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Georgia Tech Turns Production Facility Into an ACC Network Fortress

22/08/2019

Georgia Tech Turns Production Facility Into an ACC Network Fortress The new structure comprises three control rooms and 864 strands of fiber By Kristian Hernandez, Associate Editor

Thursday, August 22, 2019 - 9:06 am

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The Georgia Institute of Technology, or simply Georgia Tech, is known mostly for developing the world's next great wave of biomedical and industrial engineers. As one of the best research universities in the nation, the Yellow Jackets know a little something about hard work. With today's official launch of the ACC Network, the institute gave a new meaning to Tech by renovating its 6,400-sq.-ft. on-campus production facility to a tune of $10 million.

Inside Control Room A in Georgia Tech's renovated broadcast facility

[Georgia Tech] is a really cool place to be as far as how it relates to sports and sports recruiting, says Andy Blanton, assistant athletic director, video and broadcast services, Georgia Tech. I've seen a lot of our teams use this facility as part of a recruit visit and show student athletes who might be interested in doing this just to show it off and allow them to get geeked up about the opportunity to either be showcased through this facility or have some sort of role inside of this facility. Right now, it's a shiny new toy, and everybody really appreciates what it is, and it has helped us recruit folks in many different ways and forms.

Building a New Beast: Georgia Tech Reaches Out to a Duo of Integrators

Like many great ideas throughout history, the start of a project generates a spark for others that will be created in the future. Sometimes, projects need a little nudge to get them into motion. When ESPN created its partnership with another prominent collegiate conference, Blanton began planning his masterpiece before the concept of an ACC Network had a stable floor. As with many of his cohorts, the team leveraged the advice offered by those who had gone before.

Conceptually, we started thinking about this along the same time that the SEC Network was starting to get off the ground [around 2013] , says Blanton. We started paying very close attention to what the SEC schools were being asked to do. A lot of the [staffers at the] ACC schools converse with their counterparts at an SEC school that might be their rival. In our case, I talked a lot with the University of Georgia and Auburn University.

When the ACC Network platform got the blessing of the ESPN in 2016, Blanton went full steam ahead to start the necessary procedure for a renovation. After filing paperwork for an estimated $10 million budget with the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents, his team began efforts to choose a consultant.

On July 18, [2018,] we were meeting with architects to design the building, design the footprint of the control rooms, and all of the fiber infrastructure on campus, he says. Then, we had the local group here in town, CTG [Comprehensive Technical Group], come alongside us in the beginning to do some consulting on what this project would look like financially.

Months later, on Sept. 10, Alpha Video was given the opportunity to lead the charge on the new initiative. With the help of Brian Beckwith, broadcast design engineer, Alpha Video, the two parties created a blueprint while the system integrator started constructing sets in Nashville. Around the holiday season in 2018, Alpha Video came on campus poised to complete the task.

[Working with Georgia Tech] was important because we have a strong presence in the area with the Atlanta Braves and some of the other folks in the area like the College Football Hall of Fame, says Jeff Volk, VP, Alpha Video. For us, it was a great extension of not only the partners and clients that we have in the region but someone that we've identified that we'd wanted to work with for a long time.

Another available space inside Georgia Tech's production facility

The Aches and Pains: Finding Even Ground in Uncharted Territory

Despite a constant flow of tips and guidance from folks in the Southeastern Conference, the effort was easier said than done. Although a $10 million budget was approved, Blanton and the team at Alpha Video needed to find a balance between shooting for the stars and coming in below the allotted dollar amount.

We needed to work with them in order to align the equipment list and the final system design to their budget, says Volk. At first, they were over budget, so we worked with them over a period to finalize their costs. We also included some onsite equipment demos with several camera vendors and replay-system demos. There was certainly some give and take, but, in the end, I think we more than delivered on all of their must-have items.

Also, a steady flow of productions doesn't stop with a new buildout. Blanton and Georgia Tech's staff of six full-time employees and eight student interns needed to devise a daily agenda to juggle a busy spring sports schedule.

The biggest challenge was just time management to stay on top of all of this in the busiest time of the year, says Blanton. We didn't really plan to start and end when we did; we just moved forward as the university channels allowed us to. The physical construction of the building dictated when the equipment and technological elements could come into play. In parallel with the building being constructed, you've got all other things to do, like picking out carpet and wall color, [from] types of lights to furniture and office layouts. It was very difficult to manage [more than] 90 productions that we were already doing out of our single control room while doing this major construction project.

In addition to the growing pains of construction, the increased influx of content generated by a new facility can be stressful as well.

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