Skip to main content

Rodeo Goes the Distance with Grass Valley Switchers

Every spring since 1932, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has hosted a three-week gathering that offers the most competitive rodeo available, coupled with a concert each night. It's the world's largest livestock show and the highest grossing regular-season event put on by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

James Davidson I oversee the audio and video production activities for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and RodeoHouston, the entertainment division of the show. In order to capture it all, we've used Grass Valley video production switchers in our operations for many years and we've been known to give them a real rough ride. In our minds, the quality and reliability of Grass Valley products can't be beat.

During the three-week run of the show, RodeoHouston produces several daily feeds, which amounts to hundreds of hours of content. These are post-produced in our all-digital facility. It features a large control room with Grass Valley Kalypso and Zodiak SD switchers, along with several edit suites and audio rooms.

Throughout the event, we use the Grass Valley switchers to produce coverage of the rodeo and all of its activities. Hundreds of segments are displayed on large screens and monitors throughout the facility, and are also seen as pay-per-view broadcasts on DirecTV. The switchers also are used during the NFL football season to feed the large screens during Houston Texans home games.

The most important attribute of a video production switcher these days is its flexibility in working with different video formats and other equipment. It's also got to have a healthy clip store and be easy to operate.

And for us flexibility is key, as we're constantly working in different configurations on a wide variety of productions. The main rodeo events often require three switcher panels operating side-by-side. By staying with Grass Valley, we're sure they will be able to communicate with each other and that we won't have to do any format transcoding along the way.

The video elements we receive, particularly for the concert part of each RodeoHouston presentation, arrive in a variety of formats: MPEG-2, DV and HDV, HDCAM, HDCAM SR and more. We're often using footage from previous years shot in 4:3, marrying it with 16:9 in the same production. We have to convert the various formats to a common SD format so that everything looks good together. The Grass Valley gear allows us to do this without any extra effort.

In order to continue our migration to high-definition for all of our production activities, we've purchased two new Grass Valley Kayenne HD Video Production Center switchers and three switcher panels. They should be fully operational just in time for the start of the next NFL season.

We always try to stay at the leading edge of technology, and in our minds the new Kayenne switcher represents the future of live production. We've had great luck with Grass Valley technology and know we can count it to give us the broadcast-quality production values our audiences have come to expect.

James Davidson has managed video production services for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo since 1998. Prior to that, he owned a production company catering to corporate and broadcast clients. He may be contacted at

For additional information, contact Grass Valley at 530-478-3000 or visit