A panoramic view from inside Game Creek’s new NESN truck (courtesy Gary Roy, NESN)

“We wanted to take what the national networks are doing and bring that technology to the regional level,” says Joseph Maar, VP, programming and production, NESN, “especially with NESN doing shows that are fairly advanced and sophisticated in terms of number of equipment and quality of signal. To be able to take what is normally done for a Super Bowl production and start doing that on the regional level and have a truck that we can continue to grow with over the years with the future in mind, those were the two key items.”

The heartbeat of this new production environment is right in line with many of the latest builds for national broadcasters: an interconnected, file-sharing environment.

A network of nine six-channel EVS XT3 servers (including SpotBox) gives NESN the ability to use up to 18 replay angles at all times during a live event, while also establishing a comprehensive data-recording system. According to Sullivan, there is plenty of room for growth because there is actually wiring for up to 17 six-channel EVSs.

A robust replay room includes a network of nine six-channel EVS XT3s. There is room for growth with wiring for up to 17 six-channel EVS systems.

A robust replay room includes a network of nine six-channel EVS XT3s. There is room for growth with wiring for up to 17 six-channel EVS systems.

“[File-based workflows] have been part of our design for the last several trucks that we’ve built,” says Sullivan. “The difference here is that NESN has always had the ability to move a lot of data from here to Watertown[, MA,] to their master control. It’s going to be a fairly easy process to do that, because we’re not dealing with someone who needs a whole lot of new bandwidth. That transition is going to be fairly easy, and that’s a big difference [from] what we deal with with other regionals.”

Maar says NESN will install an XT3 at the Watertown studios in the very near future that will be able to connect seamlessly with the XT3s in the truck.

“That’s not typical in a regional,” he says. “We’re very mindful of not just what we want to do to grow the production in the truck, but pre and post out of our studio and things that we can do with a full facility can now be pushed and pulled to and from the mobile unit in ways that we couldn’t do previously with national-network–quality results.”

A first in this truck for Game Creek is a sideways monitor wall that allows the director to monitor up to 144 images at a time during a broadcast. Because of weight concerns, the company had never built a standalone truck with a sideways monitor wall, but VP of Engineering Paul Boner and VP of Design and New Technology Jason Taubman were able to pull it off, according to Sullivan.

View a diagram of the layout of the truck.

A diagram of the layout of 94.

“Our group was able to come up with some really significant ways to save weight and then allow us to make that change which increases the size of the monitor wall significantly,” he says. “It doesn’t reduce any space anywhere; it’s actually the same space volume-wise that we have in a more standard truck, but you have more space on the monitor and to supply this truck with five to six years’ worth of flexibility.”

Each of the operating positions inside the truck can be moved. Gear and infrastructure can easily be moved in and out, allowing more connectivity within the unit and making individual upgrades much simpler.

At launch, the truck is built around the latest and greatest gear, including a Grass Valley Kayenne 5M/E switcher. The highly connected unit features an Evertz EQX video router (432×1008) and an Evertz EMR audio router (~5000×5000). There are also 40 Evertz up/down/crossconverting frame syncs; 96 router outputs at I/O, 48 of which are embedded and downconverted; and 32 router inputs at I/O.

The truck debuted with 20 Sony HDC-2500L high-definition cameras and also gives NESN its first ability for super-slo-mo, with the Sony HDC-3300R on board. Game Creek is also working with NESN to help keep the network at the forefront. Sullivan and his team have a yet-to-released next-generation slow-motion camera in their sights that they will supply NESN with when it finally hits the market next year.

NESN will use the truck on Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox home telecasts, as well as other local events including the Beanpot Tournament.

NESN will use 94 on Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox home telecasts as well as other local events, including the Beanpot Tournament.

“It’s incredibly exciting because, normally, when you get a new truck, it becomes obsolete in six months when somebody comes out with the next truck,” says Maar. “This is a new truck that, in six months, will be the next new truck. We’re really set up for the next generation; we wanted to build that in.”

On the audio end, a Calrec Artemis console (64 faders, 96×96 AES, 128×128 analog, 12×12 MADI) sits at the core, with as many as 20 mic inputs coming in on a Bruins telecast at TD Garden. NESN’s internal comms system has also received a major overhaul with an RTS ADAM intercom (160 analog ports, 16 RVON channels, 64 MADI channels, 12 wet PLs, 16 wet IFBs). On Bruins games, there are five wireless IFB/mic combos, allowing five people in the arena to simultaneously communicate during a broadcast.

Size was also a major factor for Maar. The truck is not particularly larger than a standard double-expando, but it does use space more efficiently, with an expanded tape room front to back and a widened bench opening things up for more people and providing room for anticipated future technological expansion.

It’s a home run for both Game Creek and NESN, one that both hope will remain at the top of its game for years to come.

Praised Maar, “[Game Creek] came back to us with ideas for how to make this truck not only the best right now but where it’s going to be in six months and then where we want to be two, three years from now, so that, in two or three years, we don’t have a two- or three-year-old truck. We have a truck that has current technologies on it. This truck is really future-proofed for years to come, truly, in ways that I’ve never seen done.”

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