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Seattle Mariners Moves 8 Million Pixels, Part 1

Jul 2, 2013 4:14 PM, With 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.

The biggest LED video screen in baseball burst onto the scene in the Seattle Mariners’ Safeco Field in April and the fans were knocked over by the size and the super high resolution. ANC Sports teamed with Panasonic on the project and ANC Sports CTO Mark Stross is onboard to give us a look at how this behemoth is set up and controlled, coming up right now on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Mark Stross, very nice to have you with us again on the SVC Podcast; CTO, the big technology man, with ANC Sports. And there’s not much bigger technology than the huge new LED video display that made its debut in April at the Seattle Mariners’ Safeco Field. Your outfit was central in the setup for that, so what’s been happening at ANC Sports?

Mark Stross: Well, first of all it’s wonderful to be back, and a lot of cool things are happening at ANC. We are now working on a new platform of software and we’re also learning and providing these incredibly large videoboards with content and services, and it’s very interesting to see how, after the last time we spoke which was the Cowboys, we’re coming back to discuss a screen that’s even larger than them in resolution and what that really means. ANC Sports provides multimedia and sports solutions. And it’s interesting how more and more we’re also doing entertainment in those same venues and entertainment outside of those venues. And it’s been amazing to see the growth of ANC and the growth of experience. So again, it’s really good to be back and I’m excited to talk about some of the cool new things. [Timestamp: 1:57]

And the really cool new giant videoscreen at Safeco Field is sort of the last step and the crown jewel in a multi-phase upgrade there. The out-of-town scoreboard in left field went in around three years ago, then the LED ribbon boards and now the giant video screen. How did all of this come about with ANC Sports?

You know, working with the Mariners has been a multistep process. From the very beginning, we always wanted to do a very big board. The idea of how big it was going to be was hypothetical because it was really going to be also the cost of LED projected forward. So as that cost came down, the viability of doing this beautiful high-resolution board came into focus. But it was not a shoe-in for ANC by no means. The team was very interested in getting the very best from their partners, so in this particular situation we came in under Panasonic to provide the software solution. Panasonic provided the team other perks for going with them. So what’s very interesting is that when you look at the whole industry, it’s really about the deal that best serves everyone and those deals will occur in many different hybrid situations. So we’ve been at the Mariners in slightly different business positions, and with this new board our scope has also become that of helping with the content management; going beyond just installing the board and maintaining it. And that’s something that I think for our company it’s going to be an area of tremendous growth, but for the industry it’s going be an area of tremendous training and growth and learning. And to learn how to actually cope with the Mariners’ board, that’s, for me, the challenge. I’m looking forward to it. It’s wonderful. It’s a reinvention of what is possible outdoors. We’ve gone from a videoboard that never looked like television to now a videoboard that looks better than television, and that’s really, as I started, pretty cool. [Timestamp: 3:58]

It really is and there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in the control area to make this work, but the fans of course are just knocked over by the sheer dimensions of it. What are the specs on this thing as far as size and resolution?

Well the board is 201.5ft. by 56ft. and its viewing area is approximately 11,425 square feet. It’s 1080 by 380 by 40 pixels, so 3,840 pixels across. And with the 1080, it is actually two HD screens combined. That means we’re moving approximately 4,147, 200 pixels on that board. So let me put that into the context of a dissolve. That means we’re moving approximately 8,300,000 pixels. And from my perspective, from how we started at ANC where we were moving a 100,000-200,000 pixels, to go to 8 million, that’s a tremendous advance and it’s also been a tremendous increase in how big a piece of content is going be. [Timestamp: 5:11]

The size of it isn’t the only thing that’s unique. It is the biggest in baseball. I think it’s even a little wider than the one in the Cowboys stadium. But another big thing with it is the incredible resolution you have.

Right. The Cowboys is 180ft. by 72ft., so the Safeco Field board is actually just a little bit less high, at 57ft., but it’s definitely a little longer. But there is a big difference between the Cowboys’ screen and also some of the other big screens. Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of them. The Indy board is truly awe inspiring because, you know, it’s 200ft. by 80ft. But there’s a big difference. It’s resolution is 32 millimeter, so that means it has a resolution of 784 by 2000 pixels, and we on the other hand with the Mariners, we go up to 3,840 pixels by 1080. I think you can see that is a very big difference in how you’re going create content for it. [Timestamp: 6:11]

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