Mississippi State Brings in SEC’s Largest True HD Board

By Carolyn Braff
For the past two seasons, the Southeastern Conference has been the king conference in football and beginning in October, Mississippi State will become the king of the SEC; at least when it comes to video boards. The MSU athletic department is installing the conference’s largest high-definition video board and building a complementary HD control room, set to go online during the 2008 season.
“We didn’t want to get four or five years into a board and say boy, we’ve really gotten passed up by technology,” explains Mike Nemeth, senior associate athletic director for media relations and corporate development at Mississippi State University. “We tried to get at the front end in every aspect, from HD to the size of the board.”
The new video board comes with a $6.1 million price tag and will span the roof of the Leo Seal M-Club Centre in the south end zone of Scott Field, so some size restrictions were in place long before the design process began.
“This board will span the facility at the south end of the stadium, which runs from sideline to sideline, so we already had a framework within which we were going to work,” Nemeth explains. “We knew the size we were interested in because it made sense aesthetically to tie the board in with that building.”
Scott Field’s current scoreboard stands in the north end zone, so when in-season construction begins on the new board, the existing board will remain operational.
The new video board will measure 152 feet wide by just over 135 feet tall, with a main HD screen of 111 feet by 47 feet. Two vertical LED side panels will flank the main display and be used for anything from advertising to statistics.
“They’re not in HD but they’re going to look really nice, and they give our advertisers some space without taking away from the main display in the center,” explains Bennie Ashford, coordinator of sports television at MSU. “We would like to display as much live content as possible in the main display.”
A horizontal ribbon board will be installed beneath the main board to show a traditional scoreboard display and a new sound system, designed and installed by Miami-based Pro Sound, will be installed above the display.
The athletic department shopped around to four or five different vendors but quickly narrowed its choice to Capturion Networks, based in nearby Laurel, Miss.
“Capturion is in state, and that makes a difference in a lot of respects,” Nemeth explains. “Capturion is part of a much larger company that does outdoor boards, and from what we had heard from clients that they had serviced elsewhere, service was huge from their end.”
Capturion has also supplied boards to several other schools in the Southeast, including Rice University, Tulane University, University of Central Florida and University of Southern Mississippi, so Nemeth had plenty of references to choose from.
Those references will come in handy when training begins for the 12 staff members required to operate the new board.
“Our game day production staff will be comprised of four camera operators, one whom will be wireless so they have the freedom to walk around the field and do a lot of fan interaction,” Ashford explains. The control room will house 4-6 operators and a handful of marketing representatives will also be on hand, bringing the total to 12.
In conjunction with the construction of the new board, the control room will be refitted with HD-capable equipment, but the school has not yet finalized its purchasing decisions for the components.
“We will have high definition cameras in the field and we’re upgrading to a digital switcher,” Ashford explains. “We will be using the Click Effects CrossFire system to help us with mapping the board and doing some other content.”
Mississippi State hired a consultant to help determine the specs on the video display and an integrator to choose the control room equipment and ease the installation, which will take place during the season.
“Our official press release says by the end of the season, but our hope is that we can have it up and running by the end of October,” Ashford says. “We knew going in that doing a project like this in season would not be easy, but I think because of the transition in administration with our athletic director [Greg Byrne assumed the role in June], he felt like it was a great opportunity for us to move on the project.”