At The Ballpark: Phillies Upgrade Control Room To Drive Largest HD Display in National League

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 Citizens Bank Park, Fenway Park, Miller Park, Minute Maid Park, and Rangers Ballpark.

Going into the 2011 MLB season, an absurdly deep starting rotation isn’t the only asset the Philadelphia Phillies can gloat over. The team are also stacked with weapons in the video department, having upgraded Citizens Bank Park’s control room to HD and installed the largest HD display in the National League: a 76-ft.-high x 97-ft.-wide Daktronics video board in left field.

“The Phillies are in a relatively new park. When it was done seven years ago, it was top-of-the-line standard-definition,” says Chris Sullivan, national sales manager, sport venues, Sony Electronics. “But now they wanted to and had to move into HD. So they replaced their SD LED board with one of the largest HD boards ever, which is being driven by a brand-new control room.”

Sony Electronics’ Solution Group served as the primary contractor for the LED display (manufactured by Daktronics) and, with subcontractor Diversified Systems, for the control-room integration. In addition, Sony and Diversified Systems integrated a new HD-video coaching system for the team.

The Display
The crown jewel in the $10 million HD renovation is the new left-field display, which is among the largest in the world at 7,372 sq. ft. That is nearly three times the size of the previous display (2,691 sq. ft.). The board features Daktronics’ HD-15 technology, which exceeds the 1080p HD standard with 1,512 lines of resolution (six times the resolution of the previous display).

“They used to have scoring and stats and [several other aspects] on a separate display,” says Sullivan. “Now they have a huge LED canvas for everything.”

The Phillies’ previous standard-definition display has been relocated to the team’s spring-training facility in Clearwater, FL.

In addition, about 800 HD televisions were added throughout the park’s luxury suites and public areas (Sony and Diversified Systems were not involved in this TV installation). Diversified Systems designed and built a new RF Head-End to deliver HD content to all of the sets throughout Citizen’s Bank Park.  Diversified Systems installed a new DirecTV HD antenna system, an HD local off-air antenna system, and worked with Comcast SportsNet (the Phillies RSN) to insert these HD channels as well as 20 Phillies in-house HD channels into the Comcast stream distributed to the televisions.

The Control Room
The revamped control room is centered on a Sony MVS-8000G switcher and a Harris Platinum routing system that integrates video, AES audio, analog audio, and multiviewers. The video hub is also outfitted with two six-channel EVS replay servers, Sony FWD-S47H1 and LMD-2051WHD monitors, and two Harris Inscriber G7 character generators. One of the Harris CGs will be under control of the Daktronics data system; the other will be used primarily for headshots and announcements, such as birthdays and anniversaries.

“We basically ended up bringing the control room up to HD position by position,” says Tom Sullivan, Diversified Systems’ managing engineer on the integration, adding that “the data access that they have now between the CG and the Daktronics system is much better.”

The stadium’s video staff also has a comprehensive Apple Final Cut Pro system at their disposal for pre- and post-production. Content can be transferred from the control room’s EVS servers to the Apple SAN (storage area network) via the EVS IPDirector and EVS XT-Access systems.

The Cameras and the Coaching System
Also included in the HD upgrade are four hard-wired Sony HSC-300K cameras, three wireless Sony PDW-700 XDCAM camcorders, and one Sony BRC-H700 in the press room.

Sony and Diversified Systems built the Phillies coaching staff a new file-based video system, which is based on the BATS software application used by more than 20 MLB teams to analyze video. The XDCAM system uses Sony cameras to capture video and then allows coaches to build their own packages in a devoted editing area independent of the venue’s video-production area.

“It is separate from the video-replay room,” says Sullivan. “Each coach can come in and sit down at one of six or seven workstations and edit their own packages. They also have portable camcorders, so they can take their cameras with them when they travel and down at spring training.”

According to Sony, the system is a sizable upgrade over the team’s previous video coaching system.

“File-based acquisition is what all coaching systems want to go to now,” says Steve Stubelt, director of sales and marketing solutions, Sony Electronics. “If you look at what this coaching system was using before in terms of acquisition, this is really a huge upgrade, going from older camcorders to our XDCAM system.”

The Infrastructure
Thanks to the ballpark’s relatively new construction, the Phillies’ video system will rely primarily on the existing triax infrastructure.  Although some additional fiber was laid down, the majority of the park’s video feeds will continue to run over triax.

“Obviously, the fact that it’s HD really changed the infrastructure, but we still reused most of the base-building infrastructure,” says Sullivan. “The cameras here are Sony triax cameras, not Sony SMPTE fiber cameras, so we could reuse all the existing triax infrastructure. We had to do some additional fiber pulls, but they were pretty minimal just to ensure that we had some new paths for a few select purposes.”