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Dodger Stadium Video Upgrade, Part 1

May 2, 2013 11:19 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Of course LED screens aren’t that new, but the newest technology in those is the surface-mount design. Now what’s the difference between the surface-mount LED screens and the older ones that were already in a lot of stadiums?

In the outdoor marketplace, the traditional LED displays—and probably 80-90 plus percent of what you’ve seen over the last few years—utilized discrete LEDs or LED lamps, as they’re called in the industry. They basically look like the Christmas tree lights that everyone’s familiar with. They are individual little bulbs with one single color filament—LED diode—inside and you have a red, a green, and a blue. Put them together, then you get one pixel that gives you the ability to do all the colors of the visible spectrum. The surface-mount LED takes all three colors, so all three LED elements, and packages them in one very small, self-contained package. What that lets you do is you have much tighter placement of the actual colors. So again the eye, from a similar distance and similar product, a traditional lamp display, you can see a red, a green, and a blue, almost like you’re looking at a Lite-Brite light display. And with a surface-mount chip, it’s nearly impossible, even at very close distances, to see anything but the exact blend of color that’s coming out from the red, green, and blue within the very small chip itself. And in the case of this 10mm display, that chip is only a few millimeters on each edge, so [it’s a] very, very small surface. And what you get is a good blend of the color, unbelievable viewing angles because there are no lamps and no chance for one bulb to block the other. This display is actually providing clear images to a much wider stretch of the stadium. Deep in the foul lines, both the upper and lower levels are now going to see a video screen, whereas before or even with another technology that’s current in today’s market, they wouldn’t have a display to see; they would be outside of the parameters for a visual image. That’s really a big advancement, similar technology to what we used at the Titans this past fall, and all of our outdoor projects are moving in the direction of the surface-mount LED. [Timestamp: 9:01]

OK, they knew what they wanted and you knew what you were going to put in there. What did you have to do as soon as you first got into the stadium?

The first step when you go into a stadium like this is demolition. It’s pretty much brute force; tear down what’s there. In some cases, although not the case of the Dodgers, but in some cases you do need to save certain components as you bring them down, whether they’re being sold to other facilities that have similar or identical models that they can use as a spare parts package, or in certain instances displays or scoreboards are also donated to colleges, high schools, other facilities that might be able to get use out of something that just isn’t up to the professional level any more. So once you get the display down, if in this case they’re being scrapped, we do it in an environmentally-responsible manner and everything that’s recyclable is reclaimed and what’s not reusable is disposed of in the proper manner. And at that point, then, you begin to do all of the necessary treatment work to the primary steel that remains, get it ready to support the secondary structure that is actually going be the mounting point for the video display or other signage that’s going up, and basically build out like an erector set. And after a month or two months, the LED panels will show up and they go up almost like you’re building with Legos. Now in the case of the Dodgers, and one of the things that added a little bit of complexity to this project was how, exactly, do we build out a hexagonal almost diamond shape using square panels? And these panels are usually 3ft. or 4ft. tall by about 3ft. wide. So we went into our 3D modeling program and AutoCAD and started to lay out the various display cabinet sizes to try and maximize the visual area without having to do too much masking of the jagged edges where a panel meets a panel—the stair-stepping along the edges—with flashing. So in this case, although it’s probably not the most economically-efficient way of doing it, we wanted to make sure that there was as little overlapping flashing or scoreboard cladding as possible. We designed eight different panel sizes to allow as little stair-stepping as possible on the diagonals of the hexagon. So the end result is really going be something to behold and we’re glad we took the extra time to make sure that it was done the right way. [Timestamp: 11:39]

Well, when you actually get into the nuts and bolts of it you never know what you’re going to run into so sometimes you have to get a little creative. I guess you had to put in all new cabling. What type of video format are you feeding the screens with?

We back pulled and disposed of all the existing cabling. What was there was a mix of coaxial cable from 1980 and fiber optic from 2003. But the fiber optic that was actually in place was low bandwidth that was meant for standard definition. So we ended up pulling probably to each structure something in the magnitude of 48 strands of fiber-optic cable able to carry well beyond HD bandwidth. So we’re feeding the main videoscreen as well as a pretty large 6ft. or 7ft. tall line score, just a rectangular ribbon that’s going sit below each of the chevrons, which also needs its own data feed, and did the identical thing in left center field for those displays. The broadcast room is being built out at the same time, so as part of the Dodgers upgrade on the audio/visual side of it, they did a brand new 1080p broadcast control room, replacing what was there, which was pretty dated, and they’ve done some audio improvements as well. So the room itself is fully 1080p. There may be one or two straggling pieces of equipment that are not available in 1080p at this point, though single path and workflow is going to be all1080p. We’re going to feed a native resolution one-to-one to the videoscreen, and then what ANC likes to call our “special sauce” is our digital playback system, VisionSoft, which is the first fully 64-bit playback system rendering engine of its kind in the multimedia entertainment industry, and it allows us to do greater-than-HD resolution images at one-to-one resolution with absolutely no compression. So the images that come out are better than anything that can be seen at the consumer level. Blu-Ray has compression on it, certainly your digital cable or DirecTV, even on the newer high-def channels, can still have a pretty heavy dose of compression on the signal. What we’re feeding these displays is absolutely uncompressed from VisionSoft, so it really takes everything to the next level. [Timestamp: 14:06]

Well, I know the fans are going to have a real blast with the new video displays and the whole stadium renovation. I’ve seen some online videos of it and it’s really going to be great for everybody coming out to the games. Chris, thanks for being here to tell us about it and in part two we’ll get more into the VisionSoft and the ribbon displays but for now, thanks for taking time to tell us about it.

Thanks for having me.

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