ESPN Makes Digital Splash with Eye-Popping SportsCenter Upgrade

Mobile displays, video floor, social media wall among many highlights of the new SportsCenter digital studio DC-2.

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When ESPN converted its SportsCenter studio to HD a decade ago, they called on WorldStage to do the job.

Apparently, the folks in Bristol liked the way WorldStage worked and the job they did because they brought WorldStage back when they decided to upgrade the massive studio again, this time with a multimillion-dollar digital overhaul.

WorldStage was the visual technology consultant and integrator for both SportsCenter’s main studio in Bristol, Conn., as well as the Los Angeles-based SportsCenter studio, which launched at the same time. They partnered with designer Jack Morton Worldwide on the project.

Highlighted by curved screens, 114 interactive video and graphic monitors, 56 LED displays and LCD-activated glass, the new SportsCenter studio was unveiled to the viewing audience in late June amid much fanfare.

SportsCenter Studio X

South wall – main desk (Annex Studio in background) flanked by monitors with a 10’x10′ monitor sunken in the floor.
East wall – can be configured into six separate panel monitors, one big monitor, or any combination in between with a “cat-walk” in front allowing hosts to interact with the content displayed.
Northeast corner – a 16′ x 10′ monitor wall on rails that can be brought to the center floor monitor to show an L–shaped wall of video.
North wall – a multidimensional display wall comprised of 56 monitors powered by ESPN-built software.
Northwest corner – a stationary 16′ x 10′ monitor wall.
West wall – similar embedded riser system to the North wall, adding eight stationary displays and one large center monitor outfitted as a touchscreen device.
SkyDeck – a wire tension grid system allowing operators to walk among the lights, to adjust, reposition or repair fixtures – during a live show if needed.

“We understand the potential of visual displays and know how the studio environment and the economics of that works,” says WorldStage president Josh Weisberg. “We knew we wanted to be involved. We knew the design was going to be really interesting and we like working with ESPN. It’s a good, honest, open relationship.”

One of the interesting aspects of this job, says Weisberg, is the same people who were involved in the 2004 job from both WorldStage and ESPN were on the team for this installation, DC-2. WorldStage had about a year to work on this massive undertaking, including demos, says Weisberg. There was plenty to be worried about, but it all ended up working well, he says.

“This was a new building so you had to be thinking about power distribution and feeding content to the displays, most of which aren’t standard aspect ratio,” says Weisberg. “With regard to the main display, no one’s ever built a wall like that that I’m aware of.” Each display, he says, needed its own customized content template.

Inside the Installation

SportsCenter’s Studio X is part of Digital Center 2 (DC-2), a new 194,000 square-foot production facility on the ESPN campus housing studios, control rooms, craft edit suites and audio control rooms. DC-2 is home to SportsCenter, all NFL studio shows and others shows in the future. Studio X occupies almost 10,000 square feet and includes 100 bezel-less monitors and multiple 2.5mm and 4mm LED video walls across the five sets.

The innovative design features a video floor, virtual technology, two touchscreens, a 56 LED multi-dimensional monitor wall and the ability to do live and pre-produced segments simultaneously.

Click here to go inside the new SportsCenter studio.

DC-2’s infrastructure is “future-proof” and the studio is “format-agnostic,” according to an ESPN press release on the new setup. Today, it uses 1080p, but it “can handle all existing media formats and future industry standards capable of carrying data/signals at various rates, that haven’t been adopted by the television industry yet,” according to the ESPN announcement.

“The new SportsCenter set embodies the spirit of innovation and ambition that has always distinguished our signature news and information brand,” said Rob King, Sr. Vice President SportsCenter & News. “Our new array of sets and screens provides a powerful showcase for our on-air talent to serve fans with their unique authority and personality. Dynamic new graphics and animation packages convey information and imagery with unprecedented clarity.”