RFD-TV, The Cowboy Channel Embrace Hybrid Production for The American Rodeo

Sneaky Big Studios, Rush Media, D2 Journey, Skycam, and CSP to play big roles for this two-day event

If the old Wild West was a high-stakes shootout to strike it rich, The American Rodeo in Dallas is bringing justice to its western roots. Since 2014, the annual event pits two dichotomies of the sport against each other for a $1 million prize: the elite class from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and those willing to make a name for themselves through four days of qualifying. For the richest two-day event of its kind on Saturday, March 7, RFD-TV and The Cowboy Channel are blowing the production roof off AT&T Stadium with a traditional broadcast and a quad-box viewing option with the help of Rush Media’s onsite infrastructure, CSP’s mobile unit, Sneaky Big Studios’ at-home support, D2 Journey’s transmission services, and multiple systems from Skycam.

“This is the first time anything like this has ever been done in the world of rodeo, and, because of that, getting the onsite production crew as well as the Sneaky Big–based production team ‘in time’ will be critical to success,” says Ben Grafchik, director, business development, Sneaky Big Studios.This project is unique in the sense that we are utilizing multiple sites to produce two different shows. Utilizing a local crew in Phoenix as well as IP-based transport allows us to execute this production at a cost-effective price.”

Inside the House: Rush Media Solidifies Primary Onsite Foundation
In the bowels of AT&T Stadium, the production will start with the hard work of Rush Media.

Rush Media will be responsible for multiple facets of the show, from production and crew to RF cameras around the venue.

“We’ll be packaging this production with The Cowboy Channel,” says Will Wright, VP, business development, Rush Media. “We’ll be securing the truck and crew and assisting in the technical and production management of this show. We’re incredibly proud to work with The Cowboy Channel as well as with Sneaky Big and Skycam on this production.”

In addition to enlisting CSP Mobile Productions’ HD4 mobile unit, the company is involved in ideas on the creative side as well, which include a handful of cameras that will greatly improve the quality of the broadcast.

“We’ve worked with [Inertia Unlimited President] Jeff Silverman on bringing in some specialty RF cameras, including [ones] on the barrels for the barrel-racing portion of the event,” he continues. “We also are bringing in a wearable RF POV camera that will be put on the rodeo clowns, bull fighters, and others involved in the rodeo to give very unique and dynamic shots.”

From Far, Far Away: Sneaky Big Studios Lends Offsite Hand for Broadcast, Multifeed
Situated in Scottsdale, AZ, nearly 1,000 miles from the venue, Sneaky Big Studios will be one of the major players in the at-home production. Its equipment will be on hand in support of Rush Media’s in-person work.

“We will be providing a complete production-control-room setting,” says Tom Carlisle, senior engineer, Sneaky Big Studios. “For this event, we’ll be using our Grass Valley Karrera K-Frame switcher, Studer Vista V audio console, and Ross Xpression graphics system.”

One of the bigger projects that the company is handling this year is an application typically seen on ESPN’s presentation of the College Football Playoff National Championship. Similar to the network’s MegaCast, most notably the Command Center, Sneaky Big is constructing an amalgamation of four camera feeds to be shown on one screen on RFD-TV’s sister network, The Cowboy Channel.

Sneaky Big Studios developed the graphics for the quad-box format that will be shown for the first time on The Cowboy Channel.

“Our animation department designed the entire MegaCast graphics from the ground up,” Grafchik says. “We worked closely with The Cowboy Channel to ensure that they got the exact look that they wanted.”

To add another at-home wrinkle, Haivision’s MakitoX video encoder will feed the new quad-box format to RFD-TV/The Cowboy Channel headquarters in Nashville.

Although the bulk of the workload will be handled at its home base, engineering support will be available for onsite teams to ensure that workflows and communications operate at the highest level possible.

The Middleman: D2 Journey Combines Both Locations’ Efforts
For a massive production with a huge number of moving parts, there needs to be a conduit linking the teams. In this case, D2 Journey will be tasked with bridging the gap between the sites.

“D2 Journey is providing its Transport4 appliances at both AT&T Stadium and Sneaky Big’s production facility in Scottsdale,” says Dave Walzer, president and CEO, D2 Journey. “D2 Journey’s appliances will transport multiple channels of video in frame-accurate synchronization with ultra-low latency around 200 ms. They will also supply multiple channels of comms, which will integrate into Sneaky Big’s existing 4-wire comms infrastructure, as well as tally and serial data transport.”

D2 Journey’s transmission backbone is an open circuit with back-and-forth accessibility. Onsite staffers can send information to Sneaky Big and receive different information from Scottsdale. The overall system that will be in place can be complex.

“[Outbound] signals are encoded and transmitted over the public internet back to Sneaky Big’s production facility,” Walzer explains. “They are decoded and the video channels de-embedded and routed into the production switcher. Two return video paths for program and iso [feeds] will also be transmitted in the reverse direction from Sneaky Big to the site. For communications and IFB, the analog line-level inputs and outputs of the existing 4-wire comms facilities at each end will be connected to D2 Journey’s comms converters for transmission over the internet as well.”

Two Skycam aerial systems will be installed above the expansive rodeo surface.

The View From Above: Skycam Builds Two Aerial Rigs, ‘Ghost Cam’ Technology
Despite the camera complement of more than 20, Skycam’s pair of aerial systems is the most noteworthy deployment at this year’s show. Situated side-by-side at the 50-yard line, the dual systems will have a split assignment: one side of the rodeo to each camera.

“This will allow for greater coverage of the day’s events,” says Stephen Wharton, COO/CTO, Skycam. “Similar to how dual [systems] are used in high-profile football games, the side-by-side [setup enables] two unique angles of the action to be captured simultaneously. This venue and event allow Skycam to bring something special to the broadcast and the sport. We’re able to truck or fly with the timed-event horses at 30 mph and keep up with the roughstock riders as their horses buck around the arena.”

In the event’s six-year history, implementing engaging shots that can be done only with a Skycam was a decision made up at the organization’s highest levels.

“These are looks never otherwise seen in rodeo,” says Wharton. “It’s all because of the venue as well as the innovation of [The Cowboy Channel COO] Joe Loverro, [RFD-TV/The Cowboy Channel Founder Patrick Gottsch], and Randy Bernard [former CEO, Professional Bull Riders and Rural Media Group, the parent company of RFD-TV and Cowboy Channel] for this marquee event.”

Given this ardent push toward technological improvement, Skycam will also relaunch a broadcast overlay that has told the story of one of The American Rodeo’s many events since its inception in 2014.

“In addition to these aerial camera services,” Wharton says, “we’re also providing two ‘Ghost Cams,’ [giving] barrel races and other timed-events video simulcast overlays on the broadcast. This unique concept allows the viewers at home to see accurate real-time comparisons of two separate runs.”


The American | Hailey Kinsel and Kylie Weast Ghost Camera

Barrel racing – it's a game of a few feet.Check out the ghost camera from RFD-TV's The American, as they run a comparison from Saturday night's runs from two of The Women's Professional Rodeo Association best, Hailey Kinsel and Kylie Weast – Professional Barrel Racer.

Posted by Wrangler Network on Monday, March 4, 2019


Production Potluck: Four Vendors Team Up To Change Rodeo Viewership
In one of biggest events on the rodeo calendar, it takes a bunch of production companies to get the job done in the best way possible.

From a visual perspective, Skycam’s continued involvement showcases the sport’s tenacity as well as the need to highlight shots solely reserved for rodeo.

“It’s a very long event with fast and constant action,” Wharton notes. “There are a lot of events, and we’re bringing the viewer into the action of rodeo, which is done only on an event as big as this. We have a great technical crew led by [Leading Systems Tech and Deployment Manager] Andrew Lawing, so we’re on top of all eight of our video feeds without an issue. This is always a great event, and you can’t help but be inspired by the grit and heart of these competitors.”

In Sneaky Big’s opinion, the work done by all four companies is in support of Gottsch’s goals.

“Gottsch has taken it upon himself to reinvent the way in which rodeo events are consumed,” Grafchik explains. “By providing a unique experience to viewers, he is confident that the sport will provide die-hard rodeo fans the content they crave, as well as the ability to educate, in real time, a viewer who has never been able to consume a rodeo production. We’re honored to be involved in such a unique effort, and it is our hope that this execution will continue to grow the sport of rodeo in America.”

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