VTS 2010: How To Enhance the Game-Day Experience With Video Boards

As scoreboard systems get bigger and better, sports venues have the opportunity to present the game to fans like never before. At SVG’s Sports Venue Technology Summit at New Meadowlands Stadium on Nov. 10, , experts from Daktronics and Mitsubishi Electric joined a panel on scoreboard technology to discuss how to utilize the growing power of video displays.

“Today, you have to provide a better experience than what you could get staying at home and watching the game,” says Tom Kreutner, large sports venue project manager for Daktronics. “[NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell put a mandate out to NFL teams to provide a better game-day experience with video, stats, and information not only from the game you’re watching but also other games around the league. Incorporating the boards to be able to do that is what’s going to make the difference.”

Lamp vs Surface-Mount
Modern LED displays are based on two technologies: lamp-based and surface-mount. Lamp-based LED displays feature discrete red-green-blue lamps and are used primarily in outdoor stadiums because their high brightness level counteracts the sun. Surface-mount displays have a three-in-one LED chip and are prevalent in indoor arenas because they provide high-quality images from any viewing angle.

Surface-mount displays are rarely used outdoors because lamp-based boards offer a much cheaper solution, but this may be on it’s way out.

“We will absolutely see a shift to surface-mount technology in the future,” said Dave Belding, regional sales manager for Diamond Vision, Mitsubishi Electric. “Will it completely replace lamp-style? Possibly. But that is not for at least another three to five years. There are some applications where we’re starting to see surface-mount technology outdoors, but it’s still fairly expensive compared to the lamp technology, so it will take time.”

According to Kreutner, Daktronics provided a handful of outdoor surface-mount displays at New Meadowlands Stadium, including a 12-mm board at the stadium’s Pepsi gate and a 10-mm board in the Bud Light Plaza.

On the Horizon: OLED
Both Kreutner and Belding agreed that LED technology is here to stay. But the next step may be just a few years away: OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays.

“OLED is a high-resolution and flexible display,” says Belding. “You can actually wrap it around poles or columns. There is still some work to be done in that area, but it could be available in the next two to three years. That could be a game changer in terms of our flexibility. But nothing on the immediate horizon is going to eliminate the current LED technology.”

Not on the Horizon: In-Stadium 3D
The Dallas Cowboys and HD Logix’s notorious 3D experiment at Cowboys Stadium last December left a bad taste in many fans’ mouths when it comes to in-stadium 3D. The much hyped 3D scoreboard experiment produced a massive wave of boos and even a few reports of severe nausea; many fans failed to even put on the anaglyph glasses handed out to them. The 3D feed was displayed on the Stadium’s Mitsubishi Diamond Vision for just seven minutes, but even that small amount of time may have been too much to ask of the average fan.

“It’s just not reasonable to ask 70,000-80,000 fans, many of which probably had a few adult beverages, to all of a sudden sit in their seats and put on these glasses and devote themselves to the screen without talking to their friends or watching the action on the field,” said Belding. “3D can work in a stadium environment but only under a controlled atmosphere.”

Nonetheless, he stopped short of abandoning the idea of large-scale 3D in stadiums entirely. “I view it in two different ways. From a technical perspective, some could argue it was a successful test because people could see 3D images on the screen. As a practical experience, most would say that it was a flop. But I do know there are still some experiments going on this area.”

College Market Continues To Grow
According to panel moderator Chris Williams, the venue-display market can be split up into three distinct categories: stadiums, arenas, and colleges. For decades, colleges were considered second-class citizens in the scoreboard world, but that has begun to change.

In 1994, the University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium became the first university-dedicated facility to install a substantial video display. Today, the top four college football venues boast more than 5,000 sq. ft. of video board.

“Displays in colleges are becoming more and more prevalent,” Belding said. “We are seeing an influx of displays as they’re figuring out how to make the [return on investment] work. There is also a large amount of pride in college that can make for a ‘my screen is bigger than your screen’ dynamic between the schools. Colleges may never be on the [pro scale], but they’re definitely catching up.”