Pac-12 Studios: A Place to Be

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They chose Matt Construction Corp. to build the studios, largely because the Santa Fe Springs, Cal., -based contractor had years of relevant experience, including building the NBC studios for the short-lived “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” and the NFL Network. The builder helped Pac-12 find a suitable venue and was instantly drawn to the space at 360 3rd St., said Mike Fedorchek, vice president of Matt Construction.

The 70,000-square-foot space takes portions of three floors and had some infrastructure—mainly satellite dishes and access to high-speed Internet—but studio space had to be completely built. Power distribution was upgraded with all new conduits and raised-access floors for cables and electrical wires. Work began in March 2012, and Pac-12 went live Aug. 15.

Pac-12 chose Los Angeles architect HLW International mainly for its people skills. “We went through a number of firms, but I think it was because they were the best listeners,” Stevenson said. “They spent a lot of time on what it was we were trying to accomplish.”

Sound was the biggest challenge, with the building facing a busy intersection close to a freeway. As a consequence, Pac-12’s 12 soundproofed edit bays reside in the center of the building, far away from outside windows that aren’t soundproofed. “We started with a shell,” said Hal Reynolds, a senior vice president of technology for Pac-12 Networks. “It’s basically a room within a room, with absorbent material to keep noise down.” The second, inside room has absorbent foam walls, rubber flooring to stop sound vibration and even fuzzy ceilings. “If you look at the studio, it sits in a box that never really touches the office walls,” Fedorchek said.

The only hints the room didn’t start this way are the round corners where the foam walls have been formed. Hal Reynolds jumps on the floor to demonstrate its springiness, something he repeats in the Pac-12 studios where the rubber floors are polished to a high ebony gloss.

Pac-12 has several production areas with two audio and production control rooms, the edit bays, three green screens and even a tiny place for announcers to comment on games away from other parts of the studio. There’s also a second phase planned with a second studio and overflow office space.

The TV studio has three different areas: what Schweir calls the “morning show,” a typical two-chair platform with bookcases and plants behind; a “standing info” set where one on-air person reports while standing behind a desk; and an anchor desk with room for three or more commentators.

Through it all, Hal Reynolds points out the use of recycled redwood, stone and the color blue, which represents the Pacific Ocean and a large part of the Pac-12. “The stone is supposed to symbolize the mountains in the region,” he said.

“What this management team pulled off in less than a year is amazing—to go from raw space to a world-class facility,” said Chris Bevilacqua, a sports adviser and cofounder of Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures. “They did as much as you can humanly do in 10 months’ time.”

Bevilacqua said that while the cost of production is falling, few other media startups should begin like Pac-12 Enterprises with its live coverage from 12 college campuses. “While others such as YouTube or Twitter might have remote studios, they aren’t live-event centric with multiple camera positions, trucks and uplinks,” he said. “It’s a far more complicated undertaking.”

Still, with San Francisco offering some of the best technology talent in the country, he said that there should be “more and more media opportunities” for startups to use video content as well as prime real estate. “You’ve got one of the most vibrant cities, next to the water and the Embarcadero,” he said.

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