Live From Pan Am Games: Dome Productions Continues Whirlwind Sports Summer in Its Own Backyard

Most years, once the Stanley Cup is lifted in June, Canadian broadcasters, truck vendors, and freelancers can finally take a breather. Sure, the CFL and Toronto Blue Jays are in action, as are various golf tournaments and soccer matches, but, overall, the summer months tend to be a quieter time.

Not 2015.

Dome's Kryst Budziak (left) and Al Karloff in front of Pacific

Dome’s Kryst Budziak (left) and Al Karloff in front of Pacific

With the Pan American Games in Toronto immediately following the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Vancouver, nearly every Dome Productions mobile unit has been called into action this summer. In fact, Dome expanded its fleet just before the Pan Am Games — acquiring CBC Mobile Productions’ Premier, Encore, and Évolution units — and has already pressed those trucks into service.

For Toronto-based Dome Productions, providing trucks and engineering support for host broadcaster CBC and technical partner Broadcast Services International (BSI), simply managing logistics has made for one crazy summer.

“With FIFA still not finished up [when preparations for the Pan Am Games began], a lot of our internal resources for cabling and that stuff was still out,” explains Al Karloff, engineering project manager, Dome Productions. “It’s coming back, but, when most guys were looking for any help they could get on the cabling, a lot of that was still out. Between Dome, CBC, and BSI, we tried to help each other with the resources that were available to us.”

Opening the Games With a Bang (and Plenty of Redundancy)
While preparations for every Pan Am event are well under way across Ontario, Dome’s first hurdle is tonight’s Opening Ceremony at Rogers Centre. Conveniently, Dome’s offices are located within Rogers Centre, making travel to and from the truck dock simply a matter of taking an elevator.

Pacific (right) and Echo may be labeled “A” and “B,” but both are fully functional A units tied together for redundancy.

Pacific (right) and Echo may be labeled “A” and “B,” but both are fully functional A units tied together for redundancy.

This year’s Opening Ceremony will feature an original production by Cirque du Soleil, the Parade of Nations, and the lighting of the Pan Am cauldron. As the first English-language presentation of the Ceremony in 30 years, there’s added pressure for everyone involved to get it right.

Dome’s Pacific and Echo production units are up to the challenge. The 53-ft. expando A units will be tied together for added redundancy.

“[In case of] failure — switcher failure, router failure, things like that — [CBC] wanted to be able to cause the least amount of disruption and move from one to the other,” explains Kryst Budziak, director of production services, Dome Productions. “That caused, in itself, a lot of issues just in terms of how they were setting the trucks up so they’d be ready to go.”

Pacific will serve as the master truck. Its Grass Valley K-Frame switcher will be tied into Echo’s Kayenne switcher, and its EVS network will be tied to Echo’s to create a shared EVS network. A tieline will link the Evertz EQX router in both trucks, and the intercoms will be trunked together. A third audio truck will provide the audio mix, feeding a base mix into Pacific and Echo (which are connected via MADI) in case of failure.

CBC will deploy 20 cameras around Rogers Centre to capture the Opening Ceremony, including several RF cameras (provided by RF Wireless Systems), static cameras mounted on buildings, and a helicopter to capture the activity surrounding the stadium, including the caldron lighting. Because each truck is wired for 16 CCUs, the infrastructure created by linking the two trucks allows Dome to easily bring in more than 16 camera feeds.

“Production came up with a plan how they wanted to distribute the cameras, [and] having two trucks really helped,” says Karloff. “If [you have] to load 20 [camera feeds] into Pacific, you’ve gotta get really creative. Having them split helps us out on the infrastructure side. But they came up with a plan where they split the cameras up in a way that, if one truck were to fail, they can have enough camera coverage to continue the show.”

Covering the Map for CBC
After the Opening Ceremony, Pacific will drive to Milton, ON, to cover cycling before returning to Toronto for the Closing Ceremony on July 26 at Rogers Centre. (Pacific would have had to temporarily vacate Rogers Centre anyway, because the Blue Jays have a home stand July 17-19.) Echo will cover indoor volleyball at the Exhibition Centre in Toronto.

Thunder stands end to end with Spring alongside the Toronto Coliseum. It will move to York University at the conclusion of gymnastics.

Thunder stands end to end with Spring alongside the Toronto Coliseum. It will move to York University at the conclusion of gymnastics.

Thunder and Spring will serve as A and B units, respectively, for gymnastics at the Toronto Coliseum and for athletics at Pan Am Athletics Stadium on the campus of York University. To handle the added complexity of producing gymnastics and athletics, the 48-ft. Spring (formerly one of Cameron-Pace Group’s 3D units) will house two secondary control rooms to support the main control room in Thunder.

“Athletics is huge. Cameras are about the same [as for the Opening Ceremony, but], in terms of EVS and the replay requirements, it’s much bigger,” says Budziak. “They needed 50 channels of EVS, and so, to accomplish that, we [now] have six six-channel EVS [servers] and two eight-channel [servers]. It’s a fairly complex production. [We also had to] add two switchers and two audio consoles for the other two control rooms, in the B unit. Gymnastics is a little bit smaller but not much different.”

Plus, Budziak adds, because gymnastics and athletics are not in the same venue, “you have to tear it out halfway through. So you want to make it as simple as possible so you can reconnect it.”

Silver will cover boxing at the Oshawa Sports Centre, Sierra (formerly CBC Mobile’s Évolution) will handle beach volleyball in Toronto, and Hudson (formerly CBC Mobile’s Encore), alongside a B unit, will work soccer at Pan Am Soccer Stadium in Hamilton, ON.

Atlantic, currently in Montreal for upgrades to its monitoring and tape room, will assist Pacific on the Closing Ceremony after returning from Cincinnati, where it will house MLB Network during the MLB All-Star Game next Tuesday.

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