Sony XDCAM Helps University of Tulsa Leap to HD

By Ken Kerschbaumer

When the University of Tulsa built a new stadium, Mike Bilbow recognized it was the perfect time to take the school’s video production into the high-definition arena. With the help of Sony XDCAM the school also made the leap into the tapeless era.

“We had a stadium renovation project and part of that was a new control room facility,” says Bilbow, director of the athletic department’s video production team. “We figured it was now or never as far as going HD and we had to make the move.”

Bilbow selected the Sony PDW-F355 optical disc XDCAM HD camcorder and the new XDCAM EX series PMW-EX3 solid-state compact camcorder.

Bilbow and his team handle all video production for the school’s sports teams, including content for the LED screens in the football stadium and basketball arena, video content for the Web site, game podcasts, weekly coaches’ shows, and highlight videos, as well as fulfilling requests from local and national media for game footage.

A new HD control room, based around a Sony MVS8000 production switcher, four Sony DSR 1000 SD decks for replay, Click Effects Crossfire for playback, XDCAM decks, Aja up/down converters, and a Mackie audio mixer, drive content to the HD scoreboards in the football stadium and the SD scoreboards in the basketball arena.

“The difference between the HD and SD boards is night and day,” says Bilbow. “When going HD you need an integrator you can trust and also have to be up front that you don’t have an unlimited budget. We had some integrators who said we couldn’t do what we wanted to do for our budget but we did it.”

One way was to compromise and have SD replay decks. HD video from the XDCAM cameras is downconverted in the decks and then upconverted as it hits the scoreboard. “You can’t tell the difference and it’s a substantial savings that allows us to have four channels of replay plus DNF controllers for the price of two channels,” says Bilbow.

Using the XDCAM high-definition systems have resulted in increased image quality and a more efficient tapeless workflow, saving the team a significant amount of time when shooting content and editing footage.

“The quality is amazing, and I love the fact that I can put a whole football game on one optical disc and still have plenty of space left to do post game content,” he says. “And what really sold me on the XDCAM system was that when the game is over, I can take the disc, label it, throw it on a shelf and it’s always there.”

Each member of the video team has a PDW-U1 XDCAM external drive next to his or her workstation. “If somebody needs footage, I can just hand over a disc and they can dump it on to their computer,” says Bilbow. “We export back out and we’re able to take it to the control room to make dubs or whatever else we need to do. If somebody is not working in HD, we can dub it down to Betacam format. It’s worked out great for us so far.”

Additionally, the timesavings have really impressed the team.

“In the past when we had to go through and actually log ins and outs on tapes, it added three hours to our day, especially when we had to edit a coach’s show on a Sunday,” Bilbow says. “Now, I take the XDCAM disc, plug it into my editor, import it, come back in the morning, and all my clips are there and ready to go, and I can get right to editing. It saves two to three hours every time I cut a show.”

He said that a perfect example of this benefit came as a result of a recent, rarely scheduled Sunday night football game.

“That was unusual since we run our football coach’s show on Sunday nights,” he says. “So, we had to bounce the show to Monday. But that meant that in addition to having to do all the usual Monday tasks – archiving, getting content ready for the web site, the coach’s press conference – we also had to edit the coach’s show to air Monday night.”

The cameras also double as studio units with the help of studio kits. “We use them online when we’re home, but we also breakaway the 355’s and those go on the road for football, since we have outfitted them with lenses with extenders. The EX3’s will stay here and be used to shoot soccer, softball, some of the events that are happening on campus while we’re on the road with football.”

He added that for football games, the 355’s are up in the press box or on the sidelines as roving handhelds, and the EX3s are used as end zone cameras.

“If you can’t afford to go HD be sure to buy HD compatible gear,” Bilbow advises. “Some switchers can go HD with an HD card, HD character generators can be upgraded, and if you do your homework you won’t back yourself into a corner.”