Installation Trends: Streamlined Sportscasting
May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, Daniel Keller
Stadium broadcasting systems shrink in size as they grow in capabilities.
A big part of that draw seems to be the ability to now provide a high-definition in-park experience comparable to what viewers experience on broadcast television.
“With the ability to provide high-definition video on the inhouse displays, you'd be surprised how much time people at a game actually spend watching the big screen,” Siegel says. “At Safeco Field [in Seattle], we put HD screens into all the suites a couple of years ago. We did a survey of suite holders and asked them how much time they actually spend watching the game, looking at the field through the glass versus watching the video. Almost 60 percent said they prefer to mainly watch the screens. It makes sense, if you think about it — it's nothing like watching the game at home. People can sponsor clients, bring them to the game, and get the ambience and excitement of the stadium, get their food and drinks, and get all the benefits of the technology at the same time. It's really the best of both worlds.”
The affordability of these new integrated digital workstations has begun to place the ability to attain that HD quality — both at broadcast level and in the park — in the hands of a more diverse set of players.
“Let's face it; high definition is really the ideal medium for viewing sports,” Siegel says. “Large venues, large displays — anyone who is building a ballpark or sports venue these days wants high def. Traditionally, the cost of converting to HD has been very high, and people have been looking more and more for cost-effective ways to accomplish going that route. As these new technologies begin to become more viable and affordable, we're seeing a growing adoption at the minor-league and collegiate levels.”
Not surprisingly, Siegel says some of the most aggressive growth in the market for digital broadcast technologies can be found in the world of collegiate sports.
“Pro ball is a finite pool — there are only so many major-league teams,” he says. “But more significantly, the college teams are in many ways more eager to get involved in this world. They're just starting to taste the wide range of possibilities involved in doing their own productions. The biggest hurdle has always been figuring out how to get started; the cost of putting in a full-on HD broadcast production facility has always been out of reach for most of these organizations, and this new technology has begun to alter that perception. People used to roll in with production trucks worth $10 [million] to $20 million. Now you can put a system in place that can cover a game with broadcast-quality HD for under $1 million.”
“The college crowd is also, generally speaking, a very creative segment,” Scott says. “The major league production guys have become somewhat accustomed to the gear they've been working with for many years, and they're somewhat established in their ways. But these younger guys with the collegiate teams tend to have less in the way of preconceived notions on production techniques. They're the computer generation, and they're much more PC-savvy — less likely to read the manual and more prone to experimentation.”
Of course, it's not just the young pups who are excited by the potential of these new technologies. “Our guys have been totally inspired by the new system and what we can accomplish with it,” Morgan says. “The difference in picture quality, the editing power, the range of effects and transitions — it's a whole new creative palette for us. With our old system, you were limited only by your imagination. The new system takes your imagination even further.”
Daniel Keller is an audio industry veteran and principal of Get It In Writing.
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