Centred in the Houston-Dallas-Austin triangle, Texas A&M’s main campus in College Station is home to more than 62,500 students, with a further 5,700 at branch campuses across Texas and as far away as Qatar. 12th Man Productions handles the television production needs for Texas A&M Aggies sports, including producing live broadcasts and video features for all teams. 12th Man Productions also entertains A&M fans with television shows such as The Pulse, which gives fans an up-close look at Texas A&M Football in the autumn.

12th Man team moved its 18 fulltime staff (and up to 90 Texas A&M undergraduate students), into an all-new facility at the south end zone at redeveloped Kyle Field, where there are four HD control rooms, an ESPN bureau cam studio, a main studio set area, a radio broadcast room, and six postproduction edit rooms.

12th Man Productions StudioIn his role as Chief Broadcast Engineer for Texas A&M, Zack Bacon oversees all technical support for the 12th Man Productions facility as it relates to vendors, system upgrades, installations, and system maintenance contracts – as well as provides lead technical support for new and emerging technology needs. He also provides live event technical support and manages the student engineering staff.

With the Kyle Field renovation, the team began moving toward an IP infrastructure for audio. In total, the new infrastructure has 48 fibre-optic runs that tie the Kyle Field control center to the school’s seven main sports venues. Over the last few years, they have been working to control all venues from the centra area.

‘When we started the renovation, we had to choose our audio network platform, and it was obvious that Dante fit our immediate needs and was also supported by the industry enough to cover our future plans,’ Bacon says. ‘We definitely have an extensive Dante deployment, and we’re trying to grow it as much as possible. It’s a great technology, and we can vouch for its flexibility and how using the IP infrastructure allows us to do a lot of things we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.’

Bacon explained that as a central facility, audio from all facilities is transported to the production control rooms via Dante, and nearly all audio for broadcast is on a Dante network as well. The team produces everything essentially through Dante with Yamaha consoles. The audio signals are mixed, married to the video, and then either used within the venue or broadcast out. The team also has a direct fibre connection to ESPN, allowing them to share audio and video content directly.

‘We have four control rooms, so we’re able to do two sports at a time,’ he says. ‘That means two big-screen shows and two ESPN broadcasts simultaneously, so things can get pretty hectic — and we’re relying on Dante more and more so we can be as efficient and responsive as possible.’

Recently, the team upgraded its Studio Tech 214 announcer consoles to be Dante native, instantly improving audio quality and signal flexibility, and also integrated this type of Dante connectivity into the intercom system to patch announcer consoles into the intercom system as well as the audio mixer. Now, when it’s necessary to feed audio in and out of the intercom, it can be routed through the Dante network.

The Live Sound

‘There are multiple ways we could get it into Dante and to the PA mixer, but we run it through our console and do direct out, then we set up the shared audio group within Domain Manager,’ Bacon says. ‘Then we just do the patching in the Dante Controller, and as long as we have the network infrastructure set up, everything just works.’

The PA systems are distributed audio DSP networks that are all interconnected by Dante because of the large distances covered. The Dante network delivers the signal to a network of dbx London Blu DSPs, and from here to the individual amplifiers.

12th Man Productions‘With Dante Domain Manager, we’ve already seen the benefits integrating the PA and being able to send multiple sources to the PA mixing console, as opposed to previously, we would only be able to send two,’ Bacon explains. ‘We’re currently working with and sending about six audio signals, but we can send a lot more. This has been a very convenient and efficient way for us to improve our workflow.’

Dante Domain Manager (DDM) is network management software that enables user authentication, role-based security, and audit capabilities for Dante networks while allowing seamless expansion of Dante systems over any network infrastructure. DDM organises a network into ‘domains’ that each have individual access requirements, making it clear and easy to know who can access any area of the system. All activity is logged, tagged, and date-stamped so problems can be quickly identified and solved.

With DDM, Bacon and the 12th Man Productions team is able to route audio signals across subnets to cover the multiple venues and the production areas. It also enables management groups to be created and to segment areas, venues, subnets, and production rooms as needed.

‘Our student workers do many functions for us, everything from operating cameras to postproduction, and we have about 20 student engineers as well who are out in the field making sure everything is working and are actually connecting everything and mixing the shows,’ Bacon says. ‘They are trained on Dante Domain Manager, and they now do the routing and patching for the various productions, and we don’t want operators mistakenly going into Dante Controller and re-routing anything that might impact other simultaneous events.’

DDM coordinates multiple subnets, allowing Dante audio to be used across networks of nearly any complexity or size, and enables audio to be plugged into any Ethernet jack, anywhere on campus, and route the audio data to where it needs to go. Users of Dante-enabled devices do not have to perform any special configuration; Dante Domain Manager completely automates this task.

More: www.audinate.com

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