VER Serves Up Tech for U.S. Rightsholders at French Open

The French Open is giving VER (Video Equipment Rentals) an opportunity not only to take advantage of new talent like Vince Pace but also to capitalize on a new market opportunity: increasing its presence as a company providing services as well as technology.

The company filled a need and then some after Presteigne Charter ended its contract with Tennis Channel, which serves as host broadcaster for U.S. rightsholders, last fall, giving VER a chance to update the Roland Garros broadcast-cabin compound with new technologies and new approaches to cabin and furniture design.

“We have a three-year deal for the French Open and Wimbledon with the Tennis Channel that gives us an opportunity,” says VER Director of Broadcast Howie Rosenthal.

Tennis Channel’s Bob Whyley, SVP/executive producer, and Don Burkhart, technical producer, are at the center of the decision to go with VER, a move that required quick movement and planning with the deal inked in September.

“What makes a successful remote?” says Whyley. “Good equipment and the right people. We got both with VER, and now we have a new major player in the market. I’m pleased with my decision.”

While host broadcaster France Télévisions operates out of traditional OB units, the U.S. operations are housed in a 515-sq.-m cabin located in the compound. For the past six years, Presteigne Charter provided the technology and infrastructure.

“Everything is new,” says Rosenthal of the 2014 facility. “So we have the advantage of new technology, and there is more Cat 5 cable and more networking with less cable.”

For example, the previous cabin had all of the camera-control units in racks with the camera shaders. But now all equipment is located in the master-control room, a move that increased the space, power, and air-conditioning needed for master control but also brings it all closer together for operations or maintenance. Beck and Associates also helped by preconfiguring the router and DA equipment.

“The biggest trick is, there are three networks [Tennis Channel, ESPN, and NBC] sharing two control rooms,” says Rosenthal, adding, “But we can change a room over from one network to the next in 10 minutes.”

VER has also updated a lot of the equipment, including 19 EVS XT3 replay servers networked together in a way that mimics those of the other Grand Slam tennis championships.

“When the media manager came in,” says Rosenthal, “he had hundreds of drives to load in, and he said he was not used to being able to ingest them as fast as he can now.”

Also new are two Kayenne production switchers with K-Frame and 112 inputs and 96 outputs, an Evertz EQX router with 544 inputs and 1,128 outputs, an Evertz EMR audio router providing 2,048×2,048 MADI inputs and outputs with AES and an analog layer, and Calrec Artemis consoles, which are better suited to the U.S. clients than the previous consoles.

The French Open has also given VER a chance to show off its new furniture-making skills. Vince Pace, whose tooling and work was instrumental in the creation of 3D-camera rigs, helped create lighter racks and equipment furniture that can also be easily reconfigured.

“Everything from the monitor walls to the front and back bench and to the EVS was built in-house by Patrick Campbell,” Rosenthal notes. “[Using] Vince’s X-frame technology, we were able to pack all of the control-room furniture in three shipping containers and also have it built in a day and a half.”

The setup also is more flexible and can be reconfigured to personalize it and best meet the needs of individuals. “It’s almost as easy to reconfigure as an erector set,” he says.

After the French Open, a portion of the cabin will be making the trip to Wimbledon for Tennis Channel’s studio show, and it has also been booked for college basketball on ESPN. The hope is that the system can be broken apart to do two or three jobs at once or remain intact for a host-broadcast operation. And it’s worth noting that VER also handled crewing needs for Tennis Channel.

“We have offices in London, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam, and it is almost operating as a European entity,” says Rosenthal. “And we can truck things in from those areas the same day, so it’s a huge benefit to operate locally.”

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