Arkansas Undergoes Extreme Makeover With Production Facility Build-Out

Take a tour through the new home of Arkansas Athletics’ video department, and you’ll be hard-pressed to imagine a time when RazorVision wasn’t one of the top video operations in not just the Southeastern Conference but the entire country.

Two souped-up control rooms, a supplementary third control room, a replay room, a shading room, an audio room, six edit bays — it’s a sprawling, staggering production gearhead’s dream.

One of RazorVision's new control rooms on Aug. 14, just minutes prior to the first live event produced for the SEC Network

One of RazorVision’s new control rooms on Aug. 14, just minutes prior to the first live event produced for the SEC Network

Approximately $7 million was invested by the University of Arkansas to get its video capabilities up to snuff for the launch of the SEC Network, and now the department that, just a couple of years ago, was lugging portable production switchers from game to game is one of the crown jewels of the college-video space.

“It’s beautiful,” says Director of Broadcast Services Michelle Glover, who was brought on by Athletic Director Jeff Long with the vision of building up the school’s sports-video prowess. “It’s night and day from where we were at this time last year. We were pretty far behind in the video realm compared to the rest of the SEC. This is unbelievable.”

Built in cooperation with consulting firm WJHW and systems integrator CTG, the two primary control rooms are duplicates of each other, with each serving designated duties of live-streaming events for the SEC Network and servicing the videoboards at the school’s athletic facilities, including Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (football) and Bud Walton Arena (basketball).

RazorVision invested in construction of three control rooms. The two chief control rooms are identical and feature a bevy of high-end gear.

RazorVision invested in construction of three control rooms. The two chief control rooms are identical and feature a bevy of high-end gear.

Each room is built around key Ross Video gear, including the Carbonite production switcher, the XPression graphics engine, and the Blackstorm clip server. An Avid-based production house, RazorVision is also equipped with Evertz DreamCatcher for replay and media management.

The third new control room features just a Carbonite and an Xpression, with all the rest of the control-room necessities routable from the main rooms. The extra room gives RazorVision the flexibility to produce multiple live-streaming events simultaneously.

“[These] are probably the nicest control rooms I’ve worked in, and I’ve been in a few,” says Josh Shibler, integration manager, CTG. “I think the analogy was, they went from a tricycle with a flat tire to a Porsche.”

CTG also worked with third-party vendor NL Technology to establish a high-end media-management and metadata workflow using the Evertz DreamCatcher and Avid Interplay. According to Shibler, importing data into Interplay was previously a challenge, but this newly developed tool applies rich metadata — player information, scoring details — without manual re-import.

“It’s a nice tool that the football department and the control-room team were very interested in because, ultimately, it just saves them a lot of rekeying time when they can — directly from the game —- export [data], go search through all of their files, and automatically have their highlights available to them,” he says. “It’ll save them time and get more information without a lot of manual processing.”

The facility features separate rooms for replay, audio, and shading (pictured here).

The facility features separate rooms for replay, audio, and shading (pictured here).

Since Glover’s hiring in fall 2011, it has been a rapid ascent for RazorVision, starting with the installation of an HD videoboard at the football stadium. Then came the SEC Network announcement and full administration support for Glover to build her department from the ground up. As a product of Texas A&M’s 12th Man Productions, Glover knew her way around video production and was given Long’s trust get the job done.

Work on the control room began in earnest in early 2013. Glover attended the NAB Show that year and went shopping. Much to her delight, nearly all of her wish list was given the green light. It took about 18 months from groundbreaking to ribbon cutting on the impressive video-production facility.

It was a process that culminated with RazorVision’s being the first of all the school production departments to produce a live event for the SEC Network on launch day, Aug 14.

“I was never worried about the actual broadcast because, even though we didn’t have top-of-the-line equipment prior to that, we were still doing pretty good shows,” says Glover. “I was more worried about having enough people to do everything that we’re now going to be asked to do. Last year, a soccer game was four people; now my soccer crew is 20 people. That is my biggest challenge: finding enough talented people that can do the work. The SEC Network is huge and a monster within itself, but I still need to do videoboard shows, coaches shows, and Website content.”

It has been a wild ride that has seen Glover’s team expand from five full-timers and five students to a robust nine full-timers and 15 students. In a new world of resources and talent, Arkansas promises to be one of the content leaders at the new SEC Network.

“It’s been a huge commitment,” says Glover, “and we’re all in.”

Karen Hogan contributed to this report.

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