Golf Channel Hits the Sweet Spot with
Pro Tools|HDX and Avid Pro Mixing

To be successful in broadcast television, fast turnaround times are essential. And if your programming runs 24/7, any extra steps in your workflow can ultimately wreak havoc on deadlines. Connectivity between audio and video systems is key to accelerating the entire post-production workflow. That’s why Golf Channel’s audio team recently decided it was time for a major overhaul.

Part of the NBC Sports Group, Golf Channel broadcasts around-the-clock coverage of everything golf, including extensive live coverage of tournaments from around the world, news and highlight programs, and even a reality TV show. To handle the increasing volume and variety of work, the network upgraded its three audio post suites with Pro Tools|HDX systems and Avid Pro Mixing control surfaces, providing a more integrated and connected experience for the entire facility.

“In these three rooms—Post Audio 1, Post Audio 2, and Post Audio 3—we handle a wide cross section of shows, including audio sweetening for Big Break and Top 10, as well as for our promos and on-air commercials,” notes Ken Botelho, Golf Channel’s senior director of engineering. “With all three rooms running virtually 24/7, we need fast turnaround of material. The integration of Pro Tools|HDX with Media Composer via Video Satellite to our Avid ISIS server with Interplay lets us run at maximum efficiency.”

New systems renew creativity

Post Audio 1 now houses a 24-fader System 5-MC control surface and Pro Tools|HDX system with Avid Video Satellite, enabling the team to cut and mix 5.1 surround directly in sync with Media Composer sequences, without having to ask the video team to render files first. The other two suites are equipped with identical Avid MC Pro control surfaces and Pro Tools|HDX systems with Video Satellite.

Having identical HDX systems at the core gives the team the audio quality, performance, and consistency they need to create better sounding mixes faster. “The new Avid A-to-D converters we have for Pro Tools|HDX sound clear and transparent,” remarks Scott Perry, Golf Channel’s post-production manager. “We can push the levels more without distortion and overload. The sound of our 5.1-channel mixes is outstanding.”

The upgrade also enabled them to mix completely “in the box,” thanks to the 32-bit floating point processing. “We use a lot of iZotope plug-ins,” Perry says. “We cannot say enough about the creativity they offer our mixers. We use TC Electronic and Waves CL-1 and L2 compressor-limiters. Our mixers like to use the Avid Channel Strip plug-in on every channel to provide compressor-limiter and EQ functions. We are very happy with what [these plug-ins] offer in terms of user flexibility and audio quality.”

But it was the Avid control surfaces that allowed them to eliminate time-wasting steps from their workflow. “Previously, we were using another brand of audio console in these post suites, which meant that we had to download digital files from the server, load them into the console, mix to picture, and then offload the sweetened tracks back to the server,” explains Botelho. “Now we simply point Pro Tools to the audio assets, access the appropriate Media Composer video files, and we are away!”

EUCON brings ease and efficiency

 
 The integration of Pro Tools|HDX with Media Composer via Video Satellite to our Avid ISIS server with Interplay lets us run at maximum efficiency.
Ken Botelho,
senior director of engineering,
Golf Channel

Because System 5-MC and MC Pro operate on the open EUCON protocol, the team not only gains hands-on control over hundreds of Pro Tools functions, they can also control plug-ins and other EUCON-enabled software from the surfaces too, including Media Composer.

“EUCON control offers full integration for both audio editing and mixing, with complete automation of Pro Tools sessions, as well as custom creation and instant recall of console layouts to suit the needs of our post-production team,” Perry notes. “The ability to fully reset the entire console surface before each session—and bring assets to the session at the press of a button—is a major timesaver. Everybody uses these control surfaces in a slightly different way. Now we can accommodate the specific needs of our mixers in a unique and time-efficient way. It is a very flexible setup.”

Botelho agrees: “With real-time control of all audio and video functions from the same control surfaces, we can mix ‘in the box’ and retain full control of all EQ, dynamics, and level changes—right up to layback of the final multichannel mixes. And the System 5-MC’s and MC Pro’s user ergonomics, the ability to instantly access all mix and edit functions via a couple of button presses, is outstanding.”

Accelerating the production pipeline

For Perry, the audio upgrades have helped his team greatly speed up their workflow. “The ability for Pro Tools|HDX to provide direct control of audio and video files stored on our central ISIS server is a major game changer,” he remarks. “There is no DSP overhead, and external control does not tax our Pro Tools systems—the combination works very well. Post-production mixers working on The Big Break reality show and other high-end features appreciate the speed advantages offered by the new system configuration.”

The interoperability between Pro Tools and Media Composer is also critical. “Using a Media Composer Video Satellite machine on each Pro Tools system accessing our central ISIS server, we can archive sample-accurate AV sync in seconds of hitting the play button,” Perry says. “The speed and agility of reaching any timecode location in a project is instant. And because each room is equipped with Pro Tools|HDX, we can move projects from one post area to another and have instant compatibility across mix-to-picture sessions.”

“We need high-end tools for our world-class productions,” Botelho stresses in conclusion. “The new Avid-equipped post suite offers full compatibility with our audio and video workflows for enhanced speed and flexibility. It is a major development for us, and one that has lifted audio post production to another level. Our post engineers think they have died and gone to heaven!”