High-performance production distinguishes The Score

n order to facilitate the required fast turnaround and maintain the quick-pace workflow, the network relies on Grass Valley systems
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The master control room relies on dual Saturn master control switchers, which are slaved to Venus SDI/analog routers and are controlled by a Harris automation system. Photo courtesy Andy Washnik.

The frenetic production pace and significant output of packaged highlight clips appearing on The Score TV network is matched only by the actual sports they cover. Four teams, each made up of a reporter and an editor, typically ingest live video from an evening's 15 to 20 live games and turn around 40 one- to three-minute projects — most with graphics and voiceover — in an eight- hour shift. Multiply that by four, and you get an idea of how much content is generated to support prime-time coverage on the national 24-hour live event and sports news and information channel based in Toronto, Ontario.

Juggling multiple games

Adding to the challenge, some shows appearing on the network, such as the two-hour live NBA show “Court Surfing,” allow viewers to pick which games they would like to see covered. Once a viewer poll is complete, the network goes live to six games and bounces between them featuring the most impressive live action and highlights. For the reporters, this means capturing live clips and turning them around in as little as two minutes.

The network serves 6 million cable and satellite TV sub-scribers across Canada. In order to facilitate the required fast turnaround and maintain the quick-pace workflow, the network relies on Grass Valley NewsEdit workstations and two two-channel Grass Valley FeedClip live feed capture systems in each of its four sports edit suites.

The 15,000sq ft facility records more than 40 inbound analog feeds from around the world via satellite and fiber each day. From these, the producers decide which will be covered. On a typical night during baseball season, The Score uses the four edit suites to cover four games per suite, or 16 games simultaneously, for inclusion in that evening's highlight shows and packaged wheel. This means that a total of four reporters and four editors could be responsible for 160 highlight clips in a single night.

Drag-and-drop file exchange

The facility uses a Grass Valley editing and storage platform comprised of FeedClip, NewsEdit and Profile servers. Video files are moved around via fiber at six to 20 times faster than real time without incurring additional compression hits. Because no drop-frame editing is performed, the facility uses real time 30fps, not timecode, for edits.


The production control room is supported by a 24-channel Allen-Heath audio console, a Ross Synergy 3 production switcher and a two-channel Abekas DVE. A Chyron HyperX CG is currently being installed. Photo courtesy Andy Washnik.

Infrastructure

Depending on how they will be used, clips can be packaged as a cuts-only series with simple background stereo audio for use as an element in one of the live studio shows. Or, the clip might be edited and combined with graphics, CG, digital video effects, audio and VO on a NewsEdit, then transferred to the Profile for playout directly to air through the facility's Harris automation system.

Each suite can ingest analog video at 18Mb/s (I-frame only) and is supported with 22 hours of storage on each FeedClip systems and an additional 22 hours of storage on each NewsEdit workstation. Once a clip, or series of clips, had been aired, it is sent from the server or edit suite to the video library. The clip is then laid off to DVCPRO and Betacam videotape and archived in a traditional library system.

The signal routing infrastructure is SDI with stereo analog audio. All live-to-air analog video is converted to SDI baseband using DPS 465 A/D converters/frame synchronizers/TBCs for live-to-air use on the production switcher. All non-live-to-air sources are converted by Miranda Technologies' 10-bit A/D converters to SDI video or if the clips have beenrecorded in the sports edit suites, the FeedClip system converts them and the SDI signals are routed by a Grass Valley Venus 96×96 SDI/Analog audio routing switcher.

The Score's MCR uses two Saturn 16-channel A/B switchers (one for redundancy, though they've yet to use it) slaved to the Venus SDI/analog router. A Venus 32×32 analog router is used to distribute incoming analog signals. This analog router is also used to support the FeedClip systems for production.

The facility's main production studio, with a full lighting grid and two Sony DX-35 pan-and-tilt head cameras on Rademec servo-based robotic pedestals, is now being paired with a new studio outfitted with two FOR-A Digi Warp EX2 virtual sets.

HD is coming

The production control room includes a 24-channel Allen-Heath audio console, a Ross Synergy 3 video production switcher, a two-channel Abekas DVE and a Chyron HyperX CG.


The equipment rack room features a variety of high-performance digital broadcast gear, including the Grass Valley Profile XP servers, Venus/Saturn routers, MCR switcher and Miranda processing equipment. Photo courtesy Andy Washnik.

The Score also features a continuous sports ticker that displays real-time scores, betting odds and other information about live or completed games. The ticker is unique in that the network keeps it visible even during commercials and live events. The current system is being replaced with two Chyron HyperX CGs with custom code supplied by Video Design Software, resulting in a true HD ticker. The ticker will also display actual game clocks and up-to-the-minute scores via XML real-time data sources.

Next February, The Score will begin distributing its service in 720p HD as part of a two-phase HDTV project. At that time, it will be the only Canadian network in 720p and the only network displaying its entire lineup in full 16:9 widescreen. Currently, all other Canadian networks, when upconverting HD material from SD, maintain a 4:3 aspect ratio, which does not fill the 16:9 screen.

Tapeless pioneer

A Teranex upconverter will be used to convert its SD programming to HD widescreen. Native 1080i material will be cross-converted by a Leitch X75HD. The network plans to produce 30 to 40 games a year in native 720p.

The network has used an end-to-end tapeless nonlinear workflow since the network was launched as “Headline Sports” back in 1997. In those days, the editors worked on Scitex VideoSphere nonlinear edit systems and DigiSphere digital disc recorders.

While the technology and tools have changed, the company's strategy and commitment to delivering timely sports news and information has not. Making the technology transparent to the production team helps keep the network competitive. Basing the infrastructure on Grass Valley technology has allowed the network to leverage the benefits of an expandable and upgradeable infrastructure and enabled it to maintain high-performance growth.

Equipment List

Michael Grotticelli regularly reports on the professional video and broadcast technology industries.

Abekas DVE

Allen-Heath audio console

Chyron HyperX CG

DPS 465 Frame Sync/converters

FOR-A Digi Warp EX2 virtual studios

Grass Valley
FeedClip ingest
NewsEdit NLE
Profile XP server
Venus SDI/Analog router

Harris automation

Leitch X75HD cross converter

Miranda A/D converters

Rademec robotic pedestals

Ross Synergy 3 production mixer

Design Team

Sony DX-35 cameras

Brad Keay, vp, engineering and operations

Kevin Harkins, technical op. manager

Matt Payne, sr. op. technician

Tim Hicks, broadcast technician

Kodam Ear, broadcast technician