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NBC Sports Boston Preps for the Future With State-of-the-Art NBCU Boston Media Center


NBC Sports Boston Preps for the Future With State-of-the-Art NBCU Boston Media Center The new SMPTE ST 2110 IP-based production facility houses four networks By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor

Friday, February 14, 2020 - 2:49 pm

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Story Highlights

Last month, NBC Universal opened the doors to the state-of-the-art NBCU Boston Media Center, the new home of NBC Sports Boston, NBC10 Boston, Telemundo Boston, and NECN (New England Cable News). With a SMPTE ST 2110 IP infrastructure and sprawling studio space, the multimillion-dollar, 160,000-sq.-ft. facility immediately put NBC Sports Boston among the elite regional sports networks when it comes to production quality.

NBC Sports Boston's new studio inside the NBCU Media Center is home to its Celtics pre/postgame programming.

As we look at the way the world is changing, we wanted to make sure we had a facility that we could grow into in the future so we would be prepared to change with it, says Chris Wayland, GM, NBC Sports Boston, and Station Manager/SVP, NBC10 Boston, Telemundo Boston, and NECN. Also, our audience expects us to provide a deeper level of detail and context so that they have a better understanding of the game. This new facility and the technology behind it allow us to take the viewer deeper into the intricacies of the game in a way that we simply weren't able to do in the old space.

The move from an aging production facility in Burlington, MA, to the sparkling new Media Center in Needham, MA, represents a major upgrade for the NBCU Boston networks. NBC Sports Boston, in particular, benefited from the move, gaining a picturesque new 50- x 100-ft. studio capable of fitting the entire parquet floor of TD Garden.

The NBCU Boston Media Center finished construction last year and opened on Jan. 15.

The stature of the set has been a game-changer from a production standpoint for our producers, directors, and talent, says Kevin Miller, VP, content creation and strategy, NBC Sports Boston. They view it as, they owe it to the space to ramp up their game. And I have already noticed a major uptick in our production value -on both [linear TV] and digital platforms - since we've moved in here.

Inside the Media Center: Six Control Rooms for Six Studios

NBCU began work on the project in 2016 and settled on an existing structure in Needham, which was stripped down to the concrete and steel to create an almost greenfield start for the new facility.

From that moment on, it was a path of discovery in terms of reaching out to all of the staff involved in the four businesses to ask some key questions, says Keith Barbaria, VP, technology, NBC Sports Boston, NBC10 Boston, Telemundo Boston, and NECN. Then, we took that information and merged it with some best practices to create a functional requirement document that listed out everything this building needed - from amenities and conveniences to the technology and the on-air goals.

One of six control rooms at the NBCU Boston Media Center

The Media Center features six production studios and six control rooms as well as a dedicated podcast studio for digital/social content. The facility is designed so that any control room can serve any studio at any given moment (although, for operations purposes, each of the four networks has been assigned its own control room and studio).

If we ever need to swap a studio and a control room for coverage reasons, big events, even maintenance, we can hop around control rooms as needed, Barbaria explains. The building also has 60 different places where we can plug in equipment and cameras, so that we can use the entire building as a studio. As a result, we spent more time and resources on interior design because we wanted to show off this whole place and give the content teams the ability to present outside the confines of the studio.

All-in on 2110: A Look at the IP-Based Future in Needham

One of the key design requirements for the NBCU technology team was to build the facility with an IP backbone to ensure that it is prepared for the future. With the SMPTE ST 2110 Professional Media Over Managed IP Networks suite of standards ratified during the project's development, Barbaria and company embarked on a mission to make as much of the facility ST 2110-compliant as possible.

The NBCU Boston Media Center is built on SMPTE ST 2110 IP infrastructure.

We're pushing the margins of what's possible today with the SMPTE 2110 standard, he says, but the real reason [we went IP] is less about now and more for the future. We've built this building to [be able to] scale and adapt with the industry without major additional investments. It may be a little pain upfront going 2110 - a lot of vendors aren't quite ready so we've still got a lot of conversion in the building right now - but it made sense for the future.

NBCU worked with systems integrator Diversified to create a facility built around an Evertz EXE2 IP router that could serve today's needs while preparing for tomorrow's.

We want to be ready for whatever is coming, says Barbaria. While we're a 1080i facility today, we did think about 4K and HDR, and, as soon as that kind of content is wanted by the consumer and transmission is more readily available, we'll be ready to adapt to those for sure.

Early Edition is one of three daily programs produced by NBC Sports Boston in Needham.

Other key equipment in the facility includes Video Acuity switchers, Ross Overdrive production automation and Cambot robotic pedestals (with SmartShell remote control), Evertz evMV multiviewers (ST 2110-native), a mix of ChyronHego and Ross Xpression graphics, RTS ODIN intercom matrix, Haivision IPTV for in-house monitoring, Evertz Vue VCS and Tektronix Prism scope (ST 2110-native) for QC, and Cisco Catalyst network backbone.

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