Nick Ross

don't watch tv. make it.

Filtering by Tag: Syracuse

Breaking News

We hear breaking news all the time nowadays. CNN has more "breaking news," "happening now," and "developing story" graphics than you can shake a stick at. Most local news stations actively promote their breaking news coverage and why you should choose to watch their broadcast over their market's competitors. Most simply, people want to be informed. No one wants to seem out of the loop and when an organization can bring that to the people for which it matters most, that's important.

Bringing the news to the students of Syracuse University is exactly what CitrusTV News did on the night of October 14th, 2015. At 8:29 p.m., I received the Orange Alert e-mail that DPS was investigating an off-campus incident that was believed to be a shooting. The campus was to shelter-in-place. I immediately called our news director Lauren Anderson and began tweeting the information we had. Neither she nor I could do much since we were both in our residence hall, but she began making phone calls and trying to learn new information as I monitored social media. Since CitrusTV broadcasts on OTN, we wanted to get a live broadcast out as soon as we could. Sports shows were in production at our studio and OTN was already taking the Watson Hall fiber feed from one of Z89's shows. Sports was able to quickly get some news on the air by switching the feed and breaking in with our coverage. They produced the following brief update:

After that broadcast, we quickly hit a wall as the Z89 programming expired and no one from OTN was in their master control location to allow us to continue broadcasting on the campus cable system. Lauren and I met up in our dorm while sports made do using Periscope to keep bringing updates and information while I continued to monitor five different streams via TweetBot and kept tweeting the latest information we had. Then, we started getting pictures and video from one of our anchors and reporters, Hunter Sáenz, who lived close to where the incident happened. At that point, Hunter sent us the media he was able to gather and rushed to the studio. He had a friend of his stop by my dorm and take both Lauren and myself to our studio where we began to make preparations as the situation continued to unfold.

I immediately began thinking of the fastest way I could get us live on the internet. I thought I remembered that CitrusTV had a Ustream account, but I couldn't find anything at all. Then I remembered YouTube live streaming. I quickly downloaded the free version of Wirecast from YouTube and (mercifully) found that YouTube had made getting a stream up much easier than before. It's no longer necessary to create an event and set encoder settings, YouTube just listens for your encoding software (in our case Wirecast) to stream live, and then it turns on the broadcast. One of our computers in the control room was still equipped with a (unused) BlackMagic DeckLink SDI capture card. I was able to take an SDI program feed from our distribution amp into that machine and use it as a source in Wirecast. Thankfully, everything worked and we began a live broadcast.

Hunter (who was back in studio by this point), Seth Quam, and Gabriella Rusk anchored an hour and seventeen minutes of live coverage throughout the night. The YouTube realtime analytics showed that over 1,300 people tuned in during the course of the broadcast and that's not counting locations like the Hergenhan Auditorium in Newhouse where our broadcast was being streamed to several hundred students. Lauren was incredible at her job and produced amazing coverage as members of our sports department filled crew positions. I continued to monitor Twitter and tweet new information. Others at the studio worked with Lauren to call police, DPS, students at various locations across campus, and more. This is the full archive of that live broadcast:

The next day, we didn't stop our coverage at all. Carling Mott, executive producer of our Thursday News Live at 6:00 show, planned an amazing broadcast. Lauren had gone earlier in the day to a DPS press conference, so we had good sound and confirmed information to report. Max Darrow (one of the Thursday anchors) and Gabriella were live from Hope Ave with Hunter and Mike Riccardi field producing the coverage. Their report was absolutely amazing. Not only did our remote live-hit software perform flawlessly, Max broke down a full timeline of events and Gabby expanded upon exactly what a shelter-in-place really meant. We created custom half-screen graphics for the layout of the timeline of events and rolled in great video where we had it including reactions from Scott Shafer and students who lived closest to the area where police had established a perimeter. Jessica Mendelson (our other Thursday anchor) anchored the entire show solo tossing to various interviews and segments. Another of our reporter/anchors Jacob Reynolds was also in studio doing a live interview with members of the Syracuse Youth Development Council about events that tied into the situation that had just unfolded the night before. The entire broadcast is here:

Later that Thursday night, we decided to create a promo that could run on our shows and the web promoting our breaking news coverage. It aired during the Friday news broadcast.

We've put a renewed focus on our news department's coverage this semester, branding ourselves Your Campus News Leader. I am unbelievably proud to work with such an excellent network of talent, producers, and crew members who produce the news each and every day at CitrusTV. I can't wait to see what we'll do next...

Behind the Scenes at the Carrier Dome

I like to blog when I get to take part in something cool and new, and today I did just that. Through the BeIT undergrad program at SU, a tour of the Carrier Dome with the incomparable Jeff Rubin was offered and I had a lot of fun taking a behind the scenes look at the Dome. I took some photos and learned some cool stuff that I thought I'd share on my blog.

The Carrier Dome opened in 1980 and has served Syracuse University as its primary facility for home football, basketball, and lacrosse games. The dome hosts many other events (as you'll see in the photos) throughout the year and is truly a very versatile space. But, being built in the '80s, it's showing its age and talks are currently occurring about its future. The biggest issue facing the Dome right now is that the current roof (more on that in a minute) has exceeded its expected life span. Jeff said nothing's been ruled out or set in stone, but possibilities include building a new stadium or replacing the existing roof with a fixed or retractible roof. 

The roof itself is probably one of the coolest parts of the dome. If you don't already know, the dome is air supported. That's the reason every door that can be opened has an air lock and all the doors that the fans use are revolving. It's pressurized at about 4 PSI of pressure to keep it inflated and domed. 18 fans can run at any given time based on pressure outside or which events are taking place. These allow the control crew to keep the dome at peak inflation no matter what the weather is doing at any given time. Stadium control is staffed round the clock 24/7/365 to make sure everything is operating as it should be.

Snow presents an interesting problem for the dome. Since it's air supported, the weight of heavy snowfall obviously can't be allowed to accumulate. Crews are hired to go up on the roof with hot water hoses to basically spray down the snow so that it melts. Snow shovels would obviously be disastrous with a cloth roof, but the water allows them to keep things from icing up or creating too much weight on the dome. When the dome is going to get more than 4 inches of snow per hour, they go into "Snow Mode." They crank the heating inside to where it gets up to 120 degrees at the roof (heat rises, after all) to help melt the snow upon contact with the roof.

Another interesting thing I learned was how the game photographer gets those awesome aerial crowd shots you see during basketball games. If you look at the dome roof, it's separated into panels. If one of these panels happens to collapse in from the weight of ice or other factors, there are two small plugs in the panel which work almost like a bathtub drain. If the panel deflates, they can pull the plugs causing pressure to be quickly released to "pop" the panel back into place. To get those great shots, the photographer has to go up onto the roof during the game, (in whatever Syracuse weather happens to be doing) pull one of the plugs, and put his camera lens through the hole to shoot the shot. Jeff says he hates doing it, but it's a fantastic photo to be sure.

After learning a little bit about the roof itself, we saw the athletic director's and chancellor's boxes. They're very, very nice and some of a few places where the dome is actually air conditioned.  They're naturally stocked with coolers of water, soda, wine, and beer but also feature televisions and scoreboards so that the people inside can see exactly what's going on from anywhere in the box.

We got to take a look at in-house video control which was near and dear to my TRF heart. This is where all the video graphics you see on the video boards and TVs throughout the stadium is switched and generated from. They're using a NewTek 3Play instant replay system to put plays on the board after they happen and they're also cutting highlights as the game happens so that the highlight reel is done immediately after the game ends. The newest thing for the dome is a partnership with ESPN 3. The dome spent almost $300k installing new video hardware in order to provide video for any game that happens in the dome that isn't men's football or basketball. This way, ESPN can pick up the fiber feed from SU (which runs from here to NY then is sent over to Bristol) which allows them to broadcast any game that the dome puts on without having to spend the nearly $25k per day to bring in a mobile production truck.

After the video control room, we ventured inside scoreboard control. This is Jeff's area since he deals with some of the live social media and out of town stats that you see (especially on the video strips around the edges of the dome) during the game. He said that the software that runs it is actually pretty antiquated in terms of how it all functions. For out of town stats, for instance, they have to pay quite a bit of money to subscribe to an XML feed that really doesn't give them much flexibility. It's actually a little amazing just how not cutting-edge some of this stuff is.

We got to take a look inside Club 44 which is a sort of "VIP" area where fans who buy tickets to it can go before and after the game as well as during half-time. Since Club 44 is separated from the playing field by a concourse, you couldn't really go there to watch the game, but people obviously use it to socialize. Jeff talked a little bit about how things have changed since stadiums were designed in the 1980s. Club 44, he said, is 2015 stadium design, the crowded concrete concourses are 1980. Everything now is about the experience.

The Carrier Dome is super unique, it's the only college facility that hosts both football and basketball as well as (at some times) lacrosse, hockey, and even softball. We had the chance to hear from John DeFrancisco who serves as the dome's Facility Systems Specialist. He's responsible for a lot of the infrastructure that goes into the dome and it turns out that the dome is so unique that a lot of what they have (from scoreboard configurations to basketball court setups) are actually totally unique. Those blue mats you see them put down on the field for basketball? Those are actually military helicopter landing pads and cost more than the football field underneath that they're protecting. It's kind of crazy.

During our tour, the dome was prepping for Monster Jam, the touring monster truck rally. To make this event happen, they lay down plastic sheeting over the entire football field then lay on two layers of plywood in alternating directions. Then, nearly 200 dump truck loads of dirt are brought into the dome and bulldozed into place. Further complicating things is the fact that you are literally dumping 40,000+ yards of dirt into a stadium which means that everything is going to get dirty. Everywhere we went (press box, video control, locker rooms, etc.) plastic sheeting was covering all the floors and carpets as well as most TVs and furniture to protect everything from damage.

The following are some photos I took during the tour for your viewing pleasure. I probably got a little more of Jeff than he would have liked, sorry about that Jeff... Thanks again for the awesome BTS look at how the Carrier Dome makes it all happen.

Copyright 2018 by Nick Ross