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ESPN Opens “Super” news building

ESPN has opened its new Building #4 on the Bristol, CT, campus, where most of the content seen on the network — from studio show to live game telecasts — is now originating from. The engineering team has been designing and implementing small pieces of this for several years. The fruition is now playing out in the new building.

The new 40,000sq-ft building is wired with fiber and Cat-5 cabling throughout, making any audio or video clip a mouse click away. The Associated Press ENPS newsroom system in place allows the staff to record and handle 700 clips per day. That’s up from the 70 clips daily they used to be able to handle on videotape.

The main newsroom, which also supports all of the sports network’s platforms — including the Internet and mobile video — is set up as a series of “pods,” where a producer, logger and editor putting together a show can sit across from each other and select low-res (MPEG-1) video clips stored on a video server from a screen located at the center of a circular table. Together they can collaborate daily on the development of news segments or the selection of game highlights.

To manage its signal-distribution infrastructure, the network has combined multiple racks of Grass Valley Trinix routing switchers (configured as a 1024 x 512 I/O matrix for HD video signals) and a similarly dense Grass Valley Apex router to handle all incoming audio sources. The Trinix router can handle both SD and HD video signals in the same frame and gives ESPN the ability to work with both types of formats as well as execute “deterministic” (frame accurate, on-demand) switching on a large number of cross points simultaneously. Controlling the routers is a Grass Valley Encore facility control system.

The all-digital HD news production infrastructure features a total of 76 Quantel sQ server mainframes providing 4000 hours worth of compressed HD online storage. It also features both Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to link all of the various systems. This gives production staff access to clips from their desktop without experiencing any bottlenecks.

To keep up with the demand for a huge amount of content, the network has installed 45 Quantel sQ Edit Plus HD effects editing workstations, which are all connected to the main storage area network and the Quantel sQ servers.

The “Super” news building, as it is unofficially called among the staff, is seamlessly linked — via a DTM circuit 10Gb/s dedicated fiber line that transmits data in real time — to ESPN’s studios in Los Angeles, New York and Charlotte, NC.