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Video Revamp at Southern Illinois University, Part 1

Jul 21, 2011 7:00 AM, with Bennett Liles

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Right, and you're feeding video by fiber back from the cameras?
Correct, we feed the fiber not just from the video board to the control room but also we have a three-camera system set up utilizing the Copperhead system from Telecast fiber where we are able to control our cameras. We control the…all different aspects for us with color correction, the iris, black level and of course our headset system as well plus the video itself. We have three different positions for that our high camera of course on top of the press box, our south end zone camera and we also have a field cam as well. Those are all controlled by fiber. We do have a fourth camera that utilizes a wireless system but that’s just over component cable you can definitely tell there’s a slight difference in quality but it’s…as long as you are wide balancing and you do all the right things that a video person should know and should do you don’t notice too much of a difference. [Timestamp: 8:19]

Now who did you call for all the installation work on that?
We utilized Texas Star Sports out of Dallas and they were just…they’ve been phenomenal. I’ve actually worked with them on a previous project with the Southern Illinois Minors and a baseball team in Marion which is about 13 miles away from Carbondale, but they were fantastic to work with. They had great competitive pricing. The quality of their products, I thought, were just above the other competitors that we had. Ron Stevens and Steve Hutchins were both guys that I’d worked with, with the project and Jason King—who is our senior associate athletic director for facilities and game operations—he was working on this project since day one so he was really the point person that handled a lot of…not the video side but more of the physical facilities and working with all three of those individuals really made this such an easy transition—getting all the components, people trained and everything you need to know just made it so simple. [Timestamp: 9:14]

Now how do you do the cameras for the games? Are those manned cameras or PTZ remote? What’s the situation on that?
Our cameras are manned by students and it’s unique for us—a lot of venues are starting to pick up on…if you’re on a college campus you’ve got this huge crop of students that want to learn this business and they want to learn how to get involved in video so what we’ve done is we’ve partnered with our college of mass communication and media arts. And I actually graduated from Southern Illinois so I have a great repertoire with that college. So we developed a class called “Sports Venue Production” where students who understand the basics of camera work come in, they learn the cameras, they learn how to produce a athletic…an athletic event for the venue…not just for the venue but also for webcasting purpose as well. So we get a great amount of students that come in this first year we’ve maxed out our classes both years. Its 15 students—we actually had to turn some people away from the class in its first year so that just, to me, shows that there’s an interest here on the campus and the quality of the production is just fantastic. A lot of people have commented that our students…or just the games overall are so well done and that just a testament to our students and their hard work that they put in. [Timestamp: 10:31]

Yeah, I can imagine you’ve got a waiting list for that because that would be something the students really want to get involved in. You mentioned earlier though, a basketball arena upgrade that you had done at the same time. Now I thought that was a great idea having one control room for both since you’re unlikely to be having basketball and football going on at the very same time. The fiber lines were a good way to allow a single control room for both venues. So what was going on at the basketball arena upgrade?
Well, the basketball arena upgrade was completed about a month after football was completed. We have all the same equipment that we can utilize. We have the 3play system that we have implemented for our replays, all of our directors features, switcher across fiber and blaze controlling the boards themselves and really the only thing that I have to do on a game day, there are times we’ll have a football game one day and a basketball game the next day. I just go to my fiber patch panel, re-patch from football to basketball and utilizing the same…that as the same room we can do football games and basketball games with ease. In basketball we have a high camera and two courtside cameras and again we use that fourth wireless cameras wherever we need to whether its…the transmitter will be up high and the camera can go all over the concourse in the arena. Great…great signal strength which I was honestly surprised a little bit about that we didn’t have too much signal degradation when we went underneath the stands into the concourse area but again, utilizing the same equipment we’ve purchased three cameras, three JVC HD cameras which Fujinon lenses. I began using the Copperhead Telecast system and being able to have high-end equipment…oh but granted you’re only using limited equipment—we only have three cameras but the fact that we’re able to utilize them for two different venues on different days makes it so much easier. And the decision was easy to purchase that equipment going high-end with fewer pieces as opposed to purchasing more pieces goes lower end so we were really happy that we could utilize all the HD qualities for both football and basketball. [Timestamp: 12:41]

Yeah that’s a pretty competitive field on the fiber transmission. Why did you choose the Copperhead system from Telecast Fiber?
When we were doing our research we talked with…we were with Texas Star—went through the different other competitors out there. Copperhead was—I thought when we were going through this—a fantastic product for what we needed. Now there are other systems out there that are a little more expensive but they also do more—for what we needed for our university Copperhead made the most sense. We also worked with a group called Media Support Group that did the actual installation oversaw by Texas Star but they did the actual installation of the system and we felt that utilizing those SDI feeds with all our intercom and CCU signals really just made the most sense. We didn’t need to utilize some of the PTZ zooms and focus—while that would be fantastic to have we’ve got the student bodies to use to actually man the cameras so we didn’t feel that we needed to remotely control them but Copperhead made the most sense to me as well as Texas Star for what our capabilities were. [Timestamp: 13: 46]

Well, this is going to be interesting in Part 2 when we get into the details of what goes on on game days and exactly how you pull this off, because sports obviously has some rabid fans and they don’t want to lose a second of it and I know the stakes are really high. I really appreciate you being here Chris. Chris Hagstrom from the video services team at Southern Illinois University, thanks for being here.

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