Photo: Mississippi State University’s Bennie Ashford (white shirt) and Jonathan Ashley at the DiGiCo S21 console in Davis Wade Stadium’s new production facility
Mississippi State University is in the process of inaugurating a complex new production facility that will keep the school at the forefront of broadcast and streaming of sports for the SEC Network and SEC Network Plus. The linchpin for audio in the new production facility, which is located in the university’s Davis Wade Stadium, is the DiGiCo S21 digital console installed by Atlanta-based AV systems integrator Comprehensive Technical Group (CTG) and commissioned in May.
The new production facility, which also houses a machine room, is connected via fiber cabling to multiple sports venues on the MSU campus, including Humphrey Coliseum, Polk-DeMent Stadium and MSU Soccer Field, as well as to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT, and to SEC Network headquarters in Charlotte, NC. The DiGiCo S21 console will act as the digital audio hub for all of these destinations.
“The S21 is going to significantly and radically change our workflow for the better,” observes Bennie Ashford, Assistant AD, Video Services at Mississippi State University. “Its power, ease of use and flexibility really take our media capabilities to a new level.”
For example, Ashford cites the University’s broadcast and operations intercom system, which previously had been, in his words, “archaic… just a few channels on some copper wiring.” Now, the S21 has become the matrix for a much-expanded intercom system that will allow for far more channels and party lines, as well as the ability to send talent audio through the foldback.
It will also be used to send sound effects from various sports venues on campus to the remote-broadcast production trucks that the SEC Network and ESPN will use to telecast games from MSU, and for mixing the live PA systems’ audio in the venues. “We’re entering an entirely new world for signal transport here,” Ashford says. “The S21 has a lot of missions to accomplish, but it is more than up to the tasks.”
The S21, which uses 96-kHz audio as standard, will take audio in and out using MADI as the primary transport format, which is the signal-transport lingua franca for broadcast sports remote production, assuring that it will communicate natively with the remote-production assets of ESPN and the SEC Network that cover the games on campus.
The S21 comes with a huge depth of features, including Word Clock I/O, integrated USB2 Audio I/O interface for recording and playback of up to 48 channels, 40 Input flex-channels Mono/Stereo (equivalent of 80 DSP channels), and 46 busses: 16 flexi-busses Mono/Stereo (equivalent of 32 DSP busses), Stereo Master (2), Solo busses (2 stereo, 4 total), and 10 x 8 Matrix (8).
But this powerful package also comes configured with a high degree of user friendliness. Jonathan Ashley, veteran Staff Sound Technician and Engineer at MSU, finds that especially attractive. “This was my first experience with a DiGiCo console, and while I was concerned that it would be somewhat intimidating, it was anything but,” says Ashley, who graduated from MSU in 2007 and has mixed sound for the University’s sports and other departments ever since.
“The training we received from CTG was great, but what helped the most is that the S21 is a very intuitive console to operate. It’s easy to figure out how to do what you want it to do. It might take as little as a single move, if even that! And I love how you can adjust everything on the fly. We’ve already had a few music tours come through in the stadium and the S21 handles levels for those easily and accurately. It’s changing our workflow here for the better.”
Ashford says both video-control rooms are expected to be online in time for the 2016-17-basketball season. “For now, one control room is up and running and the S21 is carrying a full load and handling it wonderfully. CTG steered us towards the S21, based on our needs and our budget, and it is the perfect solution for all of that.”