MLB’s network operations center
Veteran systems integrator The Systems Group (TSG) has been involved in its share of major facility builds, but few projects compare to the scope, complexity and practical implementation regarding its design and installation of the new MLB HD production and distribution facility in Secaucus, NJ. The facility is home to the new MLB Network and MLB Productions, where content is ingested, edited and distributed.
A TSG team, led by Scott Griffin, began in August 2008 to replace a former 24-hour cable news operation with a complete HD sports network. TSG’s 40-person team mobilized to get on the air by January 2009. This was no small feat, as the technology of dozens of equipment vendors had to be rapidly evaluated and selected to seamlessly integrate into a dependable and cohesive facility.
MLB engaged CBT Systems of San Diego, CA, to guide the initial design requirements and oversee the implementation plan. TSG was engaged as the project systems integrator. While TSG progressed through design detailing, MLB built up its engineering team, which eventually joined with TSG and CBT to guide the project to completion.
The facility features two control rooms with Sony production switchers, Miranda multiviewers on Sony 42in displays, Calrec audio consoles, 10 Apple FCPs and 15 Grass Valley Auroras and K2 HD servers, two Fairlight sweetening rooms and two large studios. The Apple XSan for MLB Productions, and all of the other SANs, use a Front Porch Digital SL8500 storage archive.
This project’s challenges were to implement a file-based HD workflow within a facility that was originally designed as a linear SD plant. File formats and MXF compatibility between the various SANs was a major issue. Another challenge was making the EVS communicate with an XSan and the Aurora system. This allowed thousands of low-res proxy clips to be available to anyone on the network at the touch of a button. All three systems also send files to Omneon air servers.
TSG’s Griffin called the multilayered infrastructure “unprecedented.” It was one of the most demanding projects he has been involved in, but also the most rewarding.
Post & network production facilities
Submitted by The Systems Group
The Systems Group: Scott Griffin, principal - VP, eng. and tech.; Belinda Binkley, exec. proj. mgr.; Jim Tome, sr. sys. eng.
MLB Network: Mark Haden, VP – eng. and IT; Tab Butler, dir. - media management; Mark Henry, dir. broadcast IT
Technology at work
Apple: Final Cut Pro
Autodesk: Flame special effects software, Inferno compositing software
Calrec: Hydra audio networking, Omega audio console
Evertz: Router, modular gear, Quartz router and master control
Grass Valley: Aurora production suite, K2 HD servers, SAN
NTT Electronics: Encoders