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AV Overhaul at Consol Energy Center Part 2

Jan 27, 2011 10:45 AM, With Bennett Liles

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And we talked about the possibility of having people problems and having the operator ready to go. What about the possibility of having a serious power glitch somewhere? How fast can you get the whole system back up and running if the power goes down?
Well, all of the VisionSoft systems in any arena are running on a UPS with a minimum of 15 minutes of store, and in the newer facilities—really everything that’s been built new construction in the last two or three years—they keep the crucial mission-critical systems on building- or stadium-wide UPS. So it would really be a major, major catastrophe where we’d be in a full power down situation with our VisionSoft hardware. Pretty much that system is going to stay online and then as soon as powers are turned to the video displays, the image output will be going out just as though nothing had happened. So if we had a full, total power loss and UPS failure, you’re looking at a couple of minutes max to bring all of the servers back online and feed an image out to the video displays. [Timestamp: 12:45]

And that might be the last thing on people’s minds in getting the play action back up on the displays in that kind of situation.
Yeah, well the one thing that does come into play is on the ribbon boards and the various displays we’re tied into, the emergencies systems and the boards will default automatically to way-finding a message mode. So it informs of where the emergency exits are and it really does play more of a factor than you would think for something that traditionally is a crowd-pump vehicle and marketing and those types of things. When the power goes out they rely on us to make sure that everyone gets out in a orderly fashion and knows where to head on the way out of the building. [Timestamp: 13:31]

Yeah that would be a vital feature on this system to be able to keep the crowd informed as to where to go and what to do and that’s where their attention would still be. So with all of this to do, how many people all together does it take to handle the displays? Is it just the single operator?
It’s only a single operator to run the VisionSoft system during an event, and then on the broadcast side, I would have to guess that they probably have 20-25 people between the replay, CG, technical director, director, producer, and then the camera opts and the runners, etc. So it’s a big production that goes on to making everything sing on game night. [Timestamp: 14:13]

And all these are LED displays all over the venue?
Inside the bowl are LED screens as well as a few larger displays on the concourses, and then a lot of the statistical information, clocks, scoring, etc., are also tied into the IPTV network that was put in. And most IPTV systems are a mix of plasma and LCD displays in the suites in the concourse, concession areas, restaurants, what have you. [Timestamp: 14:45]

Well, LED screens have come a long way since the days of just having nothing but these big scoreboard numbers flashing. Where do you think all of the LED display technology is going?
The big hurdle a few years ago was getting up into the HD realm, so that was the real beachhead for LED in the center-hung indoor video screens. And Verizon Center [and] TD Bank North in Boston were really the first two to get to HD, and now it’s becoming more and more of a standard feature in these arenas. The [goal] with any of the LED product is to maximize the contrast, the brightness of the displays, viewing angles, and we’re to the point now with the main video displays in Pittsburgh [that] you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between that screen and extraordinarily high-end plasma or LCD that you might have at home except obviously we are talking 15ft. by 25ft. or so. [Timestamp: 15:50]

Right and I guess you had some challenges there as far as the architecture in between the fans sitting closest to the display and those at the greatest distance. You get some seats up too close and you can’t really see what’s going on if the resolution isn’t that high.
Yeah and that was a problem in the early, say, 10 years ago when LED video screens indoors were becoming the current generation of product. The spacing at that point was 14 and maybe 12mm in between pixels on the display. People in the front rows and the closest in the viewing distance to the center-hung structure could see some pixilation on the display. Probably about eight years ago, 10 mm spacing dot to dot became the standard, and it looked good and you had, for the most part, a smooth image with the exception of really the closest seats. And then when we made the move a few years ago to 6mm, there’s no seat in the house that’s going to see anything but a smooth, perfectly resolved image. At the same time, that 6mm center-to-center dot spacing also gives you the ability to do HD in those particular displays, so it’s really remarkable how quickly the LED products have evolved and at the same time it’s gotten less expensive, more reliable, brighter with better viewing angles. It’s night and day. [Timestamp: 17:18]

And somewhere during that process of higher and higher resolution they changed over from the basic technology of discrete LEDs to surface-mount devices?
Correct. Yeah most of the things that prime a person when they hear LED, they think of lamps—little Christmas tree lights, the little red bulbs that you’ve had in your alarm clocks for the last 20 years, and that is the traditional outdoor discrete LED. For the first, let’s say, three to five years—really the late 90s to early 2000s—that was the type of product that was being used inside. As surface-mount technology began to improve and become more reliable, the main video screens shifted into surface-mount, what we call, 3-in-1 LEDs. So that’s your red, blue, and green within one surface-mount package. And then one of the things that AMC was really the front runner in was pushing to also use the 3-in-1 surface mount LEDs for the ribbon boards, matrix displays, every display within the building, and that was really key to making the product look as good as it possibly could. You have somewhat of a limited viewing angle, and it was a product that was designed for the outdoor application at a much higher brightness. You only need about half the brightness indoors or less to achieve the desired image quality, and you would be much better using the surface-mount LEDs that gave you nearly 180-degree viewing. [Timestamp: 18:46]

Well, it’s come along way and like anything else, there’s a lot of technology working behind the scenes so that people can just forget about that and enjoy the show. So what other projects does ANC Sports have coming up? Anything special you want to tell us about?
Yeah, we’re moving into the planning and execution stage heading into major league baseball for 2011 right now. And we’ve got two really interesting projects that we’re working on. The first of which is a major scoreboard project at Fenway Park up in Boston. The old girl has seen about eight years of significant renovations and improvements by Fenway Sports group and John Henry and the ownership team and management team up there. This year is going to be the last year of their improvements, and the cherry on top is the addition of nearly a 5000-square-foot video screen that’s going to be flanked by some very large about 15ft. by 100ft., in one case, additional secondary informational video displays. So you’re really bringing what, in my mind, is really the crown jewel in major league baseball, bringing the video technology for the fans up to the most modern level possible. So that’s something we’ve been working on for years and now to finally get to the finish line for a installation this winter and into the early spring. We’re all looking very much forward to that. And then the second project is one that we’re doing at Safeco Field out in Seattle for the Mariners. We started working with them on the LED side last year with a small project in left field replacing their existing out-of-town scoreboard, and that was what they called “phase one”, and now phase two of their project is adding nearly 1,000 linear feet of ribbon board to Safeco Field. And it’s really nice. Both venues we’ve had to work very closely with to ensure that they kept some of the old-time feel of the ballparks, and Safeco Field is very much of the same mold as Camden Yards and AT&T Park out in San Francisco in that they don’t want something that is over the top in terms of appearance but really adds the technology—the new feature sets of the technology—to the ballpark without having to make a trade off in the old-time feel of the park. So it’s two nice projects that we’re really looking forward to as we get into the spring and then we’re now looking at the fall, or the summer and fall for outdoor stadium or colleges, and even as hard as it is to believe, NFL projects for next July, August, and September. [Timestamp: 21:45]

All right Chris, we’ll keep an eye on those and make sure you take lots of pictures because I’d sure like to see those.
Pictures, it’s the other thing that’s really came of age over the last few years is the ability whether it’s with a phone, an iPhone, a flip camera to document these projects and do it in a really low-maintenance and low-cost fashion so that we can run a blog and really document the work that goes into these projects. [Timestamp: 22: 11]

And a lot of work and coordination it is.

Well, thanks again for being here Chris for the SVC podcast on the Consol Energy Center video display system. Very interesting project.
Thank you for having me.

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