Dan Patrick is synonymous with sports broadcasting excellence. I've been a fan of Dan Patrick for years, so getting to tour his new studio, home of the Dan Patrick Show, was a real treat. Eric Jones, Associate Director of Creative Operations for AT&T, gave us an inside look at the studio and how it came to be.
“Originally, we were targeting expanding at our former studio to add a rooftop patio area to highlight some of our sponsors, but after researching the feasibility of that, we started to look elsewhere. We found the new space and I immediately started to have ideas about how to make the former industrial space work for a TV studio. We knew we had outgrown our old studio space so it was just time to look for something bigger and better.”
The Big Picture
Designing a creative space takes time, patience and vision. Remodeling an old construction equipment rental building and turning into a state of the art production facility is no small feat. Having such a large canvas is a pretty good place to start, don’t you think?
“AT&T owns the Dan Patrick Show and they were a great partner on this project. They secured a contractor who had the scale to get the project done on time but the otherwise acknowledged that this project is not one that is typical in their world and let us take the reins. Dan and I worked hand in hand and built a lot of unique things here that would raise an eyebrow in most AT&T facilities.”
First, the whole space had to be reset. Old walls came out, floors were leveled and a whole new power service was installed. Once the basics were out of the way, the cool stuff could happen.
The Technical Layout
This studio is unique in many ways. For starters, there is no actual control room. The studio segments are all punched out of a control room in Los Angeles. It's exciting to see no signal delay, especially when the signal is traveling across the country from Connecticut to California. AT&T's network definitely helps with that.
“We use AT&T’s video network and redundant 10G circuits for video transmission and our own private networks. We have Media Links shelves at all our locations (LABC, LA4, DC, NYC and Milford) and leverage the card-based hardware to have encoders, decoders and data circuits to move signals between facilities. That allows us a ton of flexibility.
In the facility, we're using a Blackmagic router to manage the video systems and Wheatstone audio for our radio system. For example, we're able to move comm stations from one location to another, plug into the right port and have the same functionality no matter where we physically are. We encode J2K so our latency is very minimal. We also wanted to beef up our production capabilities in as many ways as possible.
At our old facility, we had a lot of RF issues, so on this project, we engaged CP comms to provide RF mics, IFB’s and communication headsets and then manage the system design and build. We’ve been very happy with the RF so far. We also added a Cedar Auto Mixer to try and make our RF lav mics sound as close to our radio mics as possible so if you’re in the car and hopefully when Dan gets up from his desk you don’t notice a huge audio quality shift.”
The Dan Patrick Man Cave and More
AT&T owns the facility, but there is no mistaking that this is for the Dan Patrick Show. Looking like command central, there were priceless personal sports memorabilia and autographs that gave the studio a warm inviting feel. The Emmy Award is a nice touch too.
This was a fun area as well, complete with more sports gear. This space is also designated for the producers where they can see everything that is going on and also be in the show. Paul Pabst, the Executive Producer, explained that the unique desk was configured to work as well for audio producers, not just video — hence the jog in the desk. It's a radio show too, with over 300 affiliates. The producers can deal with all of the audio aspects of the shows without having to turn off-axis.
Hitting the Hardwood
Doesn't everybody need a 3/4 regulation-sized basketball court in the studio? Well, it is a sports show and maybe the idea is to have some fast-break fun? It's a real hardwood court. Plus, if I could get some of the NBA greats out there to show the fans technique, I would be all in. It was fun to watch the crew blow off some steam after production had wrapped for the day. Sadly, I missed my 15-foot jumper. It was pretty bad.
The Camping Set and the Walk of Fame
There are some other fun spots in the complex that I have to get in here. The first was a camping set complete with a full-size Air Stream! You could do an entire "outdoor" segment and never leave the A/C. The other fun part of the building was a "Walk of Fame". This hallway even looked just like Hollywood but with the names of famous sports stars.
After seeing all of the cool sets, we wanted to know more so we swung back around to Eric Jones to ask a few more questions.
ProductionHUB: What is your favorite aspect of the new studio vs. the old?
EJ: For me, the best part of the studio is all the added functional production space that we added. The core studio spaces (Dan and Danette rooms) are about 25% larger, but our behind the scenes space has grown exponentially. Our old studio had one back room, and it housed 3 desks and 6 racks of equipment so privacy and quiet was unavailable. The ability to have private space to work, a quiet place to edit and smaller studios that we can leave setup for supporting content shoots are huge improvements.
ProductionHUB: What do you want (production) people to know about the studio, you, the crew, and Dan that might surprise them?
EJ: The space is so unique – the 4,500SqFt fieldhouse accompanied with all the toys, bells & whistles make this one of the most functional and yet beautifully designed for TV spaces I’ve ever seen. We also didn’t go crazy with the lighting in the fieldhouse – just used commercially available fluorescent fixtures with Movie-Tone bulbs to match the LitePanels that we installed in the main studio space. The cost savings there were significant.
ProductionHUB: Can you describe a typical production day?
EJ: Our crew gets in at 630am and does a check-in with our LA team (who is at work at 3:30 am!). Talent and the rest of production gets in by 7:30 am and we pretape some elements by 8 am. We're live from 9 am to noon and then work on projects until 2:30 pm. Every day is different though – sometimes we're doing segments out on the football turf, outside on the patio or on the driving range!
ProductionHUB: Where does the show air?
EJ: You can find the show on DirecTV Audience channel 239, B/R Live streaming for free, Sirius/XM Dan Patrick Radio channel 21, and over 320 radio stations.
Talking with Dan Patrick
After production was done for the day, I had the opportunity to talk with Dan Patrick himself. It had been a long day but he still took some to share his thoughts about the studio with his name on it.
"This studio is great. We had a lot of obstacles to overcome but it all came together. I wanted to have that man cave look and feel and it does feel that way. We were able to use local contractors on the build-out to some extent so that was a good thing. We did need more space and this studio gave that to use along with more ceiling height. We had a lot of support from the very beginning. I had a lot of ideas of how I thought things should go and nobody ever said no to anything I asked for!" The last thing that Dan stated was just how the sound and the look had to be all about quality, including the “NBA quality” basketball court.
It’s a Wrap
When I grow up, I want this studio. You can do a regular TV show, stream audio and video, kibbitz with other studios along with doing audio across 300 hundred affiliate stations. That's some major future-proofing. But the bottom line is that so much of the idea of the quality of content and delivery comes from Dan himself. I would like to describe it as total professionalism wrapped up in a fun incredible studio. Thanks for inviting us to the studio! Now, can I get another shot at that 15 footer?