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Immersive Videoconferencing and Digital Signage at the NHL, Part 1

Apr 8, 2010 2:21 PM, By Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

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Immersive Videoconferencing and Digital Signage at the NHL, Part 2
Visitors to the headquarters of the National Hockey League are immersed in the sights and sounds of the game right away along with conferencing....

Professional ice hockey is a furiously fast moving and exciting game, and the National League wanted visitors to its headquarters to get a real taste of it right out of the elevator. They called McCann Systems to craft that environment, and Joe Fusaro is here to clue us in on exactly how they did it.

Joe, I am very glad to have you with me here on the Corporate AV podcast to talk about this big installation at the National Hockey League headquarters, but first tell me a little bit about McCann Systems.
What we do there is audio-video integrations. Our bread and butter work is conference rooms and retail stores, and then we also have the ability to do design for projects that are unique. Architects and specialty clients will come to us with unique projects, and we ply out different set of skills to achieve their goals. [Timestamp: 1:22]

And you were contracted to do an AV installation at the headquarters of the National Hockey League and it sounds like the location may have been a bit of a challenge because they’re way up on a high rise, something like the 15th floor?
Yes, they’re on the 15th floor. That’s their main lobby. They occupy a total of four floors, but the 15th floor is their main lobby area. [Timestamp: 1:44]

OK, and right there in the middle of New York City?
Yeah, right down there on Sixth Avenue.

Now how did all that come about? Had you been doing things for the National Hockey League before? How did they select McCann?
We had done some things for the NHL before, but in conjunction with the architect, we were able to present a design package that solved their needs and gave them insight into new technology and created an atmosphere that they were looking for in the new corporate center. [Timestamp: 2:11]

Now everybody knows that hockey is a very fast moving, exciting game and very visual and I guess the challenge or one of the challenges in this was to sort of convey all that excitement in audio and video in the headquarters building and you did that in a number of ways. Now I think you’re sort of assaulted with all of this video and sound the minute you walk into the place. There’s a thing they have there called the NHL Ice Room or the Ice Bar, I think it is. What did you do in the Ice Bar?
What happened is the architect came up with some designs for the new corporate center that obviously revolved around the hockey teams. The floor is white with a slight slight speckle to it to make it seem like it’s actual ice, and then the walls are—some of them are treated in certain ways to make them seem like they’re boards and so forth, and what they want to do was just not have it be static. They want to make it dynamic, and they wanted us to come up with some ideas audio/video wise for the areas. The Ice Bar, it’s a corridor area that is in the middle of the conference rooms, and it’s an actual ice bar that the center of it is actual ice, where if you walk over it, you can actually put a drink down and it will keep it cold for you. And adjacent to that area, the one side, there is three video monitors, flatpanel TVs, that have gaming consoles connected to them. There is an Xbox, a Wii, and a Sony PlayStation, and you are able to play the three different versions of NHL Hockey on them. On the other side of that is a wall of nine Samsung flatpanel monitors that have very small [bezel], and we butted those together and ran them through a Dataton Watchout system; where the NHL—w e trained them on how to make collages—so they can have all different videos playing on the nine monitors. They can also have a sequence video where it’ll seem as though a hockey player’s going from the first monitor and goes all the way down to the last monitor and back and forth, and they’ll do all different videos for that depending on their highlights or what’s going on at the NHL at that particular time. [Timestamp: 4:20]

Wow, I could get dizzy watching all that stuff.
Yeah, it’s kind of fun. They actually did one where there’s a hockey puck going back and forth—across. It was kind of fun. [Timestamp: 4:28]

And have you had audio coming from that stuff? Yep, there’s also audio associated with it and then when you back out one area from that—when you’re walking in from the lobby, as soon you as you walk out of the elevator—there’s speakers in the elevator corridor, and what happened is we staggered the sound on those from lower, and as you walk toward the main entrance, the sound gets louder. And as you approach the main entrance, there’s about 6ft.-high NHL shield logo that’s sitting adjacent to the reception desk and the sound is actually kind of pulling you toward that, and as you get even closer to it then you start to realize that there’s actually video coming out of that shield, but what you actually see is as you approach, you see the NHL logo and shield itself, and then around it, you will notice that there’s a projector projecting an image past it onto a curved wall, which is in front of it. So then you’re starting to hear this vintage hockey sound and you start to actually see the videos of vintage hockey around it. Here you are you’re out in this new space, there’s the new NHL, they made the new logo, they changed some of the details of the logo to give you an impression [of] “Here’s the new NHL,” but yet they still wanted to keep a connection to the vintage or old school hockey so that’s why that we have the videos playing of the old school hockey projecting from the new shield. [Timestamp: 5:46]

W does it sound like, crowds sounds and the puck slamming around and stuff like that?
Yeah, there is different things. The clips they run in certain sequences. Sometimes it is just a commentator making an announcement of a big play in a hockey game all the way down to actual vintage hockey games that they’ll actually play. You‘ll see a snip of them for about a minute or so where you’ll hear the play as it is on the ice, and then when you look past the shield, you actually see the vintage hockey game correlating with the sound. [Timestamp: 6:15]

Sounds like it puts you right out there with the players almost.
Yeah, just about, just about, yeah. The theme there was taking the new NHL—here’s our new brand; here’s our new hockey; this is our new facility—but yet maintaining what they’ve done for all those years previous. [Timestamp: 6:32]

And the nine, I believe, there were 46in. Samsung monitors?

And they were fit from, I believe, it was a Watchout system?
Yeah, they were fit from a Watchout system. They are able to make all different types of collages from it, from nine separate videos on there to one large video format or break it up into anyway that they want to do it. [Timestamp: 6:52]

What’s the video format? How are the monitors all fed? The Watchout system runs off of PCs, so in this case, each monitor has a computer associated with it and it’s a DVI-D signal that’s fed to each monitor and each monitor runs a Watchout software on it. And then there’s a control PC that syncs them all up so that they’re all tied together, so if you are running independent videos they all know it and they kind of do their own thing to each monitor. And then when you sync them up into clusters or one large cluster of all nine that control PC tells them, “OK, this is the video we’re running and we’re running on this time pattern.” And this way everything is all synced up—audio and video. [Timestamp: 7:31]

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