The goal is streamlined, flexible playback for each network
With 22 regional sports networks spread across the country, Fox Sports Networks continually looks for ways to improve its production trucks and streamline its production workflows to boost efficiency throughout the RSN family. Recently, FSN turned its focus to its music library and tapped ENCO to design and develop a network-wide music-playback workflow.
The process of upgrading music playback began with FSN VP, Regional Operations, Steve Grigely and SVP/Executive Producer Mike Connolly, who sought a way to streamline the way RSNs access and play music during their productions.
“There were basically two main goals that we wanted to achieve,” explains Grigely. “One was just upgrading the music-playback devices in our trucks. Our cameras, switchers, audio boards, lensing [have] been upgraded probably several times over the last 10 years, but the way you play back music never really got a hard look at how we can make it better. So we looked at that. The second thing is, we wanted to make the music-cue-sheet–submission process more efficient, easier, and more flexible for our producers. We wanted to reduce the time that it takes after a show for a producer or an AD to go back and cue music.”
FSN selected ENCO, a playout- and automated-solutions provider, to collaborate on designing a workflow and developing applications for music playback. Early in the process, Grigely and Connolly — alongside VP Ron Gralnik and VP, Production, John Hefner — determined that the workflow should be centrally managed from Fox Sports’ Los Angeles broadcast facility. The team purchased 13 ENCO playback units for its L.A. studios and 14 portable units, which comprise ENCO’s DAD software running on Microsoft Surface tablets.
Mobile TV Group, FSN’s primary production-truck provider, purchased more than 65 units for its fleet. “Some of our other truck vendors did as well,” says Grigely. “It was refreshing to see the truck vendors jump right in to help us out with this process.”
The workflow begins in Los Angeles, with FSN’s production team selecting music tracks — both .wav files and .xml metadata — for the music department to upload to an ENCO central database, which is running DAD software in the cloud. In the field, producers connect to a Fox VPN and browse and download music tracks to their local devices. Previously, approved music for a promotion might be emailed to the individual RSNs; now music can be uploaded once to a central database, where it can be found and downloaded as needed.
Once a music track is played, it is automatically logged on a cue sheet, which drastically cuts down on producers’ having to keep track of music and submit cue sheets to Los Angeles. ENCO built a custom FSN export application, which prints the cue sheets — including all metadata — in the correct format.
“It just makes things a lot more efficient when you have a centralized place to grab things from,” says Grigely. “One of the great things about this whole workflow is, no matter where a producer is in the country, he or she can be traveling from Texas to Detroit to Boston to Florida and, in each city, can download their exact music layout and all their edits.”