College Video Coordinators Prepare Groundwork For Move To HD

By Carolyn Braff

High Definition was one of the hot topics of discussion among the 120-plus collegiate video coordinators who gathered in St. Louis this week for the 14th annual Collegiate Sports Video Association conference. With video departments gradually turning their attention towards a transition to HD, Ken Kerschbaumer, editorial director of the Sports Video Group, brought together a panel of representatives from all corners of the industry to discuss the challenges involved in transitioning a university’s infrastructure, workflow and production processes from SD to HD.

“The question is no longer are you going to go from SD to HD, but when,” explained Bob Simmons of WH Platts. “You have to look at what you do – shoot, edit, distribute and display. You don’t have to make that transition all at one time; look at where you need to make that transition first.”

Representatives from Panasonic and Sony reminded the assembled group that most cameras are switchable between SD and HD, so the coordinators have the flexibility to look at their entire facility – including coaching rooms, projectors and video screens – and decide which portions to transition to HD first.

“We emphasize infrastructure as much as we do workflow,” says Jeff Volk of Alpha Video. “Ensuring that your equipment is HD capable now allows you to upgrade in increments. It is a costly thing to replace all of your projectors and screens, but planning a multi-phase infrastructure improvement allows you to upgrade better and faster.”

Infrastructure was a buzzword for both the panel and the audience as the discussion turned to the importance of infrastructure improvements as the backbone of HD conversion.

“When you look at HD, you really have to consider your infrastructure,” says Robert Gibbons of Webb Electronics. “You must be able to support it before you do any kind of conversion.”

Gibbons touched on the need for the group to decide collectively on a common HD format, which includes making a preferential decision in the 16×9 vs. 4×3 debate.

Ray Thompson of XOS added that when it comes to infrastructure, LAN, impact to storage and ingest are the short-term questions that must be solved in order to build for the HD future.

“To say we’re going to support all flavors of HD is not necessarily doable,” Thompson adds. “We have the choice as a company to take our limited amount of resources to attack the problem in the market and address it with a couple of agreed-upon standards.”

Those standards, the panel pointed out, must include venue wiring and bandwidth to meet the needs of broadcast partners.

“Bandwidth infrastructure is our biggest concern right now,” says Al Fong of ESPN. “One of our big problems is stadium wiring. We had to use a vendor that could use a triax, because no one could afford to rewire all the stadiums with fiber optics.”

The open exchange between the panel members and the audience ended with several take-home messages concerning HD transition: always maintain extra bandwidth and think in terms of 1080p, not 720p, for long-term needs. Thompson ended the discussion with a call to camaraderie among the group.

“The way that we’ve gotten to this point is that guys have gotten together with their conferences and said, this is what we want to do,” Thompson says. “There’s a lot of stuff flying around, but at the end of the day, you guys know what you want to do.”