Calrec meets Matt Webster, Technical Director of Ross Production Services


Ross Production Services (RPS) is the full-service production division of Ross Video that produces between 150 and 200 events per year, including live sports and esports content. In addition to working for the major U.S. broadcast and cable networks, he recently managed production of EA’s Madden NFL 21 championship series from his facilities in Connecticut, completed during the pandemic.

What is your role with RPS?
I am the CTO and my role is to design and develop the workflows and decide what technology will be needed for each production. Being owned by Ross Video, our first preference is obviously to use Ross material. The majority of all the equipment we use is Ross, with a few exceptions like Clear-Com for intercom and Calrec for audio. We handle the production of all kinds of sporting and live entertainment events, including eSports, and the productions we manage can be seen on just about every linear channel here in the United States.

What OB units and studios do you currently operate?
We currently operate eight mobile production trucks. We have eight six-camera Sprinter vans and a 40-foot, 12-camera big truck. Last fall, we completed construction of a new studio in Connecticut. This facility is our primary production hub and handles a wide variety of high-profile content for sports, esport and live entertainment customers.

With most of the equipment you use made by Ross, why turn to Calrec for audio?
Calrec is the industry standard for quality audio and prior to working with the company and installing its technology, we were lacking in the audio department. We made our first purchase of two Calrec Brio consoles about two years ago and they are installed in two of our Sprinter OB units. About seven months ago we acquired an Apollo 72 faders and two more Brios, this time for our Connecticut facility. A few months ago we bought another Brio, this time for our big OB truck.

Before using Calrec, one of the biggest issues we faced with the consoles we used was the lack of a simple workflow. We could always do what we needed, but it wasn’t easy. With Calrec, it is, and it is important. Another key factor was the Brio’s power and small form factor. Space in Sprinter vans is always tight – after some pretty dramatic reengineering we managed to fit a Brio and that solved a really big problem for us.

Tell us about your recently built facility in Connecticut.
The Connecticut facility was built during the pandemic here in the United States, which, of course, has its own challenges! We have developed what we call “the production cloud,” which, while hardware-based, allows contributors to go to the facility remotely.

This methodology has served us well when it comes to esports productions. We operate four control rooms – A, B, C and D – and we have used control room A for EA Sports broadcasts, including EA Sports’ Madden NFL 21 Championship Series. We used a Brio for the first six weeks of production and then switched to the Apollo when it was set up. Our operators loved the Brio. When we switched to the much larger console our main operator was a little worried at first but Calrec provided very effective remote training and any apprehension quickly vanished.

For the EA Sports Yard Invitational event, we used both a Brio and an Apollo, connected using Hydra2 technology from Calrec and MADI. This highlights another reason we chose Calrec and that’s how hyper-connected consoles can be. For this show, we had two A1s and a very fast rotation between virtual games of 10 minutes with four players each. In addition to mixing all the normal audio required for commentators / hosts etc, we also had all of the player mics and game streams, and these needed to be downmixed on a Brio before being sent to the Apollo, which would then take over. overall mix. The Brio A1 would then start mixing the next match due to the very tight deadline. It was a tough challenge, but I think we were up to it.

What are the networking benefits of using Calrec?
We use Calrec’s Hydra2 network and MADI interfaces for all our connections. The capacity and ease with which we can share resources is fantastic. With Hydra2, our consoles can be connected to any studio at any time and any stream can be controlled from any desk. Each of our control rooms has its own dedicated router and each router sends its MADI to a single I / O box, which means that each console can be used by any studio; there is no limit. The only reason we’re not doing AoIP right now is because we’re in a growth phase with Ross Production Services, and our MADI / Hydra2 setup is a great ecosystem for us right now. Our operators love it and it helps them reduce their workload.

Another key point to highlight is that the Ross AV routing and processing platform we use – the award winning Ultrix – allows us to integrate / disintegrate every source that enters the router, so MADI is the most common protocol. effective in moving signals in / out of this platform.

What kind of connectivity do you have in your 40ft truck and two sprint vans with the Calrec consoles in it?
Again, we are using Hydra2 with MADI in conjunction with Ultrix routing. We have two MADI streams from the router into the audio mixer, then we use two of the Brio I / O boxes. We have developed what we call fiber kits for our trucks. We have two per truck and they contain a Hydra2 box, IFBs, intercom and video input / output. We deploy them in our shows, whether on stand or in the field, wherever we need them. Hydra2 is very important in this workflow. In our big truck, we actually have three kits.

You mentioned some of the main benefits of Calrec. Would it be fair to say that you are “standardizing” on Calrec in the future?
Yes. In my opinion, the Calrec ecosystem is where we prefer to be. Our operators love it, and we have a lot less of what I consider “busy work”. In our case, this means that the engineer has to work with the A1 to do his job because the console is not a Calrec and / or the workflow is not easy. With any of our future trucks, we will seek to install a Calrec office, either a Brio or an Apollo. These are our favorite consoles right now.


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