"It's a dream come true in so many ways."
That's how executive producer Terry Lickona describes the new home of Austin City Limits (ACL), not only the design and construction process, but the final result as well. The ground-up project had an extremely tight time frame — completed in just 60 days. The ACL team also needed to preserve the organization's rich history of live performances while keeping an eye on the future. ACL, however, was also faced with the reality of being a public television station, which meant limited resources. In other words, the project needed to be done right, with the right partners.
Completed in 2011, the new facility achieved, and exceeded, each of ACL's goals: a new 2700-seat combination live-music venue and studio soundstage that features a range of HD-production technology from a range of manufacturers. The studio features Sony HDC-1400 and HDCP1 studio cameras, an MVS-8000G production switcher and XDCAM HD decks, which are used for camera ISOs, program mastering and archiving. Two video walls running the Ziris Canvas digital signage system are used to promote upcoming events and other Austin City Limits programming and events.
Sony was the prime contractor for the project, working with Beck Associates on the systems integration for the new studio, which is located adjacent to the new W hotel in Austin, TX. Sony pulled together a complete team to handle design, systems integration and product installation, and worked with ACL every step of the way to make sure its unique requirements were met. For example, the new studio is designed to upgrade easily to 3-D production.
"We wanted a 3-D-ready infrastructure, the ability to easily bring in some rigs and cameras and have everything ready to go," said Jeff Peterson, ACL producer. "Now, all of our routing and switching is 3-D-capable, plug-and-play."
ACL also wanted to recreate most of what existed in the old facility in terms of camera angles and set pieces. The previous facility was HD/720p, so a priority for the new build was 1080p throughout, as well as a move from a fully tape-based environment to tapeless operation and the creation of a fiber-optic link to the original studio where the servers are housed. Edit teams ingest into those servers in real time and ACL also backs up on Sony XDCAM 1500 decks, giving it a long-term archive option as well as a reliable backup medium.
The facility itself is a success in every sense, but ACL also credits its work and unique relationship with the Sony Systems Solutions Group as integral to getting everything designed, built and completed.
"We talk about Austin City Limits as an experience, and that's why it means so much to people when they come to one of our productions," Lickona said. "We've worked very hard to create a one-of-a-kind opportunity, and unless you've had the chance to come and see and feel for yourself what it's like, it's hard to explain. What you see on television is one thing, but actually being here and seeing it come to life and feeling the magic happening right before your eyes is a totally new experience."