Live From the US Open: Gearhouse Settles in to Year 2 at the Open, Looks To Expand U.S. Presence
Having a presence at a tennis major is nothing new for Gearhouse Broadcast, given its longstanding technical role at the Australian Open. The team, in year 2 as the primary technical backbone for ESPN’s US Open domestic and host operations, is finding that the second year is twice as nice and infinitely easier.
“It’s pretty similar — we moved a couple of cameras around — but it is a heck of a lot easier this year,” says Gearhouse Broadcast COO Kevin Moorhouse. “The fiber setup was easier because the guys at the venue know us and what we need. We also had two great fiber techs this year that helped us a lot with getting about 700 fiber ties into the building. But everyone is a lot more comfortable this year than last; we didn’t have any late nights during setup.”
The biggest technical change has been the move to a Lawo VSM control platform.
“It’s meant better control for everyone, as we can diversify control to different people,” Moorhouse explains. “Last year, we had a bottleneck: there was one person in master control who controlled the whole system. But now we have tablets that allow the technical directors and engineers to change things, like a source on a vision mixer or monitor stack, without having to leave their area. It takes a load off the shoulders of the engineering team and has been a real eye-opener.”
Now that it has been decided to make the building that houses the ESPN production facilities permanent, there will be even more improvements next year.
“All of the 40,000 meters of Cat 5 and fiber cabling that is inside the building can stay,” Moorhouse points out. “That will save us three or four days next year, and that will mean things are quicker and cheaper.”
He is already heading back to Europe and, more important, to the IBC in Amsterdam, where, beginning this Friday, he will start checking out new technologies.
“We’ve just purchased some Sony HDC-4300 cameras for 4K. We will be interested in looking at the Lawo V__matrix [software-defined IP routing and processing platform], but we won’t be making the jump into IP just yet,” he explains. “We’re going to sit back and wait because there is no end-to-end solution yet. For [outside broadcast], going completely IP is more expense for not much gain.”
The Gearhouse team will also be checking out new technologies that can play a role in helping it continue to establish a U.S. presence beyond the US Open tennis tournament and a West Coast office.
“By next January, we want to be on the East Coast and increase our West Coast presence,” Moorhouse says. “But we’re not going to build super trucks. We’re going to go left of field with small remote-production trucks, camera systems, and specialty items.”