Burst Updates Diamondbacks’ Coaching-Video System

The Arizona Diamondbacks may currently be dwelling in the American League West cellar, but the team ranks among the league leaders in coaching-video capabilities, thanks to a brand-new HD-SDI system installed at Chase Field in Phoenix prior to this season. The four-camera system was installed by Burst in March and replaces an aging analog fixed-camera, closed-circuit television system used by the D-Backs since Chase Field opened in 1998.

“It was definitely a huge step up for [the Diamondbacks],” says Bob Ward, the Burst sales engineer in charge of the project. “The system they had was very elementary. The cameras were not pan-tilt-zoom, and they were single-chip CCTV cameras with only 470 lines of resolution or so. This [new system] is HD; the aspect ratio is wider; the picture is much, much clearer; and there is a lot more flexibility because of the robotic cameras.”

Multiple Robotic Cameras
The new 1080i HD coaching system incorporates four Sony BRC-Z700 pan-tilt-zoom robotic cameras: three at field level and one at high home plate mounted in a dome enclosure above the concourse. Two of the field-level cameras are positioned near the home and visitor dugouts facing home plate, one for right-handed hitters and one for left-handed hitters. The third sits on the third-base line facing the pitching mound and is devoted to covering the pitcher. The high-angle unit behind home plate serves as a roaming capture device controlled by a Sony RM-BR300 joystick remote-control unit.

“The high home camera is intended for multiple purposes, but the field-level cameras are used primarily for evaluating the batters and pitchers,” says Ward. “All these cameras have pan-tilt-zoom presets. With the Sony remote control, you can zoom in on first base and then select that as preset No. 1, zoom in on second base and select that as preset No. 2, and so on. Then you can recall the presets easily. If you hit preset No. 2, it goes right to second base.”

The system features an 8×8 Harris Panacea HD-SDI router and is complete with CSI fiber infrastructure to transmit the HD signals from the cameras to a dedicated video coaching control room within the ballpark. The fiber also provides bidirectional communication and power to each camera to control pan, tilt, zoom, and other functions.

Intuitive System
A dedicated Diamondbacks employee is in charge of running the system via the Sony RM-BR300 joystick. The controller has a single joystick to control all four cameras and enables pan-tilt-zoom functions as well as an auto-focus option. Although Burst assisted in training the Diamondbacks’ coaching video coordinator on the system, Ward emphasizes that it is far from complicated: “We were there when he was first starting to work with the joystick, but it’s very intuitive, so he didn’t need much training. Anybody who has any experience with a joystick will see it as a piece of cake.”

In all, Burst provided the engineering and drawings of the complete system signal flow and installed the cameras, custom housings and mounts for the cameras, the rack-mounted Harris router in the control room, the Sony joystick controller, and the CSI Fiberlink system. Despite the large scale of the project, Burst was tasked with completing the installation in time for the team’s spring-training finales at Chase Field on April 2 and 3.

“From the time we got the order until the actual completion date [March 26] was only three weeks, so we really responded very quickly,” says Ward. “As soon as we got the order, we immediately had our engineers draw up all the plans, and we ended up bringing several people out from Burst [headquarters] in Colorado to help with the install.”

While a coaching-video upgrade had been on the Diamondbacks’ radar for months, the system was not approved until the last minute, giving Burst a very small window to complete the project before the launch of the 2010 baseball season.

“They had been planning to upgrade their video coaching system to HD for more than a year,” Ward says. “I had been working with [Diamondbacks Manager of Broadcast Engineering] Steve Silvertooth on some other projects, and we were able to come up with a design that really fit his needs better than the other companies that were proposing plans. But even though he was ready to do the project, it had to go through all the corporate channels first, so we ended up having a very small amount of time to complete this. In the end, Steve told us that we did a very good job, especially considering the amount of time we were given.”