PITTSBURGH, Pa.—My team and I support live game-day coverage of multiple sports for the Pittsburgh Athletics department at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) in Pennsylvania. Pitt Athletics events are broadcast on the ACC Network for ESPN and available for streaming.
A critical component of those live productions is making sure everyone in our control room and venues are interconnected and can communicate with one another via intercoms. I obsess over the intercom setup and programming because it can have a big impact on the ability of our crew to function and navigate issues. Most issues during a live event can be fixed, but without the ability to communicate and coordinate operators and technicians, even small problems can create major production challenges.
When our old intercom system had reached its limit, we worked with NEP Integrated Solutions to install a new campus-wide communication system.
The setup consists of multiple Riedel Artist matrixes and 1200 and 2300 series SmartPanel user interfaces, along with 24 Bolero wireless beltpacks scattered across campus. Riedel’s Director software coordinates configuration and management of all the matrixes into one, giving us the essential coverage, performance and functionality to orchestrate multiple simultaneous productions across different venues and control rooms.
The system not only enables communication between team members at each venue, but it also ties into ESPN’s intercom system, supporting remote talent, including directors and producers.
We organized the Riedel Artist system in a fiber-redundant hub-and-spoke configuration. As a result, we’ve got communications at the Petersen Events Center (basketball), where the university’s centralized broadcast production facilities are located, as well as at Charles L. Cost Field (baseball), Vartabedian Field (softball), Ambrose Urbanic Field (soccer) and the Fitzgerald Field House (wrestling, gymnastics and volleyball).
The Bolero wireless intercom system relies on 18 antennas distributed across all four venues and Trees Pool (swimming and diving), which gives us total coverage in every nook and cranny and means we can use the Bolero beltpacks at any venue.
The power and functionality of the Bolero beltpacks makes sideline reporting a breeze. It used to take a lot of time and effort to set up a separate wireless transmitter and wireless receiver. Now we just hand off the beltpack, and it gives reporters the functionality and control they need, plus the reliability and range of the Bolero network.
LEVERAGING HYBRID LEVERS
In terms of the user interface, there’s so much more granularity in how a panel can look and act compared to our old system. If we ever need to adjust some very particular piece of a signal, we can do it without needing an external processor card or other gear. And the Hybrid Levers on the 1200 Series SmartPanels are one of our favorite new features. They are much more intuitive than buttons—especially in live broadcast, when you’re constantly listening and fine-tuning things from moment to moment.
We also rely heavily on Dante, so the fact that the broadcast production team can interface with Dante directly within Artist to move a variety of audio signals—from a hot mic for a director or producer to program audio—is a gamechanger.
Going forward, Riedel gives Pitt Athletics the scalability to extend intercoms across more game-day operations and, as the university completes upcoming building projects, to tie in new venues and expand broadcast production operations to include competition at those sites.
For more information, call Riedel Communications at 410-992-4976 or visit https://www.riedel.net/products-solutions/intercom.
Liam Sporrer joined the Pitt Department of Athletics Broadcast and Video Production team as the director of broadcast engineering in October 2017 to manage rapidly expanding technical needs for both the ACC Network and in-venue production capabilities. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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