Pitt Studios is an innovative joint venture between the University of Pittsburgh Athletics and Film departments. The athletics department will work to produce content for both the ESPN ACC Network and the on-site athletic venues. Additionally, the production control rooms will provide content and learning opportunities for the University's growing Film and Media Studies Program.
Pitt Studios is a 6,000 square foot space located within Petersen Events Center. The studio includes three production control rooms, two of which feature back benches that can function as self-contained or shared production environments for additional personnel. The project includes a multi-set studio with fiber connections to all major venues on campus.
The demand for collegiate sports content has seen growth due to technological and production advancements. Online platforms allow personalized access to viewers, this — coupled with the reduced cost of live event production — has allowed universities to create more content and distribute it directly to their viewers. The launch of ESPN's ACC Network will take full advantage of these factors and provide a distribution platform for ACC schools.
Rapid change in video standards, communication protocols, and graphic interfaces presents a significant challenge to building a production facility that will accommodate constant technological advancements.
The vision of Pitt Studios goes beyond fulfilling the ACC Network requirements and the needs of the university's online athletic presence. Students are now able to shadow events and run dark productions (simulate a broadcast) with the latest technology and equipment. This allows students and operators to get hands on experience with production workflow before being thrust into Live Production. Confidence built in these "shadow events" will carry over as these students become the next generation of operators.
The University of Pittsburgh, much like other ACC venues, needed to provide a scalable end-to-end solution for numerous athletic venues and events. Pitt Studios required a versatile solution that would combine all facility resources to support the largest events as well as seamlessly scale down to support multiple, smaller events simultaneously.
Pitt Studios required a design capable of withstanding near future trends within the broadcast space such as High Dynamic Range, 4K-UHD and SMPTE-2110. Wanting to future proof their space, Pitt Studios invested in a solution ready to support these new formats and standards.
Along with technological advancements, Pitt Studios also had to factor in the ability to be completely flexible. From live sports and studio shows, to film and video productions, operators will be relied upon to understand the workflow for each type of production. Pitt Studios was pressed to find a flexible replay solution that could provide functions as simple as standard capture and reliable clip playback. This workflow however, needed technology that could be easily scaled to run fast paced replay for major sporting events.
While the facility maintains a baseband end-to-end workflow, DreamCatcher™ sits amid a J2K island. By investing in a DreamCatcher™ IP core, workflows became scalable and flexible to fit the needs of Pitt Studios' varied requirements. The modular IP design also allows a seamless upgrade path to accommodate new formats and standards.
By investing in a full 1080p DreamCatcher™ design, Pitt Studios can easily make the switch to 1080p HDR or 4K without any heavy lifting. High Frame Rate cameras can also be harmoniously integrated into this workflow.
DreamCatcher™ takes full advantage of VUE, Evertz' multifaceted user interface, allowing for simple and intuitive touch interface interactions. Utilizing this front end allows operators to decrease their learning curve and maximize their efficiency within the production.
A familiar controller design allows operators who are new to the system to rely on previous replay knowledge as well as provide a uniform experience as new operators gain proficiency on the DreamCatcher™ replay system.
To accommodate the varied production needs of the facility Evertz' MAGNUM routing and scheduling interface was deployed. MAGNUM allows the studio engineers to configure shows days or even weeks prior to the event by scheduling the routing services for each event and allocating resources according to that day's schedule.
DreamCatcher™ has the ability to scale to fit the needs of each production, taking advantage of the combined resources across the facility. In the case of a single large event, Pitt Studios is able to pool resources across all 3 control rooms to provide a single large scale production. All of the facilities' DC-200ES capture servers provide continuous loop recording of any ingest channel. Through Evertz' 3080IPX-10G core each DC-PLAYOUT server and operator station has instant access to any recorded content on the network. In cases where multiple smaller events are taking place, the DreamCatcher™ workstations can be assigned and allocated based on the needs of each live production. This flexible resource allocation design provides cost savings as resources are no longer fixed per room or user.
To tap into and manage these resource pools, DreamCatcher™ operators are able to utilize the "Templates" widget within VUE. Pitt Studios' operators can preset DreamCatcher™ configurations for specific scenarios. Whether it be a basketball game, soccer match, or a studio show, operators can quickly access and configure the resources for their current event and then seamlessly switch to the next event within minutes.
To meet the high demands of Pitt Studios content distribution requirements the DC-MEDIA-SUITE combines the processing resources of every node on the DreamCatcher™ network to provide an unparalleled level of transcoding power. Pitt Studios can distribute metadata-rich content to post production and mobile users without delay in multiple codecs while the live event is in progress.
Pitt Studios production facility provides a scalable platform that will meet the demands of every live production today while allowing Pitt Studios to grow with the changes in the broadcast industry for years to come. User friendly workflows and interfaces will provide industry-relevant experience to student operators for their continued education. This facility will demonstrate the high standards of the University's culture and academic message to potential students, all while maximizing the value of the University's athletic content.