The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Capital Off-Track Betting, Schenectady, N.Y.
Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM, Staff Report
The applications that fall under the umbrella of digital signage continue to grow as professionals in virtually every video business learn more about the power of the signage network. While the visual aspect of digital signage in the AV world has traditionally received the bulk of the attention, a range of varied applications in operation today demonstrates the significant crossover possibilities of digital signage from AV into other markets.
One company taking advantage of the multifaceted potential of digital signage is Schenectady, N.Y.-based Capital Off-Track Betting (Capital OTB), a quasi-government agency established to serve as a legal bookmaker for horse wagers and return its profits to local government and the horse-racing industry. The Schenectady facility has implemented digital-signage technology as the basis to compile, edit, and transport racing information with video, which is made available to Capital OTB's 54 off-track betting branch locations throughout upstate New York.
In addition to providing off-track betting services, the Schenectady facility doubles as a television broadcast network. The broadcast facility includes a production studio used to create local programming and a full-blown master-control center to distribute the station to regional cable services around the state. The station broadcasts races from an average of 20 tracks around the globe each day from noon until midnight, with inhouse and local productions composing the bulk of programming overnight and throughout the morning hours.
“Capital OTB is a true rarity in the world of off-track betting,” says Jim Barber, general manager of Capital Off-Track Betting Television Network. “We are one of only two off-track betting facilities with a TV station, and are unique in that we have our own television network available through Time Warner and other cable service providers.”
Barber and his integration team prepped for the digital-signage and master-control system integration in other areas by installing Cat-5 wiring around the facility and tying it all back to main routing system in the technical core to facilitate signal distribution throughout the house. Barber also tied the audio and video together with high-speed Internet for the purpose of sharing sources between workstations. This allows operators to pull data from other machines as necessary.
The digital-signage system, featuring Harris InfoCaster media players and software from Bannister Lake out of Cambridge, Ontario, is the central repository for all the racing information coming into the house for eventual broadcast. The solution is integrated at the facility's “mutual information-gathering point,” where operators collect a stream of information for each race scheduled for broadcast that day. The information is then ingested into a centralized database and later mixed in master control.
“We don't broadcast all the races we receive information on, but we pick a selected few that meet our higher handle racetrack requirements, and then fill out the remainder of the schedule with races from regional, national, and international tracks,” Barber says. “But we do receive information from just about every race, and we rely on the Harris and Bannister Lake solution to make sense of everything.”
Video signals and data information come into the facility separately. Roberts Communications Network, a disseminator based in Las Vegas, delivers video signals from tracks around the world to Capital OTB and its branch locations via satellite. Operators at Roberts Communications Network authorize Wegener Unity satellite receivers at all locations to receive video of all the races listed on the schedule that day.
The signals are downlinked at several dish farms on the Capital OTB campus and delivered to the Wegener Unity satellite receivers in the technical core, which is co-located with master control and production control. The signals are conditioned, converted, and synchronized for inhouse distribution over an existing Sigma Electronics house router, which distributes both video and audio sources throughout the facility and elsewhere.
“Because every source is available for distribution out of our main routing switcher, workflow is improved between our main control room area, our mutual information gathering point, and the totalization center where races are properly opened and closed and bets are gathered and processed,” Barber says. “The routing system also connects to private, bidirectional fiber links used to transport our programming to our more high-profile branches for redundancy purposes in the event the satellite connection is down.”
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