Texas A&M University – 12th Man Productions

Doubling signal capacity between venues with ST 2110

12th Man Productions is the broadcast and post facility for Texas A&M University, one of the major players in college athletics in the U.S. The A&M campus in College Station, Texas, incorporates seven sports venues spread across the site, which host as many as 110 events a year.

The group, which includes almost 100 current undergraduate Texas A&M students, moved into an $11.8 million facility in the south end zone at redeveloped Kyle Field. With the new facilities and talented staff, 12th Man Productions has brought traditional linear broadcasts, as well as digital broadcasts, to the SEC Network and ESPN family of networks.

Along with producing live broadcasts, digital content and video features for all teams, 12th Man Productions also entertains A&M fans with their Emmy® Award-winning national television show, The Pulse: Texas A&M Football.

Kyle Field, Texas A&M Football

7 major venues seamlessly connected via ST 2110

7 major venues seamlessly connected via ST 2110

Multiple industry awards including an Emmy

Multiple industry awards including an Emmy

100+ events<br>hosted each year

100+ events
hosted each year

The Challenge

For all Texas A&M athletic events, 12th Man Productions provides the infrastructure for broadcasters like ESPN and creates the fan experience through big screen shows (which include sponsorship fulfillment) at each venue. They also provide separate video feeds to each venue for applications like official replays, concourse feeds, talent monitors and team recordings.

When the main venue, Kyle Field (A&M’s football stadium) was rebuilt back in 2014, 12th Man Productions took the opportunity to build a central video facility, including multiple studio spaces and four control rooms, which could be used by any venue.

Because the other venues are spread across the A&M campus — some up to 10 kilometers away — fiber was installed. At that time, the fibers were used as CWDM single-mode circuits, each carrying no more than eight HD video signals each way. This limited the options that could be provided and required the connectivity to be configured for each event ― a time-consuming process and a potential point of failure.

As part of a rolling program of refurbishment, 12th Man Productions had been looking at moving toward IP connectivity, particularly with the standardization and growing popularity of SMPTE ST 2110. They decided that they could greatly increase their flexibility and resilience by moving to a networked approach to connect all the venues.

With fiber already in place, they could migrate quite easily by implementing an enterprise-class Cisco Nexus Media Fabric — connecting each of the venues and the central production facility by a routed local area network.

The challenge then was to integrate the legacy HD-SDI elements into the IP connectivity.

The Solution

12th Man Productions evaluated all the options available before choosing the Selenio Network Processor (SNP) from Imagine Communications. Each 1RU FPGA-powered device is capable of 32 channels of HD processing, which can be reconfigured just by switching software settings.

As well as being gateways into and out of the SMPTE ST 2110 world, SNPs can replace everything from DAs to frame syncs to up/down/cross converters — eliminating a lot of equipment. All of that processing power is networked. And because the SNP is only 1RU high for 32 channels, they can be placed anywhere they are needed without running out of rack space.

Sports like basketball can require eight manned cameras, plus more fixed POV cameras. With all the return feeds for officials, big screens and other displays around the venue, confidence feeds for commentators and more, the need for capacity quickly builds up.

Since 12th Man Productions migrated to uncompressed SMPTE ST 2110, the fiber on the Texas A&M campus can now carry as many as 32 bidirectional HD signals with no impact on latency and no loss of quality. Capacity between venues is no longer an issue.

At Texas A&M, we like to be leaders. We know we have moved the industry forward, but we could not have done what we did — and we will do in the future — without the support of key technology partners like Imagine.”
Zach Bacon headshot
Zack Bacon
Chief Broadcast Engineer, 12th Man Productions, Texas A&M University Athletics

The Result

By moving to IP, 12th Man Productions has at minimum doubled what they were previously able to do in terms of signal capacity between venues on the same amount of fiber.

The IP implementation has also reduced workload. In the past, the group would need to configure the system based on seasons: as one sport wound down, they would reallocate core equipment to another stadium. Now they can leave all the core routing and processing set all year round, which saves a lot of time.

The SNPs are able to perform many tasks: it just depends on which licenses you have. If 12th Man Productions needs different functionality, they just take out the subscription for it.

Zack Bacon, Chief Broadcast Engineer, 12th Man Productions, says, “We have yet to hit a resource limit on the new networked installation, and I really do not know of an alternative to get the flexibility we need.”

This project is an important part of Texas A&M’s migration to a full IP production environment. Bacon adds, “We are great believers in SMPTE ST 2110 and the benefits of standardization, which will allow us to continue to buy equipment that best represents price and performance for us, without limiting interoperability.

“As we go forward, we will invest in the right products that are best suited to our needs, if necessary, adding SNP gateways until we reach the tipping point when the majority of kit is IP native. Then we will redeploy the SNPs for other tasks.”

In Their Own Words: The Backstory​

Hear 12th Man Productions’ Zack Bacon and other industry leaders discuss the variables of designing a modern production facility

Under the Hood: Take a 2-Minute Video Tour

Selenio™ Network Process (SNP) is everything you need in a modern media processing platform

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portatif of Steve Reynolds


Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is President of Imagine Communications, a global leader in multiscreen video and ad management solutions that broadcasters, networks, video service providers and enterprises around the world rely on to support their mission-critical operations.

Steve brings 25 years of technology leadership in the video industry to Imagine Communications. He has served as the CTO at Imagine Communications and Harris Broadcast, Senior Vice President of Premises Technology at Comcast, Senior Vice President of Technology at OpenTV, and CTO at Intellocity USA.

Steve earned a MS in Computer Engineering from Widener University and BS in Computer Science from West Chester University. As the Chairman of the AIMS Alliance and a member of SMPTE and SCTE, he has participated in numerous standards-making bodies in the cable and digital video industries. Steve also holds over 40 patents relating to digital video, content security, interactive television and digital devices.