Razorbacks Go Long With Sony HD Upgrade

For the University of Arkansas Athletic Department, the fourth season of Inside Razorbacks Football With Bobby Petrino has been a season of firsts.

Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

Prior to the 2011 season, the Arkansas Athletic Department opted to take ownership of the weekly football coach’s show, as well as the basketball coach’s version, creating a new set and producing content in-house with school-owned equipment. That equipment, however, was SD.

“There was a want from the administration that these shows be in high definition,” explains Director of Sports Video Andy Wagner. “In our football department, we do a lot of production as well as the coaching video. [Transitioning to HD] gave us an opportunity, as we pursued the coaches’ shows in high definition, to expand that into our coaching video as well.”

To meet the demands of the weekly coaches’ shows, in-house productions, and coaching video, Arkansas purchased four Sony PMW-350K XDCAM EX cameras (recording both internally to Sony SxS media cards for production and backup purposes and to external AVCHD recorders for coaches’ film), three Sony HXR-NX5U NXCAM camcorders (natively recording in AVCHD), and three VCL-HG0872 wide conversion lenses.

Putting HD in Practice (and in Game)
This season, Arkansas Football is deploying two PMW-350K cameras and three NXCAMs for practice, with one NXCAM mounted atop a telescoping pole for aerial shots from behind the quarterback position.

The “QB cam,” once a mounted consumer-level SD camera that could only record and import in real time, now records in an SD-card format that can be organized, marked, uploaded, and available for viewing within five minutes after practice.

“The results were seen immediately by the coaches, players, and in the video room,” says Wagner. “Everyone who works with the content noticed right away, and all have benefited from the improved clarity and quality of the video. This camera really became more than just a QB cam at that point, as our offensive line started using it as well.”

During games, the Razorbacks place two PMW-350Ks from the practice complement on the sidelines for highlight footage, keeping two cameras with full-field views dedicated to coaching film. After a road game, the ability to turn around in-game footage quickly is particularly beneficial.

“We’re able to deliver [game video] to the coaches on the bus to the airport after the game,” says Wagner. “They’ll have a computer with the offense, defense, and special teams broken down, with both [dedicated coaching-video] camera views edited together. We’re pretty much done with everything by the time the plane lands back in Arkansas and don’t have to spend too much time, if any at all, back in the office.”

The remaining cameras are dedicated to production purposes, including the coaches’ shows, in-house motivational video, recruiting Websites, and stadium-video-board content. Because practices and games are being shot in high definition, each of these outlets benefits from upgrade.

Less Time, Better Quality
While the Arkansas Athletics Department initially worried about managing the increased file size assumed to be associated with high-definition video, Wagner has discovered that better quality does not necessarily mean larger files.

“We are [recording] at a smaller file rate than the standard-definition [content] that we were spinning out a year ago,” says Wagner. “A game file for us in the past had been close to 15 GB-20 GB, and now it’s 3 GB-4 GB.” Game files that once required more than 30 minutes to upload now need only seven.

“From a practice standpoint,” he adds, “the files are even smaller, which makes the import times even quicker.”

Inside Razorbacks Football, which airs on numerous affiliates statewide, regionally on Cox Sports Television and Fox Sports Southwest, and to RazorVision subscribers on ArizonaRazorbacks.com, has reaped the benefits of the upgrade.

The catalyst for Arkansas’ HD upgrade looks better than ever.

“The players and coaches are really pleased with what we’re getting to them, and we’ve received great feedback on how our footage looks overall,” says Wagner. “On our production side, we’ve only increased the file size marginally [35 Mbps in HD vs. 25 Mbps in SD], but our quality level has gone through the roof.”