At The Ballpark: Alpha Video, Sony Bring Fenway Into 21st Century With New Video System

In anticipation of the first pitch of the 2011 Major League Baseball season, SVG will provide an in-depth look at the video system makeovers at ballparks around the country, including Fenway Park, Minute Maid Park, Citizens Banks Ballpark, and Rangers Ballpark.

Baseball’s oldest and most hallowed ballpark (with apologies to Wrigley Field) underwent a significant makeover this offseason. The 99-year-old Fenway Park was outfitted with a trio of new HD video boards and an entirely rebuilt control room, and Alpha Video teamed with Sony Electronics to integrate the file-based video system in time for opening day of the 2011 Boston Red Sox campaign.

“Their focus was to improve what is already a great experience at Fenway,” says Jeff Volk, director, sports and entertainment group, Alpha Video. “As a part of that focus, they needed a front- and back-end system that would deliver all that content to those new video boards.”

Scheduled to be ready for the Sox’ home opener on April 8, the massive end-to-end video system feeds three Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision LED screens over the center- and right-field bleachers as well as monitors installed throughout the ballpark. The video upgrades mark one of the final chapters in a 10-year plan to renovate Fenway Park.

“The system reflects the trend that we’ve been seeing for [in-venue video] system designs,” says Volk. “It is a tapeless, file-based system that takes video all the way from ingest to [delivery] — be it live video from a game or video from the postproduction side.”

An Offseason Project
Immediately after the season concluded last October, Alpha Video deconstructed the team’s old video system, sending the aging gear to one of three locations: the Red Sox’ spring-training facility in Ft. Myers, FL; Alpha Video’s headquarters in Minneapolis; or a long-term storage area at Fenway.

Much of the Minneapolis-bound gear was incorporated into the new system, which was built at Alpha Video’s facility while the physical construction phase of the project was conducted at Fenway. When the construction concluded in January, the prebuilt system was integrated into the ballpark’s new control room.

“The Red Sox create a tremendous amount of content — not just for their house video-board show but also for weekly TV shows and for RedSox.com,” says Volk. “They had to be able to ingest that content, then have it flow from the control room to their postproduction solutions and then back — all in a tapeless fashion so it can be played on the video board or concourse TVs or be broadcast on their TV show and [Website].”

A Control Room Fit for a King
The new control room features a Sony MVS-8000 switcher, Evertz HD and AES routing switchers with integrated multi-image viewers, and a six-channel EVS slow-motion system.

“Their [replay systems] were not on EVS before this,” says Volk. “It is definitely an upgrade for them in slo-mo replay. They also have a full IPDirector implementation along with their actual EVS slow-motion system, which helps them manage the content that is moving back and forth between their different creative packages.”

Other equipment includes multiple Chyron LEX3 character generators, a Ross SMS video server, several Apple Final Cut Pro-based editing systems, a Riedel intercom and communication system, Sony LUMA LCD monitors and professional LCD displays, and Sony HDCAM, XDCAM HD, and Blu-Ray decks and editors.

In addition, the Red Sox video staff will have a full arsenal of Sony cameras at their disposal, including HSC-300K and PDW-700 systems and PMW-EX1 and PMW-EX3 camcorders.

“The HSC 300 cameras are extremely popular for existing facilities that have triax and want to make the move to HD,” says Volk. “We’ve installed those in four different projects now.”

The Bleacher Boards
A 38-ft.-high-by-100-ft.-wide Diamond Vision LED video board located above the centerfield bleachers will supply the primary in-game video. A 17-by-100 display in left center and a 16-by-30 display in right field will feature complementary content, including batter-pitcher matchups, pitch speed and type, box scores, promotions, advertising, and announcements.

“They had three extremely old video boards that were not HD,” says Volk of the previous displays,  one of which was more than 30 years old. “They replaced them with these three bigger, HD displays, and it’s a monumental improvement.”

Sticking With Triax
Despite the bevy of video enhancements, Fenway will, for all intents and purposes, remain a triax-based facility. All in-house production feeds will continue to run almost entirely on triaxial cable, while a few selected video operations (such as the NESN regional-sports-network feed) will run on fiber. The team opted against installing a fiber-optic infrastructure given Fenway’s challenging structural foundation.

“As you can imagine, cable access is a definite issue at a facility that is this old,” Volk points out. “To keep the overall project costs down, we went with triax to maximize their existing infrastructure. And, right now, I believe their intention is to keep it a predominantly triax facility.”