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Installation Trends: Streamlined Sportscasting

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, Daniel Keller

Stadium broadcasting systems shrink in size as they grow in capabilities.

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Rochester Red Wings Stadium is embracing digital technology to streamline its live broadcasts.

Rochester Red Wings Stadium is embracing digital technology to streamline its live broadcasts.

No one will deny that the digital revolution has had a profound and fundamental effect on the world of professional audio and video production. But while digital computer-based technologies have become all but ubiquitous in recording and postproduction, the live sectors of sound and video production have been somewhat more reserved in their move to digital, only recently beginning to chomp at the proverbial bit.

Live digital production systems such as Digidesign's Venue have made dramatic inroads in touring and fixed installations alike. Their direct integration with digital audio workstation technology and signal processing has marked a major shift in the nature of live sound. But in the spontaneous, instant-replay world of live sportscasting, engineers have generally stuck with the tried and true, reluctant to risk even a minor on-air fiasco in the face of anything less than rock-solid, well-known technologies. It's only recently that a new generation of live-video-production systems from companies such as Ross Video, Grass Valley, and Broadcast Pix, among others, have begun to affect the world of live sports video production by infiltrating their way into permanently installed, inhouse production facilities at major sporting venues.

“Now that hard disk technologies and the systems based on them have become more robust, we're seeing a huge trend in video production toward all-in digital-production workstation products,” says Mark Siegel, president of Seattle-based Advanced Broadcast Solutions (ABS). “For people working in the high-pressure environments of live broadcast and performance, I think the dependability factor was the major obstacle. With that resolved, we're now seeing manufacturers driving the shift to digital.”

Certainly the benefits of the digital domain are ideally suited for live production. The immediacy of nonlinear access eliminates the age-old issues associated with shuttling tape carts. The power of onscreen editing and digital-signal processing delivers results formerly attainable only with multiple pieces of big-budget equipment, and it does so with an easier, more user-friendly learning curve and a significantly lower price tag.

“Technology in general is being driven by the consumer sector these days, and a lot of this technology is coming out of the consumer base,” Siegel says. “The result is a new generation of products that combine multiple technologies into a single, integrated workstation. Essentially, it's a big control room in a box. Since these tools are more software-based and more integrated, they can solve more challenges than using multiple individual tools together.”

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